Thursday, June 17, 2010

Pasta with Egglplant, Walnut Pesto, and Ciliegine

I'd like to start by saying a big THANK YOU to all my dear classmates from Williams who have been keeping up with the Student Epicure. Your kind words last weekend were wonderful to hear and very encouraging. I hope you keep reading and cooking!

This week's recipe was inspired by the weekly recipe contest on food52, which urged us home cooks to find your best recipe using fresh mozzarella. Although my favorite use of fresh mozzarella is a simple caprese salad (a little cliched, perhaps, but delicious like tiramisu), I wanted to try something using ciliegine, which are tiny fresh mozzarella balls. I wasn't sure if this recipe would actually be realized since I kept popping them into my mouth on the walk home from the grocery store. I had beautiful Italian eggplant from Russo & Son's inimitable grocery store in Watertown. I've also been trying to eat through my cupboard in preparation for my iminent move to Worcester, so the boxes of pasta must be eaten and all the bags of Trader Joe's nuts be consumed! Et voila, with a little inspiration from Jerry Traunfeld, this recipe was born.

Another nice addition to this recipe would be some halved cherry tomatoes for an extra bit of color and a little crunch. I used tri-colored rotini, but whole wheat penne would be delicious too.

Pasta with Eggplant, Walnut Pesto, and Ciliegine

serves 2
  • 2 Italian eggplants, in 1 inch cubes
  • 4 large garlic cloves (unpeeled!)
  • ~4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • salt & pepper
  • 1 cup dried pasta, like penne or rotini
  • 1/4 cup walnuts, toasted
  • 1/2 cup loosely packed basil leaves
  • 8 ciliegine, halved
  1. Preheat oven to 400. In a large baking dish, spread eggplant with garlic cloves in a single layer. Drizzle with 2 T olive oil or until you can evenly coat the cubes by tossing. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Bake until eggplant is tender, 15-20 minutes.
  2. Meanwhile, cook pasta according to package directions.
  3. Roughly chop walnuts and set aside in a small bowl. Finely chop basil and add to bowl with remaining 2 T olive oil.
  4. When eggplant is tender, remove garlic cloves and peel. Roughly chop garlic and add to walnuts and basil.
  5. In a serving bowl (or you can use the pot you used to cook the pasta), toss together the eggplant, pasta, walnut-basil sauce, and ciliegine. Season with salt & pepper. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Breakfast Eggs with Kale

Whoa, hello, world. Sorry I've been MIA. Too much weekend travel for this food blogger. After my college reunion this weekend, I look forward to spending more time cooking in Cambridge. Last weekend I was in the Berkshires to celebrate my dad's 60th birthday. My parents' garden is looking lovely: vibrant beds of young lettuce, lots of potato plants, tracts of garlic shoots. Much to my surprise, their kale was ready of picking. I associate kale with the beginning of autumn -- it's a hearty vegetable meant for darker, colder nights. I brought a large bag back with me and have been amazed at the tenderness of the leaves. You don't have to cook the life out of this kale. Rather, you can just saute it a little longer than you would spinach leaves.

I also had Berkshire free-range eggs and fresh ciabatta bread. I've been jonesing for Sunday brunchy eggs and so decided to make a healthful eggs benedict-like lunch dish. Toasted ciabatta is topped with sauteed kale, followed by a runny fried egg and a sprinkling of cheese. I added garlic, chili flakes, and red onion to the kale of a little extra kick. Some nice variations on this might be: adding chopped kalamata olives to the kale or replacing the ciabatta with a toasted slice of your favorite bread.

Breakfast Eggs with Kale
serves 2
  • 4 T olive oil
  • 5 garlic cloves, roughly chopped
  • 1/4 t. red chili flakes
  • 1/2 red onion, thinly sliced
  • 5 c. chopped kale (I used cavalo nero), large stems removed
  • 2 slices toasted ciabatta
  • 2 eggs
  • Parmesan for sprinkling
In a large frying pan, heat 2 T of oil over med-high heat. Add garlic, chili flakes, and onion, sauteing until onion is soft, about 4 minutes. Add kale and continue to saute. Using tongs makes it easier to evenly cook the kale until wilted, about 4 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Remove kale from pan and set aside. Stick bread in the toaster. Over high heat, heat another 2 T of oil in the same pan. When hot, add eggs and fry 2 minutes per side so that yolk is still runny.

