Visually, I was hoping this pizza would be greener, but despite the muted colors, the flavors were as vibrant as can be. The chicken thighs were slow braised in a tomatillo sauce until tender, and the whole mess was spread onto the dough in place of a traditional tomato sauce. Add some charred corn, shaved zucchini, and cojita cheese, and this Mexican inspired pizza is bright, spicy, and full of unexpected flavors.
April 2012 Archives
It always makes me happy when I can think of a new way to present the classic Italian flavors that I grew up with. I have had the idea to try and stuff rigatoni and make a baked dish that almost resembled mini cannelloni or manicotti for a very long time. The reason I haven't made it was because I knew I needed to have the right person to help out and make this dish perfect. We finally got together this week, and the pasta came out great!
My Mom recently told me she was intrigued by an almond cookie called an almond horn that she tasted on a trip to New York. She wanted to try and recreate the cookie, and luckily I was around to document the event. These cookies came out great. Chewy, crisp, and filled with that delicious toasted almond flavor. The only downside was they were pretty pricey to make. We all know almond is expensive, and these cookies are basically all almond paste with little filler.
I'm lucky enough to be in Southern California this week. Here, where strawberry season is in full swing, I can't remember ever tasting a strawberry this amazing. So juicy, meaty, and sweet, they almost tasted the way fake strawberry candy tastes. I went to a farmers market and bought a ton of the plump strawberries, some local goat cheese, and baby kale, and this sandwich idea was born.
Potato salad is not really my thing. As with anything that "isn't my thing", I like to try and think about what makes up the dish, what the reasons are that I might not like it, and how to make it better for my personal tastes. My main complaints with your common potato salad is that it's bland, has too much mayo, and has super large chunks of potato. This spicy and slightly Vietnameese inspired take on the American classic was none of these things.
Over at Tablespoon this month they are hosting The Munchie Awards which have many categories of different food items to vote for. They asked me to create an iconic burger to celebrate the burger category, and I was immediately in. I wanted to try and make the signature burger from a burger chain that opened last year in Boston called 5 Napkin Burger. Their burger was one of the best I had in 2011, and this 5 Napkin Burger I created for Tablespoon was easily the best I've had so far in 2012, and one of the best I've eaten in my life!
In other blog/internet/food related awards type news, I have recently been nominated for a Saveur Food Blog award in the category of best Food Humor Blog. Now, it's sort of an odd category, because some of the blogs are very funny, more funny than I could ever imagine being, while others like me are more food focused with a little humor sprinkled on top. You have to create an account and log in to make your vote count, so I know it might be a lot to ask, but I could really use your vote!
Yesterday was the Boston Marathon, an annual day in the city where residents come out in droves to cheer on the runners, thanking them for giving us another excuse to drink all day. But sometimes this personal marathon can be a grueling task of it's own. A salty provision can really go a long way on a hot spring day in the city (Upper 80s!). Luckily I had these pretzels around my neck to keep me going.
One of my roommates used to live in Toronto, and after going to the movies here in Boston she was complaining that they didn't have salt and vinegar powder to sprinkle on the popcorn that is apparently ubiquitous up there. Immediately my brain started spinning and next thing you know I was looking up everything about vinegar powder. The varieties available, where you can buy it, and of course how to make it. I sort of regret becoming so obsessed with the idea, because there wasn't exactly a specific guide or recipe out there. I tried a few things I saw that were similar to what I wanted, and after lots of trial and error I finally came up with a powder made from mostly vinegar.
The problem here was that this powder wasn't exactly the punch you in the face vinegar kick that I know and love from modern day salt and vinegar chips. It was more the wimpy dull vinegar from chips that used to be popular 10 years ago. I'm not a scientist but I do know from years of cooking that the chemical that makes the vinegar flavor actually burns off at a temperature that is slightly below boiling. This is why when you boil vinegar it smells so crazy in your house (You might have recently smelled this smell dying Easter eggs). This is also why a balsamic reduction has a stronger "balsamic" flavor, but a mellower vinegar bite, and why a recipe tastes much different if you add the vinegar at the beginning or at the end. I think that the way they make this powder commercially is to reduce the liquid without actually heating it. I was thinking of trying this again by putting the liquid on a large sheet pan with a fan on it, but I don't have a million hours to wait for it to reduce to one tenth its volume!
