Thursday, March 29, 2007

Truffles Five Ways...finally!

So, this was the dinner that sparked my desire to start a food blog. It's taken me about 10 days to actually write about it. While I could pretend that it took that long just to fully savor the delicate flavors and textures, the fact of the matter is that I've been busy cooking and eating other things. And while we're dealing the realm of "facts," I should probably make clear that I can't afford to cook with fresh truffles; I use a variety of high-quality black and white truffle oils and truffle salt.

With disclaimers done, on to the meal:

Green Apple, Celeriac, and Truffle Chilled Soup
When life (or a CSA) gives you celeriac, make celeriac soup. K and I went to Pure Food and Wine in early 2006 and a variant of this dish was on the tasting menu. It was delicious and, while I haven't jumped on the raw food wagon, it has since inspired me to occasionally dabble with a raw food palette. Here's the original recipe, picked up from Raw Food/Real World:
  • 4 cups peeled, chopped celeriac
  • 1 cup chopped green apple, plus 1/2 cup very small dice for garnish
  • 1 1/2 cups raw macadamia nuts, soaked for 1 hour or more
  • 1 1/2 cups filtered water
  • 2 tablespoons coconut butter
  • 6 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/4 cup lemon juice
  • Sea salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/4 cup minced chives
  • 1 small fresh black truffle, shaved or julienned (optional)
  • 1/4 cup black truffle oil
  • Chervil leaves, or other herbs for garnish

In a Vita-Mix or high-speed blender, blend the celeriac and green apple until smooth. Pass through a fine strainer and discard the pulp. Pour the strained liquid back into the blender. Add the macadamia nuts, water, coconut butter, olive oil, and lemon juice and blend thoroughly At the restaurant, if the soup still tastes a bit grainy from the macadamia nuts, we strain it again, but then add back a bit of the pulp and reblend it to keep it creamy, yet smooth. This may not be necessary, just a matter of preference! Season the soup with salt and pepper to taste If not serving right away, store it in the refrigerator in a covered container. Be sure to bring it back to room temperature before serving (reblending can help speed this process along as the movement increases the temperature) and taste again and adjust seasoning.

Divide the soup among 4 bowls, and garnish with the diced apple, chives, and black truffle (if using). Drizzle with truffle oil and top with chervil leaves

Serves 4.
So, not one for following recipes, especially ones which call for tricky ingredients like coconut butter and raw macadamia nuts, I kind of forged my own way. I just chopped some apples and celeriac and threw them in a blender with enough water to make the thick mixture catch. I strained it and trashed the left-over pulp. I blended it again, this time time with some soaked walnuts, adding enough to give it a creamy texture (I also threw it a little bit of butter at this point). I blended in some chives for color. Strained it all again and then stirred in some black truffle oil, lemon juice, salt, and pepper. I garnished with some very thinly sliced apple.

Smooth. Sweet. Earthy. Tastes both decadent and incredibly healthy.

Gnocchi with Sage Brown Butter Truffle Sauce
Riffing on Giada's sage brown butter sauce (excellent on butternut squash ravioli), I let some butter brown in a pan, threw in some sage leaves and let them crisp. Poured in a glug or two (small bottles so small glugs) of white truffle oil and mixed it. Add this all to store-bought gnocchi and life is good.

Seared Truffled Scallops with Truffled Greens
Doubling my truffle pleasure with this simple but elegant dish, I created a truffle balsamic vinaigrette:1 part balsamic, 1 part pistachio oil, 1 part white truffle oil, salt, and pepper. Pat some large scallops dry and rub them with truffle salt and black pepper and dust them with some flower. Sear them in a hot non-stick or cast-iron pan and while they're cooking (careful not to overcook or you'll have truffled rubber) coat the greens (I like baby arugula because it's strong enough to turn the truffle aroma into a subtle background player) in the vinaigrette. Off the heat, quickly toss the scallops in a mixture of white and black truffle oil and serve on top of the greens.

