Tag Archives: recipes

Ridiculously Good Spiced Brownies, Served with Almonds and Some Thoughts on Good Eating

I’ve got an absolutely amazing brownie recipe for you. Dense, fudgy, moist, a resounding wallop of chocolate amidst an unexpected touch of spices and a subtle nudge of saltiness upon encountering a buried almond. Now, I’m fully aware that I am often given to hyperbole, but I’m not exaggerating when I say these brownies are some of the best I’ve ever eaten. Make them yourself and I bet you’ll feel the same.

It’s not because of my skill at baking, which can more accurately be described as the ability to read and generally follow instructions. This brownie is based on a great recipe from Smitten Kitchen who adapted it from another great recipe from Baked in Brooklyn. Eat anything from these justly celebrated dessert creators and you’ll probably bust out the superlatives too. Plus, it’s got a lot of butter in it, and we all know the important kitchen equation: butter = awesome.

But the brownie got me thinking more about the food we eat and how it’s produced. If you just want to skip ahead to learn how to make these brownies yourself, scroll all the way down.  But first, some brownie pondering…

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Playtime With Boiling Oil: Experimenting With Deep Fried Mars Bars And More

I should be kept far away from deep frying machines.

Don’t get me wrong – I love a crunchy, golden, batter-encrusted item as much as the next arterial disease-scorning glutton.  The problem is, I never know when to stop. I’ll start off with a perfectly reasonable goal, like 15 or 20 deep fried Mars bars. But by the end of the evening, everything that is fit for human consumption and hasn’t been tied down has gotten thrown in the boiling oil and things are just getting out of hand.

hello my little deep fat fryer friend.

Lest that look of horror on your face prevent you from reading further, let me inform you that I didn’t consume all those crispy, glistening, gooey-with-hot-caramel-and-melted-chocolate deep fried candies on my own. Foodrambler and I made the deep fried Mars bars for Burns Night at Rambling Restaurant, a Scottish culinary extravaganza starring our homemade haggis (so not as disgusting as you might think…eventually).  In case you’re wondering, deep fried Mars bars are a genuine Scottish delicacy according to Wikipedia.  To enhance the Scottishness of the dish, foodrambler had the inspired idea to batter the chocolate logs in another Scottish delicacy: the violently (and controversially) orange-colored soft drink known as Irn-Bru.

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The Family Styles Holiday Eating Escapades, Part Five: Momofuku Inspired Miso Butter Scallops

If you’ve been reading this blog recently, you know quite well that Irene and I have a bit of a thing for David Chang and his small East Village Momofuku restaurant empire.  The cookbook has been bedtime reading for both of us as well as the source of three or four or maybe eight dishes over the past few weeks. I’m almost glad I left the book back in Boston with Andy (it was ostensibly his Christmas gift anyway) because things were getting a bit out of hand.

I first ate at Momofuku Noodle Bar in its initial tiny incarnation about four years ago and felt a pressing and insistent desire to return after finishing the cookbook.  Luckily I was leaving for New York the next day, so less than 24 hours later I found myself alongside devoted noodle fans Lexi and Rachel, hunkered down over steamed buns glistening with fatty pork belly, pungent and slippery ginger and scallion noodles, and a steaming hot porky bowl of classic Momofuku ramen that I could now recreate if I had a ridiculous amount of time and an even more ridiculous amount of pork.

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The Family Styles Holiday Eating Escapades, Part Three: Chinese Home Cooking and Tea Glazed Eggs

One of the best things about being home at my parent’s house is the likelihood that any given moment – approximately 89.75% of the time – the Bean and I can walk into the kitchen and there will be delicious Chinese food cooking.  Yep. It’s pretty sweet.  There’s a lovely Chinese couple, Jenny and Don,  living there who help our Dad around the house and also cook tummy filling and seemingly effortless and homestyle Chinese food.

Quite often these dishes are aesthetically pleasing and easily replicable, like the black tea and spice glazed eggs above.

Other times, these dishes are neither easy to prepare nor particularly attractive…

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Kitchen Experiments: Roasted Fennel, Squash, and Asian Pear Soup

roasted fennel squash and asian pear soup newI’ve just spent the last few hours greedily devouring the food porn and travel tales in Anthony Bourdain’s round-the-world eating book, No Reservations. It makes me want to eat coconut water-basted roast pig in Indonesia, steamed shark’s head in Singapore, fois gras burger in Montreal and white clam pizza in Seattle (pictured above behind the soup). Hell, I’d even consider testicle terrine in Iceland, raw seal in Northern Canada, and ‘sand-, fur-, and crap-laden warthog’ in Namibia to be able to eat and travel like he does, although I could do without the nasty details of the hospital visit resulting from getting a little too friendly with the lower intestines of said warthog.