To assemble, place one slice of toast on a plate. Top with half of the kale, followed by an egg. Sprinkle with Parmesan cheese and eat immediately!

Thursday, May 20, 2010

No Recipe This Week

Sorry, dear readers, but there will be no recipe this week. I had been working on pasta sauce with almonds and asparagus, but just couldn't get it quite right. And I couldn't bear to send you off to the kitchen with a mediocre recipe!

Stay tuned for next week. I'm feeling inspired after my new man and I made two cast iron pots of seafood paella last night, accompanied by Spanish cheeses, delicious wine, and an orange-cardamom yogurt cake. We're off to NYC tonight for what I'm sure will be a hedonistic extravaganza. I expect to bring back some good ideas!

Monday, May 10, 2010

Spinach and Sorrel Gratin

I prefer my vegetables unadulterated: steamed artichokes with butter for dipping, lightly salted asparagus spears eaten with my fingers, or spinach sauteed with a drizzle of olive oil. I like simple vinaigrettes for my salads and never eat corn on the cob with butter. But every now and then a dish comes along that gives me pause and makes eschew these basic vegetable preparations for something more elaborate.

A new friend had recently suggested I consider including foraged food in some of my recipes. Brilliant. As a medical student and soon-to-be resident, he pointed out that foraged food was perfect for the student budget because it's free! True, you do need to know where to look and take the time to actually forage, but we can't spend 12 hours a day chained to our desks. That just wouldn't do.

As fate would have it, my mother had brought me a bunch of sorrel this weekend from the Berkshires. Tangy and lemony sour, it tastes like spring. Taking inspiration from my latest culinary obsession Jerry Traunfeld, I adapted his recipe for Spinach and Lovage Gratin to make a healthier spinach and sorrel gratin. Although you can buy sorrel at the grocery store, here is more info on how to forage for it. I love sorrel, but it becomes a rather drab army green when cooked, so spinach is the perfect foil for keeping it bright. The active time for this dish is minimal, about 10 minutes, but you will need to bake the gratin for about 15-20 minutes. I think this would be a nice side to a pasta main course, like last week's Whole Wheat Pasta with Rosemary and Garlic.

Spinach and Sorrel Gratin
serves 4 as a side dish

Special equipment: 4 small ramekins or 4-cup baking dish
  • 1 T olive oil
  • 1 small onion, finely chopped
  • 1 10 oz bag large leaf spinach
  • 1 T butter
  • 1 T flour
  • 3/4 c 1% milk
  • 1 generous cup chopped sorrel
  • 1 T olive oil
  • 3 T panko bread crumbs
  • 3 T grated Parmesan cheese
Preheat oven to 375 F. In a saute pan, heat olive oil over medium-high heat. Add onion and saute until coated in oil and fragrant. Add spinach and stir until completely wilted (using tongs makes this easier). Remove to separate bowl. Return pan to heat and melt butter. When completely melted, add flour, stirring mixture constantly. The flour will begin to darken just a shade, then immediately add milk, stirring vigorously to dissolve flour and butter. Let milk come to a boil and thicken. Add sorrel and spinach mixture. Toss to coat and then divide among ramekins. Combine remaining olive oil, bread crumbs, and cheese in a small bowl then sprinkle over the top of the spinach. Bake 15-20 minutes or until tops are golden brown.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Whole Wheat Pasta with Rosemary and Garlic

My apologies for the delayed post this week. Five days of epic eating in Seattle will do that to a girl. I ate some truly inspiring meals that made me want to give up my East Coast life and flee West where the oysters are melony sweet. The stand out meal was at poppy, where I was tempted to lick clean every dish of the wondrous thali prepared by chef Jerry Traunfeld. But since being back, I've felt the need to eat a bit more simply and a little bit lighter, Italian sausages at Fenway aside.