Truffle Aperitif
Shouldn't an aperitif be consumed before dinner? Yes, but not if you're so food-deprived (perhaps because you've been scouring your neighborhood grocers for decent scallops and searching in vain for coconut butter and raw macadamia nuts) that a few sips of the aperitif will get you too drunk to appreciate the other 3 courses of your high-falutin' truffle din-din. So, we turned the truffly libation into a digestive, and while it's not proofed high enough to actually aid digestion, it was certainly tasty and that's really all that matters. We picked up the aperitif at Belle Hortense, a wine-bar/bookstore in the Marais neighborhood of Paris. You can buy it online here.

So, did our palettes get exhausted after tasting truffles five ways? No. This wasn't Iron Chef: Battle Truffle, so I had no obligation to make sure truffle was the dominant flavor in each dish. In nearly all of them, truffle was just a background flavor, adding a nice earth or musk to the dish. I'd definitely cook all of these dishes again, and perhaps even cook them all together.

Now I have to go figure out how many different ways I can use up the veritable stockpile of white turnips we have from the CSA.

Oh, and incidentally, I will start posting pictures of the food I cook. I just need to make sure my camera/phone/mp3 player/pda is charged when I start cooking...

Saturday, March 24, 2007

Not those sorts of pasties

I was looking for something to do with leftover ground beef and root vegetables, and started googling around. One of the first hits for "turnip and ground beef" was a recipe for a "pasties" Now I had never heard of such things and assumed that it was just a misspelling of "pastries". Nevertheless, I clicked through to the site, trying not to let my mind conjure up images of burlesque dancers rolling in ground beef.

Believe it or not, this was actually my first foray into baking (besides Duncan Hines mixes), so I was pretty nervous about making a dough of any sort. I also knew I didn't want 6 pasties so I tried to adjust the measures for a single pasty. I guess that would have been no problem at all if I actually did the math or measured with any semblance of accuracy. Further complicating the mix (pun definitely intended), I don't have a stand mixer or a rolling pin. Lots of improvisation.

As you can see from the inlaid picture, it turned out pretty well. What's that you say? That inlaid picture looks suspiciously professional? Okay: you got me, the pic is ripped from's website. Mine turned out well, though. Buttery beefy baked goodness. I wish the innards were a little moister, however. I couldn't figure out how to squeeze butter through the slits as the recipe suggests. I'm excited to revisit this and try messing around with flavors and spices a bit more.

Here's the original recipe, courtesy of
Original Pasty
  • 3 c. flour
  • 1 1/2 sticks butter (cold and cut into bits)
  • 1 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 6 tbsp. water
In a large bowl, combine flour, butter and salt. Blend ingredients until well combined and add water, one tablespoon at a time to form a dough. Toss mixture until it forms a ball. Kneed dough lightly against a smooth surface with heel of the hand to distribute fat evenly. Form into a ball, dust with flour, wrap in wax paper and chill for 30 minutes.

  • 1 lb. round steak, coarsely ground
  • 1 lb. boneless pork loin, coarsely ground
  • 5 carrots, chopped
  • 2 lg. onions, chopped
  • 2 potatoes, peeled and chopped
  • 1/2 c. rutabaga, chopped (can substitute turnip)
  • 2 tsp. salt
  • 1/2 tsp. pepper
Combine all ingredients in large bowl. Divide the dough into 6 pieces, and roll one of the pieces into a 10-inch round on a lightly floured surface. Put 1 1/2 cups of filling on half of the round. Moisten the edges and fold the unfilled half over the filling to enclose it. Pinch the edges together to seal them and crimp them decoratively with a fork. Transfer pasty to lightly buttered baking sheet and cut several slits in the top. Roll out and fill the remaining dough in the same manner. Bake in a preheated 350 degree oven for 30 minutes. Put 1 tsp. butter through a slit in each pasty and continue baking for 30 minutes more. Remove from oven, cover with a damp tea towel, cool for 15 minutes.