Catching up on Tablespoon recipes that I didn't post last week due to the theme, here is a tasty bean curry. I love this dish and it's great as a vegetarian option that's still hearty and filling. The edamame adds a much needed freshness to the heavy beans and sauce. Try my recipe for Spicy Bean and Edamame Curry on Tablespoon.
A few months back after a long day of wandering about the city, I popped into Catalyst in Cambridge with some friends. We almost ate there, but the lure of pizza from Area Four across the courtyard was too much to ignore. Still though we stayed at Catalyst for a couple drinks, and when The Pho came into my vision on the drink menu I couldn't resist. Cucumber vodka, lime, basil, cilantro, and sriracha. This sounds like a drink invented for me personally! The drink was so fantastic that I thought about it for weeks afterward, and couldn't wait to try my hand at recreating it. I think I nailed it on flavor alone, but the color was totally off. That's probably because they use cucumber flavored vodka but I used actual cucumber.
It's sad to see booze week coming to an end. Having all this alcohol in the house was a nice excuse to get drunk while I cooked all these recipes. but you know what they always say; when one door closes, another bottle opens, or something. Right? I might still be drunk you guys.
For the last recipe of the week I knew I wanted to use whiskey. I thought of making an Asian style sour noodle dish, and then I realized that sour is a friend of whiskey in many mixed drinks. I used a classic Korean noodle dish called jajangmyun as a baseline inspiration for these whisky sour noodles.
It's funny that some of the inspiration for booze week is coming from my time in Bermuda. I didn't expect this to be the case, but I guess I should have considering that was like a 3 year vacation for me. The first time I drank a caipirinha was outside of a Latin themed after work spot on the island, and at that moment with the tropical weather and palm trees blowing in the breeze, the national drink of Brazil tasted like happy juice to me. I was hooked! A traditional caipirinha is only cachaca (a sugar cane based alcohol similar to rum), lime, and sugar, but this place had many variations including mango, cucumber, and the ubiquitous mint leaf in almost every drink. I used the many varieties of caipirinhas I drank that night as inspiration for these tacos.
A highlight of living in Bermuda was when friends from the US would come to visit, we would pack up the vespa and all take a nice ride out to the tip of the island known as the dockyards. Visitors tend to bring the tourist out in someone whether you live on a tropical island or in the middle of a city! At the dockyards is the Bermuda Rum Cake Company, and they served free samples of all of their rum cake varieties. The best by far is the chocolate rum cake. It's so dense, chocolaty and moist, and it doesn't need frosting or anything. For booze week, I wanted to make my version of this cake, but I wanted to try and make it even denser, chocolatier, and moister!
IPAs are generally my first beer choice throughout most of the year. Sometimes in the winter I will go with a stout or porter, and sometimes in the summer I will choose something lighter, but India Pale Ale is my usual go-to. If you have an aversion to the bitterness commonly found in hoppy IPAs, you probably aren't going to love this sauce, but if you are like my sister and I and seek out the highest IBUs (international bitterness units) you can find, then this is the sauce for you!
For this sauce, I used the IPA from my new favorite local brewing company Clown Shoes. They have a beer called Supa Hero IPA that only uses the freshest hops they can find and because of that the recipe for it actually changes all the time.
There is actually more than a whole bottle of wine in the risotto, because the shortrib braising liquid has a cup of wine in it as well. One bottle and one cup is a great amount of wine to have in a recipe, because then you have an open bottle you need to finish! Despite having been to two wine tastings in the past three months, I am totally lost when it comes to wine knowlege. I bought a few different bottles that day and ended up using merlot because it was my favorite of the bunch. I imagine that any red wine that you like would make this dish a winner, just don't buy a crappy/cheap bottle because the flavors really concentrate and come through in the final dish.