Waking up a little hungover this morning (the joys of my pre-med school life), all I've been craving is pasta. I immediately thought of this dish, which is yet another week night staple taught to me by my parents. I'm not typically one to advocate whole wheat pasta, as I love the full-carb bleached white flour version, but this dish is different. The ingredients are so simple that you need the nuttiness of the whole wheat pasta to round out the flavors. My mom recently turned me on to the Whole Wheat Organic Italian Pasta from Fratelli Mantova, which resembles a whole wheat linguine. It's sensational and I would urge everyone to seek it out.

A special thanks to my darling friend Lex for being an eager taste tester over lunch. I love when my friends are free during the day and put up with my propensity to make food too spicy at times.
Whole Wheat Pasta with Rosemary and Garlic
serves 2
  • whole wheat pasta for 2 people (about 2 quarter sized bunches)
  • 4 large garlic cloves, thinly sliced
  • 2 t finely chopped fresh rosemary
  • 1/8 - 1/4 t red chili flakes depending on how much spice you can tolerate
  • 4 T olive oil
  • Parmesan cheese for serving
First things first, get the pasta going according to the directions on the package. When the pasta has begun to cook, start on the sauce. Heat a medium saute pan (I use my cast iron skillet) over medium-high heat until warm. Add olive oil. When olive oil is hot and shimmery, but not smoking, add the garlic, rosemary, and chili flakes. Stir constantly just until garlic starts to turn brown and then immediately remove pan from heat. Drain pasta and add to the saute pan. Toss to fully coat in sauce. Serve right away with Parmesan cheese.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Cupboard #3

Where: Capitol Hill, Seattle, WA
When: 5:30 PM, Sunday
Who: Melissa & Dan, Sinophile/project manager and physician, foodies
Favorite quick meal: cabbage with a fried egg on top

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Daddy's Seitan Sandwiches

In honor of my father turning the big 6-0 today, I thought I'd post a recipe he taught me. In fact, eating this seitan sandwich is one of my earliest food memories with him (second only to his famous omelets, which is for another time). I know some people are going to be incredulous about cooking with seitan. If you think about it as meat substitute, then yes, I'm with you that eating meat would be preferable. But if you think of it as just seitan, then I believe you will be surprised at how much you like its pillowy texture and slightly sweet flavor.

I grew up in a quasi-vegetarian household where Dad's non-meat-eating habits usually predominated. Mom also tended to eschew dairy and simple carbohydrates (this was way pre-Atkins, mind you). Sauteed seitan with onions and BBQ sauce on a (white) baguette was a happy medium. I don't remember ever really eating red meat as a child, so I was delighted with these spicy and savory sandwiches that Dad made. Tofu, tempeh, and seitan were all weekly stars at the table.

For all you students and folks on a budget, seitan gains additional bonus points for its price, which is pretty dang cheap. I found mine at Whole Foods, though I'm sure it's available at most health food stores and co-ops. For BBQ sauce, I'm going to give a shameless plug for KC Masterpiece, which was developed by a physician, no less. A second good option is Bone Suckin' Sauce. Buy a really delicious crunchy loaf of French bread. It will take the sandwich to a whole new level.

Daddy's Seitan Sandwiches
generously serves 2
  • 2 T olive oil
  • 1 large Spanish onion, halved and thinly sliced
  • 1 oz package seitan, sliced into thin strips
  • 1/3 c your favorite BBQ sauce
  • 1 loaf French bread
In a medium saute pan, heat olive oil over medium heat. Add onions and saute, stirring occasionally, until soft and beginning to caramelize, about 10-12 minutes. Add seitan and cook until just warmed through. Add BBQ sauce and stir to coat onions and seitan. Serve immediately in French bread. Leftovers are good reheated the next day!

Friday, April 23, 2010

This Week's Recommendations

I can never say no to a Mark Bittman recipe. That man always seems to be one step ahead of me, anticipating what I might desire to cook before I even know myself. I just picked up tamarind paste to make this pad thai.