Milwaukee Journal March 28, 1943 Welsh

Thursday, March 22, 2007


K and I belong to a great Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) run by Common Ground and farmed by the fine people up at Norwich Meadows. During the winter, we head down to the stunning Prince George building once a month for pounds upon pounds of fresh produce, dairy, and meat. It's all ecofriendly, organic, humane, dirt-cheap (and, for what it's worth, often still caked it dirt from the farm--but K and I think that's a very good thing!) and tasty. While right now it's mostly storage crops, from May-November we have weekly pick-ups of incredible fresh fruits, veggies, beef, cheeses, maple syrups, honeys, yogurts, eggs, poultry, hummus, and more, all for an annual fee that adds up to less than a few weekly trips to Whole Foods.

This week (for 1/5 of the winter share cost of $135), we picked up:
  • 2 lbs of potatoes
  • 1/2 gallon of milk
  • 1 dozen eggs
  • 1/2 a chicken
  • 2.5 lbs of carrots
  • 1/4 lb of mixed greens (some really crazy stuff in there!)
  • 1 pint of butter
  • 1.5 lbs of onions
  • 2 lbs of turnips
...and this was one of the skimpy weeks!

With farm fresh chicken, carrots, onions, greens, some garlic and defrosted ground beef from last month's pick-up, and some uncooked gnocchi and a few spoonfuls of truffle vinaigrette leftover from the big truffle meal (posting about that tomorrow), all I knew for certain was that K and I had a big meal ahead of us.

Gnocchi with Beef Ragu
Brown 1/2 lb ground beef in a little bit of oil. Season it. Remove it from pan and drain it a bit. Saute garlic, onions, carrots, celery, and red pepper flakes until they just start to caramelize. Add a can of organic fire-roasted crushed tomatoes. Stir. Throw in some salt, pepper, sugar, and dried Italian herbs. Let the sauce thicken up and then add the beef back in, simmering to let the flavors marry. Stir in some basil chiffonades and serve over gnocchi with heaps of Parmesano Reggiano on top.

Orange Braised Chicken
I just adapted this recipe from for chicken halves instead of chicken breast halves, removed the leeks, and switched out the breadcrumbs for flour. Given the size upgrade, I had to braise the demi-birds for about an hour. I also wanted even more orange flavor, so I squeezed in the juice of half the orange that I skinned alive for its zest. I was going to snap a picture and experiment with my ability to shoot hi-quality food porn, but my camera/phone/palm/mp3 player device's battery was too low to open the camera program. Alas.

Here's the original recipe:
1 cup chicken broth, fat-free, less-sodium
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1 1/2 teaspoon grated orange rind
1 teaspoon sugar
3/4 teaspoon dried basil
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
4 skinless, boneless chicken breast halves
1 1/2 tablespoon Italian-seasoned breadcrumbs
1 tablespoon olive oil Cooking spray
1 cup matchstick-cut carrots
1 cup leeks, thinly sliced
1/2 cup celery, chopped
2 tablespoons dry vermouth or vodka


Combine first 7 ingredients in a bowl; stir with a whisk. Set aside.

Coat chicken with breadcrumbs.

Heat oil in a large nonstick skillet coated with cooking spray over medium-high heat. Add chicken; cook 5 minutes on each side or until golden brown. Remove chicken.

Add carrot, leeks, celery, and vermouth to pan. Saute 3 minutes or until leeks are soft. Return chicken to pan. Pour broth mixture over chicken; cover, reduce heat, and simmer 15 minutes or until chicken is done.
Dinner was altogether quite tasty, nice contrast of flavors and textures in the pasta course and finger-licking good super-tender chicken with a sauce that I literally had to pull K away from. Oh, and I just tossed the greens with what was left of the truffle vinaigrette. The meal's only real frustration was that 1/2 of chicken only means 1 drumstick...and, um, the obscene mess I made in the kitchen. Sadly, tonight I'm on dish duty since K is putting in some late-night work on some financial statements for our non-profit.

Off to clean...