Since I can only vicariously live out my gluttonous international foodie fantasies through Bourdain’s book (at least for the evening) I consoled myself with soup. It’s become perfect soup weather in London, so I finally stopped longing for my lovely red immersion blender back in San Francisco and buckled down and bought another one. Can’t do soup without it!

With delicata squash and a big bulb of fennel in last week’s veg bag, I had the basics of a flavorful autumn soup based on an amazing roasted pumpkin soup recipe with cinnamon and chilis from the cookbook of the fabulous Moro Restaurant  on Exmouth Market (so far the best meal I’ve had in London…go eat there now). And then I remembered that I bought a bag of Asian pears on Brick Lane today and decided to include one for an additional sweetness and a texture that is  somehow on the positive side of slightly mealy and almost gritty.  I roasted half a pear with the squash at first but then decided more was needed and diced another half directly into the boiling soup. It’s probably easiest to just toss it all in at the end along with the potato that I added to thicken the soup. Then go to town with your immersion blender  – aka  your onomatopoeicallynamed zjzjzjzjzjjjzzher  – and your soup goes from ugly lumpiness to smooth and creamy like MAGIC.

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Insanely Indulgent Butter-Fried, Onion Soup-Simmered Pasta with Roasted Butternut Squash and Ricotta

butternut squash butter roasted pasta

This may look appear to be normal pasta – if anything, a bit mushy and brown looking,  but otherwise nothing special. But no. This is some seriously, insanely, unnecessarily butteriffic pasta.

Butteriffic: (adj) infused with a completely superfluous amount of butter to the point of unsurpassed deliciousness and extreme caloric overload.

TV is generally full of all sorts of useless drivel, which is why I don’t own a television. However, sometimes TV teaches you important things. For example,  how to take a decadent and already relatively unhealthy dish such as macaroni & cheese and then infuse it with more deep, rich, buttery flavor to the point of…well, I was going to say heart attack, but I’m still standing.  So then, more accurately, to the point of AMAZING.  For this knowledge, I owe thanks to the final episode of MasterChef, which, based on my one viewing, appears to be  a British show of similar concept and nearly identical name to Top Chef.  In the ultimate challenge to determine a winner, the contestants had to recreate the dishes from a Michelin-starred chef for thirty other Michelin-starred chefs.  Yikes. I learned that Michelin-starred food is precise, complex, innovative, boundary-pushing, technological, demanding, beautifully presented, really ridiculously complicated, and most importantly – you guessed it, butteriffic.

The macaroni & cheese, elevated to Michelin-starred standards, involved dried pasta pan-roasted in butter,  simmered in veal stock, covered in stock glaze, cut into perfect circles, and stacked into a tower with layers of butternut squash and another over-the-top indulgence, duck confit.  Apparently the dish took four hours to make,  and that’s along with the 18 ducks that Steve, the ultimate winner, had to simultaneously roast.  Obviously I have neither the skill nor the time to recreate this dish, although maybe I should try because then I could eat it. But pan roasting in butter and simmering in stock? That I can do.

And now you can too, if you’re looking for that extra hefty dosage of calories. But hey – it’s also an extra hefty dose of seriously tasty comfort food, perfect for curling up in a comforter on the couch on a cold day.  This would also be an excellent dish if you were a bear looking to stock up on fat for hibernation. If you’re not a bear…well, you’ll just have to take my word for it that the buttery goodness is worth the fat.

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Roasted Lemon and Vegetable Bulgur Wheat Pilaf

bulgur wheat pilaf with roasted vegetables

One of the exciting things about living in a new place are all the new and different ingredients  to sample, eat, delight in, purchase, cook with, and integrate into your kitchen repertoire.  Thanks to my dear friend Michelle and her excellent dish from the stunning Feast of Strangers, I’ve become acquainted with bulgur wheat, which tastes to me like a cross between couscous and brown rice.  The grains are slightly larger than the average couscous and a little rounder than rice grains and apparently have more fiber and vitamins, as well as a lower glycemic index than either of those two close cousins (at least for white rice). More importantly, they’re delicious as well as inexpensive and versatile.