This next recipe might be a little advanced/involved, but if there's anyone who has wanted to attempt baking bread, this Buttermilk Oatmeal Bread from food52 is incredible. I made it last week and ate the whole loaf myself in 48 hours.

I recently made this fragrant squash dish from Saveur: Kabocha Squash with Ginger. I used butternut squash and was amazed at how simple, but flavorful it was. This would be great served with another Asian-inspired dish, such as last week's Furikake Tofu.

Also, I just discovered that the Monterey Bay Aquarium has a whole slew of recipes for sustainable fish developed by all-star chefs. The halibut with herbs and flowers looks especially gorgeous.

Alright, now go forth and cook!

Thursday, April 15, 2010

This Week in the Blogosphere...

I officially have stopped subscribing to cooking magazines. With the exception of Saveur, I just don't find them relevant anymore. Most of their recipes you can find online and I've grown weary of the stacks of bookmarked magazines that accumulate on my bed, coffee table, and counters. Our generation is going paperless, last I heard. Of late, I prefer trawling through the interwebs for tonight's dinner inspiration, cheering on my fellow foodie bloggers and picking up a few tips along the way. Every week I'm going to share with you my finds, keeping in mind the Student Epicure's mission: to cook delicious meals that won't leave you strapped for time or cash.

Here's is what I've stumbled upon this week:

Cambridge-based blogger Oui, Chef creates a current twist on a classic with Quinoa Tabbouleh. Looks good for a weekday lunch.

Dr. Winnie of Healthy Green Kitchen blends up a quick & healthy breakfast with her Cherry Flax Smoothie.

From the kitchen of the inimitable 101 Cookbooks comes a hearty fragrant Coconut Red Lentil Soup.

I recently discovered James Ramsden and who could not be somewhat seduced when he describes the kind of goat cheese you should use for his tomato & goat cheese gratin as " one that honks like an entire stenchy herd and crumbles when prodded." Delight!

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Mediterranean Tuna Pasta Salad

This post is a little early because I'm supposed to leave for London tomorrow AM. Looks unlikely, but just in case, wanted to make sure I didn't depart without posting this week's recipe!

I suffer from PDD - Pasta Deficiency Disorder. I could eat pasta morning, noon, and night. But I'll admit that a diet of unfettered carbs just isn't healthy. Lucky for me, Mark Bittman wrote an article some time ago encouraging us to continue eating our pasta, but to shake it up: instead of preparing a lot of pasta with a little sauce, make a lot of vegetable-inclined sauce with a small amount of pasta. This changed my life. This week's recipe is inspired by this concept -- it's a leafy green salad with pasta mixed in, along with tuna, olives, and tomatoes.

Until recently, I had almost stopped eating tuna, due to the high levels of mercury and the large amount of bycatch from tuna fishing. However, I was delighted to discover that troll or pole-and-line caught tuna in the US is actually OK (for more information, visit the Monterey Bay Aquarium). I jumped for joy and immediately went to track some down. I will admit, the can I bought was more expensive than Sunkist, but when I tasted the tuna, boy, I promise it was worth the price. Canned tuna often has a bland, almost tinny flavor. This one actually tasted like fresh, robust fish.

A few notes about this recipe: a good quality olive oil is a must. There are many good $15 bottles out there and it's worth the investment for the flavor it will bring to your salads. I had also wanted to include capers, but could not open the new jar I had bought. I ran it under hot water, tapped it with a knife, tied a rubber band around the lid, but to no avail. I think it would add a nice zing, so feel free to add a teaspoon if you have some in your fridge.

Mediterranean Tuna Pasta Salad
generously serves 2
  • slightly more than a quarter-sized round of angel hair whole wheat pasta (I like Barilla's fortified protein version)
  • 3.5 oz arugula (two generous handfuls per bowl)
  • regular olive oil for cooking
  • 1/2 t red chili flakes
  • 2 anchovy fillets
  • 1/4 c chopped kalamata olives
  • 1 can tuna, preferably troll or pole-and-line US caught
  • 4 Campari tomatoes, chopped
  • good quality olive oil
  • a few squirts fresh lemon juice
  • salt & pepper
First put medium pot of water on to boil. Follow cooking directions on package for al dente angel hair.