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Breakfast of Champions

Even before I became almost entirely nocturnal, I was never really a breakfast person. That said, while most dinners can serve double-duty as lunches, certain dishes just have to be called breakfast, no matter what time of day they're served.

While in Paris last week, my breakfasts (at 3pm, mind you) consisted of a fairly decadent (and entirely incongruous) spread of baguette, soft cheeses, fruit, caviar (the cheap black lumpfish stuff you can get at any grocery store), duck liver pate, nutella, and fig jam, washed down with a glass of blood orange juice and Mariage Freres' "Wedding Imperial" tea.

Back in the states, I've got a rotating repertory of "breakfast" dishes (usually served when most normal people are eating a late lunch):

I use Trader Joe's pancake mix and get pretty crazy with the add-ins. Two of my favorite recent creations: Lavender Chocolate Cherry and Matcha Chocolate. I treat pancake batter the way some people treat casseroles; it's an opportunity to use up any ingredients that have been sitting in the fridge or pantry for too long. No matter what I put in my pancakes (which are cooked on a cast iron skillet using cooking spray), I only put one thing on them and that's real maple syrup.

Fried Eggs on Grits
As simple as it sounds. I whip up some grits and then toss a fried egg on top. I either put a little truffle oil on the grits or a little tabasco on the egg.

Dutch Babies
Since this involves baking, a skillset which will forever elude me, I stick to this recipe, courtesy of

3 eggs room temperature
1/2 cup milk, room temperature
1/2 cup sifted bread flour or all-purpose flour
1/8 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon
7 teaspoons butter

Preheat oven to 450 degrees F. Place a large, heavy ovenproof frying pan or a cast-iron skillet in the oven until hot and sizzling. While pan is heating, prepare your batter.

In a large bowl, beat the eggs until light and frothy; add milk, flour, vanilla extract, and cinnamon; beat for 5 minutes more. The batter will be thin, but very smooth and creamy.

Using a pot holder, remove the hot skillet from the oven; add the butter; tilting the pan to melt the butter and coat the skillet. Pour the prepared batter into the hot skillet, all at once, and immediately return the skillet to the oven.

Bake approximately 20 to 25 minutes or until puffed and golden brown.

Remove from oven and serve immediately.
Well, I suppose I fudge the recipe a bit...I kind of go heavy on the vanilla, go light on the butter, and I throw in a dash of nutmeg for good measure. Now that I think of it, I also cook mine for about half the suggested time. I really stink at following recipes. Ah well, it always turns out tasty. Top it with whatever fresh fruit you have, powdered sugar, lemon juice, and/or maple syrup.

Maple Egg Cheddar Sausage Thing
I stole this idea from a Dunkin' Donuts morning muffin. Before that I had no idea one could mix meat, cheese, eggs, and maple syrup. I brown up some of the Gimme Lean Sausage (fat free, meat free, cholesterol free...and it really tastes like sausage!) and as the second side is browning, top it with some cheddar cheese. Once the cheese is melted, I stack the sausage on top of a dollop of maple syrup on a plate. Fry up an egg to top the whole thing off. Salt. Pepper. Tasty.

And that's basically what breakfast at my house looks like, though I'd be lying if I didn't admit to the occasional eggie-in-a-hole, frozen waffle, or (get ready to start hurling stones) poptart. If I'm choosing between cereal and no breakfast at all, I'll usually choose the latter, but if I go with cereal, it pretty much has to be with soy or rice milk as my lactose intolerance gets ugliest with cereal & milk for some reason (and yes, I've tried Lactaid and it only helps a little). I guess when all is said and done, I probably don't have the requisite sweet tooth that breakfast requires (and this means, to my dining companions' laments, that I also don't really have a "dessert stomach"...when I'm full, I'm full). So while I'll occasionally indulge in a syrup smothered dutch baby, I'll be much happier with Eggs Benedict (over smoked salmon and covered with cream spinach, like they do over at Popover Cafe). And speaking of Eggs Benedict, there's a recipe for Eggs Tomavo that caught my eye on Giada's Weekend Getaway (yes yes, guilty as charged!) that I'll have to try out at some point in the future.