I’ve taken to buying various cereals and grains in bulk for those exact reasons. Any given evening, I generally have enough fresh vegetables or canned items or refrigerated goodies to toss into a very simple bulgur pilaf or couscous. The following recipe can be adapted depending on whatever items you may have around but what makes the recipe a bit more special is Michelle’s roasted lemon trick. Tangy, zesty and slightly caramelized, the browned lemon rinds add a fantastic and unexpected kick of flavor.

The rest of the recipe is fairly nebulous, which, if you’ve read any of my other recipes,  you will most likely find unsurprising. But I think that’s the best part – it’s not particular or demanding or complicated or requiring of your full undivided attention. Essentially, you roast the vegetables that need roasting, sauté the vegetables which would taste better sautéed, slice up any delicious items you might have in the fridge like marinated olives or peppers, and boil the bulgur. Combine in dish, stir, and eat. Easy peasy. But don’t worry, I’ve also spelled out directions after the jump…

orange peppers and uncooked bulgur

Bright orange peppers and uncooked bulgur!

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my new addiction: dangerously quick and easy scallion pancakes

scallion pancakes with a smashed garlic scallion soy dipping sauce

i am in the midst of a very dangerous scallion pancake obsession. if you’ve ever had these flaky fried disks dotted with slivers of green onions, you know that they have potential to become a serious addiction.  you pick up a piping hot triangle, shimmering lightly with a bare trace of sesame oil and threatening to pull apart into thin layers of nearly translucent dough.  you dip a corner into the smashed garlic soy vinegar sauce and bring it to your mouth, inhaling the scent of crispy seared scallions and the nutty warmth of the lingering sesame flavors.  and then you bite down, the doughy inner layers dissolving on your tongue as the crispy outer shards of the browned pancake crack into pieces like the icy surface of a frozen pond as springtime approaches.

oh…it tastes so good. and then you want to do it again. and again. and again.

and when you have perfected the quick and easy scallion pancake recipe to the point that it takes a mere stomach-rumbling twenty minutes to go from a bag of flour and a handful of scallions to the tastiest of pan-fried snacks…well, it’s dangerous business. because you will do it all the time. trust me, i know.

so i give you this scallion pancake recipe with a warning: with great power comes great responsibility.  after trying these pancakes, the mere sizzle of the pan or scent of freshly chopped scallions may cause you to relinquish control, churning out pancake after pancake and consuming every bite. cook at your own risk…

step by step scallion pancakes recipe in photos

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the veg bag game: easy roasted tomato zucchini bread soup

note: parts of this (the non-rambling, correctly punctuated parts) were originally published here at eat.drink.better. read there and support an awesome green blog.

roasted tomato potato soup

one of my favorite parts of the week is picking up my growing communities veg bag from hackney city farm. every time, i still feel really lucky to live in a place where i have access to locally grown and organic produce from an incredible organization and i can pick it up less than a block away.  i also still feel a little weird using the phrase veg bag – it sounds like an insult (you dirty veg bag!) – but hey, when in rome…

this week, i’ve got:

potatoes, onions, and zucchini from ripple farm organics in kent

carrots from hughes organics in norfolk

cherry tomatoes and eggplant from wild country organics in cambridge

and finally, a salad bag locally grown in my very own borough of hackney. amazing!

this week’s salad bag had numerous unidentifiable bits of greenery including baby lettuce, basil, what looked like yellow chard, and a bizarre mottled green lilypad-esque leaf with a peppery bite. hilariously enough, i tweeted about it, and a farmer from georgia randomly told me that it was probably nasturtium leaves. after a quick google search, i think they’re right.  man, these interwebs.

following on my veggie burger and carrot potato explorations, i’m doing more fun kitchen experiments figuring out how to use all the random vegetables that come my way.  it’s the veg bag game! can’t beat anything that combines games and food: two of my favorite things on the planet besides panda babies.

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ice cream sandwich cookie #2: a lazy lemon rosemary cookie recipe

lemon rosemary ice cream sandwich cookies

the simple lemon rosemary cookie above was born out of pure laziness. thought process: what else is in the house besides the basic cookie ingredients?

1. potatoes.  meh…can do better.

2. pasta. not useful.

2. lemons! good.

3. ham. baaaad.

4. a plastic tray of plants masquerading as a ‘garden’ with oregano, basil, sage, rosemary and thyme. yes, perhaps we can do something with this.

the result? lemon rosemary cookies, most delicious in sandwich form with homemade vanilla ice cream from foodrambler.

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