Divide arugula between serving bowls/plates. Toss with good quality olive oil (~1 T per bowl), a little lemon juice, and salt and pepper. Set aside.

As pasta cooks, in a small saute pan, heat about 1 T olive oil over medium heat. Add chili flakes and anchovy. As oil heats, use a wooden spoon or spatula to break up anchovy until it has "dissolved" into the oil. Add olives and stir briefly to coat. Add tuna and break up chunks into smaller pieces. Let cook, stirring occasionally, until heated through.

By now the pasta should be fully cooked. Drain and return to pot. Pour in the tuna and another tablespoon of the good quality olive oil and toss. Taste and adjust seasoning with salt, pepper, and olive oil as necessary. Divide between bowls of arugula and serve immediately. Arugula will wilt a bit -- don't worry, that's what is supposed to happen!

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Furikake Tofu with Sake Spinach

My latest cookbook obsession is Everyday Harumi, which I picked up at the Harvard Book Store last week after reading about it on Saveur's Top 100 List. Harumi Kuirhara is a housewife turned TV star in Japan. She has been called the Martha Stewart of Japan, but from this cookbook, that does not seem quite apt. Harumi is sweet, kind, and warm and her recipes are elegant and simple. I love her emphasis on textures and vegetables. I had never thought about how ginger tastes different when it is minced, grated, and julienned.

These recipes are inspired by Harumi, though not from her cookbook itself. I was actually introduced to both dishes by my parents, who like this for a quick weeknight meal. I don't usually eat rice (all my time in China instilled in me that it's filler food!), but I think these recipes lend themselves well to being served over steamed Japanese rice.

A note on furikake: it is a delicious Japanese condiment that comes in a wide variety of mixtures and is meant to be sprinkled over food. The kind I use is called nori katsuo furikake and consists of toasted sesame seeds, nori, bonito flakes, dried egg, and other seasonings. I bought this one at the Super 88 in Allston, but I think you should be able to track it down at Whole Foods or other specialty food shops.

Furikake Tofu
serves 2
  • 1 package firm tofu
  • 2 scallions (white and green parts), thinly sliced
  • soy sauce
  • furikake
  • canola or peanut oil for cooking
Drain and slice tofu into 1/2 inch slices along the short horizontal (like you are slicing a loaf of bread). Place tofu on a plate lined with paper towels. By drying the tofu, it will color better when cooked. Over high heat, heat a nonstick frying pan big enough to hold all the tofu. When hot, pour in just enough oil to lightly coat surface. Add tofu slices and cook until lightly golden, about 2 minutes. Flip slices and cook until the other side is golden. Remove from heat and drizzle with soy sauce and sprinkle with scallions and furikake.

Sake Spinach
serves 2
  • 1 10 oz bag spinach (not baby spinach!)
  • canola or peanut oil
  • salt
  • 1 1/2 t sake (you can substitute dry vermouth)
  • a couple squeezes of fresh lemon juice
  • sesame seeds to garnish
Rinse the pan used for the tofu. Return to high heat and add 1 t canola oil. When hot, add spinach and cook until wilted. Remove from heat and roughly chop. Season with salt, sake, and lemon juice to taste. Serve garnished with sesame seeds.

Special THANK YOU to Uncle Daniel & Aunt Jill for the beautiful bamboo serving plate!

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Spring Salad with Yogurt Dressing

My fellow Cantabrigians, I believe we can safely say that spring has sprung! The past few weeks I have longingly read about the rhubarb, asparagus, and ramps that fellow foodies in warmer climes have been enjoying. But with the leaves unfurling and the daffodils blooming, I feel I can say that I'm done eating kale and potatoes for the next six months.