Duck duck goose

Although my memory is already fuzzy, let's just say the below happened on March 13, 2007:

After accidentally wandering into a Parisian market in the middle of a parking lot (just a block away from Mariage Freres, the best tea in the world), K and I couldn't pass up a gorgeous fatty duck breast and some grade A fois gras from a little vendor who was busily beheading cornish hens when I stepped up to order. We grabbed some organic produce from another vendor and then hustled to the closest grocery store to pick up essentials since the Paris apartment's cupboards and fridge were completely bare. We stood blankly staring at starches trying to figure out what would best accompany a few fruity fowl preparations and ending up settling on a box of rather awful saffron risotto.

Back at the apartment, I doffed my shirt, donned an apron, and pretended to sharpen the kitchen's only blade of any consequence (though I'm fairly sure it's just an over-sized letter opener styled to look like a chef's knife). I set up whatever mise-en-place I could on the tiny counter and got cooking:

Seared Duck Breast and Poached Apples with a Raspberry Fig Reduction
Since I often have trouble getting duck breast past rare, I decided to borrow a technique from Emeril. I scored the breast as best as I could with my blunt instruments. Salt, pepper, herbes de provence patted all over. On to a hot oven-friendly skillet, skin side down. Searing both sides until they're crispy and then off into a 350-degree oven for a few minutes while I work on the reduction.

For the reduction, I poured some Bordeaux, raspberry vinegar, and fig jam into a small pot. Bring it to a boil and then simmer. Once the alcohol and vinegar fumes had cooked out and the jam was fully dissolved, I tossed some apple 1/8ths into the pot and let them soak up all the goodness. Just before serving, I dropped a few little slabs of butter into the pot to thicken it up a bit.

Take the duck out of the oven and let it rest before slicing and pouring the reduction over it.

Seared Fois Gras Salad with Raspberry Vinaigrette
This one is pretty self-explanatory. It's a basic salad: lettuce, tomatoes, and cucumbers. Sear up a li'l bit of grade A fois gras (after patting it down with some salt, pepper, and sugar) and throw it on top. Dress the whole thing up with an emulsification of raspberry vinegar, mustard, herbes de provence, honey, salt, pepper, and olive oil.

That's that. The faux risotto turned out pretty rotten, and though K liked the artichoke (dressed in melted Camembert and butter) I was disappointed by it and will try to pretend it never happened.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Oink oink!

Hello there in blogland!

After losing my entire collection of 3"x5" recipe cards half a dozen times and nearing capacity on my "Saved Recipes" page, I figured it was time to start a food blog, if only to have a quasi-permanent repository to help me remember what I cook and consume.

I'm not a chef and the closest I've come to working in the food service industry was as a "Concessions Attendant" at a mom'n'pop movie theatre while I was in high school. My "recipes," therefore, are going to be pretty informal, prose descriptions with a few notes to jog my memory when I try to recreate a dish at a later date. As I do occasionally pretend I've got presentation-chops, I'll post pictures of the food when I can, but I usually inhale the food before I remember to snap a camera-phone photo.

While tonight's dinner (truffle essence used 5 ways) was the one that inspired me to finally start the blog, I feel like I'm already behind schedule and I'll have to record some notes on a few of last week's meals before I can start with a clean slate/plate...and speaking of cleaning plates: that's a task usually performed by K, my dining (and business and life) partner.

Most of the restaurants I write about will be in the New York-area, though I'll probably kick these "reviews" off with a summary of some of the great places I patronized on a recent trip to Paris.

Finally, I'm sure I'll inevitably post on the various chefs and programs on the Food Network. I watch about 3 hours of the channel daily, finding few things more comforting than a living room siesta accompanied by the hum of one of my favorite chef's slicing-and-dicing.

Okay. Time to sort through the apocalyptic nightmare that is my (frustratingly shallow) kitchen sink after a busy evening of cooking...