For me, this salad encompasses that greenness of spring: a mixture of herbs paired with chopped lettuces and crisp cucumber. I wish I could take credit for the original inspiration for this recipe, but that belongs to the inimitable Ana Sortun, the chef and owner of Oleana and Sofra Bakery. These are two of my favorite foodie haunts around our fair city. When I don't have the time, money, or transportation to visit either place (Sofra is located on the edge of Watertown), I'm mollified by Ms. Sortun's cookbook Spice. Many of the restaurants' best recipes are included, though they are not for the novice chef or anyone who doesn't have at least an hour to spend on cooking dinner. The recipes are intricate, yes, but always delicious. As I've cooked my way through, I've found ways to cut corners and adapt so that I don't find myself bursting into tears when I realize that I've forgotten to make my own ras-el-hanout from scratch.

This salad is adapted from the recipe for "Chopped Romaine and Cucumber Salad with Yogurt Dressing." I've changed some of the proportions and omitted a number of steps (by the time I start making dinner, I could care less about toasting nuts). Basically, this is a simplified version that any chef armed with a good cutting board and sharp knife can tackle.

Spring Salad with Yogurt Dressing
below are the quantities per single serving
  • 4 romaine lettuce leaves
  • 1 generous handful arugula
  • 2 T chopped Italian (flat-leaf) parsley
  • 1 T chopped mint
  • 1 T chopped dill
  • 2 T chopped walnuts
  • 1/3 of an English cucumber, chopped
  • 1 1/2 T yogurt, preferably fat-free Greek
  • 2 T olive oil
  • 1/2 t red wine or sherry vinegar
  • 1/2 t fresh lemon juice
  • fresh ground pepper and salt
  • cayenne pepper
Coarsely chop romaine and arugula and place in a serving bowl. Top with herbs, walnuts, and cucumber. In a small mug, mix together with a fork yogurt, olive oil, vinegar, and lemon juice. Pour over salad and toss. Season with salt and pepper. Garnish with several dashes of cayenne.

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Curry Coconut Hummus

I love hummus. It never lasts long in my apartment. When I know it's hiding in my fridge, I'm likely to sneak into the kitchen after bedtime and eat it straight with a spoon. Hummus lends itself to so many variations that I usually err on the purist's side of simply using tahini, garlic, and lemon juice when I make it. But I recently tasted over ten varieties at a farmer's market stall, with everything from cilantro and eggplant to muhamara-style hummus. I was so wowed by a mild curry hummus that I set off to recreate it at home and voila, you have today's recipe!

My mom has been encouraging me to no longer eat canned food because of the chemicals that might leak from the cans' plastic linings. However, using canned chickpeas allows you to make this recipe in under five minutes and I'm often too lazy to bother with dried beans. But fear not, Eden canned beans are BPA-free and a good choice if you are concerned about using canned products or aren't interested in using dried beans (though I do give directions for doing so below).

Two important notes about ingredients for this recipe. Use 100% real coconut milk and don't opt for the reduced fat version -- it doesn't have enough flavor. Also, I used very fresh curry powder for this recipe. I know that curry powder is one of those spices that can hide unused in dark cupboard corners for years, so depending on the freshness of yours, you might need to add more to the hummus. Just make sure to taste test as you go along!

Curry Coconut Hummus
  • 1 15 oz can chickpeas or 1/2 cup dried chickpeas*
  • 1/4 c. 100% real coconut milk
  • 1 1/2 t curry powder
  • 1 small garlic clove, minced
  • 1 t or more kosher salt
  • several dashes cayenne pepper or aleppo chili powder
In a food processor or blender, combine all ingredients. Pulse until smooth. Taste and adjust seasonings as necessary, adding more coconut milk if too thick or more curry powder to punch up the flavor.

*To cook dried chickpeas, soak overnight in 6 cups of water. Drain and add 6 cups of new water to a small pot. Cook for one hour at a low boil until tender. Drain again before using. If you forget to soak the chickpeas, don't worry about it. Just increase your cooking time (it took me about 1 hour 45 minutes).

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

333 Shrimp

I spent last week visiting my grandmother in Florida. I associate these trips down to Boca Raton with eating out every night, alternating between the pool by the Intracostal and then the beach, and shopping 'til I drop with Nana at Loehmann's and Bloomingdales. But on my first night there, I spotted a sign for a local farmer's market just off the jostling strip of Atlantic Ave in Delray Beach. My parents and I woke up early Saturday morning and found ourselves momentarily whisked away from the world of beachfront condos to the more real, local Florida: tomatoes, avocados, and baby eggplant from a nearby farm, heritage breed chicken eggs, fresh gooey arepas, organic tea, homemade pickles, and mahi mahi and swordfish that had been caught the day before just 10 miles off the coast. The fish was so fresh and the staff so knowledgeable, we made a detour to Captain Clay and Sons Fish Market. There we picked up mahi mahi and large Florida shrimp for lunch.

When it comes to seafood, I try to do my part to choose sustainable products. The Monterey Bay Aquarium gives excellent advice about best bets for seafood and I try to adhere to their recommendations. As a result, I almost never eat shrimp anymore (the tales of imported shrimp are rather terrifying) except when I can get US-caught or farmed ones. So I jumped for joy at the chance to actually have my Florida prawns and eat them too.

This recipe is almost embarrassingly simple. The shrimp may not be super cheap, but they are worth the splurge. For one pound of shrimp, all you need is three of everything, from minutes of cooking time to tablespoons of seasoning. It will take less than 5 minutes for these beauties to be in your belly. Eat them hot or chilled with a large salad on the side. Make sure to have plenty of paper towels handy!

333 Shrimp
Serves 2 generously
  • 1 lb large US-caught shrimp
  • 3 T Old Bay Seasoning
  • 3 T water
  • lemon or key lime wedges of serving
In a small pot, place the shrimp, Old Bay, and water. Stir with a fork to cover shrimp in seasoning. The water should just barely cover the bottom of your pan. Place lid on tightly and heat over high heat. Every 30 seconds or so, give the pot a good shake. Cook for about 3 minutes and 30 seconds until shrimp are cooked through. Serve hot or chill in the fridge for an hour before serving. Garnish with citrus.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Tiramisu 151

Tiramisu might be one of my favorite desserts of all time. I know that's kind of cliched in our post-Sleepless in Seattle world, but still, I always order it when I'm out. What's surprising about tiramisu is how simple it is to make: store-bought lady fingers dipped in strong espresso, marscapone cheese mixed with rum, orange liqueur, and whipped cream. The flavors meld and intensify the longer it is refrigerated, so this is a perfect make-ahead dessert. You only need to use two bowls and there's booze & chocolate! Need I say more?

A couple of notes: if you don't have an electric beater, it will be tough to make the whipped cream from scratch. An alternative would be to see if you can find some homemade whipped cream at your local ice cream shop or gourmet store. I'm skeptical about what might happen with the canned stuff, but if you try that, let me know! I imagine it would be sweeter, but that might suit some palates.

I'm taking this over to my friend DC's for movie night tonight. Annie Hall + tiramisu = bliss.

Tiramisu 151
  • 2 tablespoons Grand Marnier or other orange liqueur
  • 3 tablespoons Bacardi 151
  • 4 tablespoons sugar
  • 8 ounces marscapone cheese, at room temperature
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1 cup strong brewed espresso, I use instant
  • 16 lady fingers
  • 6 ounces 72% dark chocolate, finely chopped
In a medium bowl, beat Grand Marnier, Bacardi, sugar, and marscapone with an electric hand-held mixer for 1 minute, until well-combined and lightened. In a separate small bowl, beat heavy cream with mixer until soft peaks form. Add sugar and beat until firm peaks form. Fold into marscapone. Line a loaf pan with 8 lady fingers dipped in the espresso. Layer on top half the marscapone and then sprinkle with half the chocolate. Repeat with another layer of dipped lady fingers, marscapone, and chocolate. Cover with plastic and chill of as long as possible, ideally overnight.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Ultimate Breakfast Sandwich

I've never been a big fan of breakfast. I rather sleep 10 more minutes and just grab a cup of coffee on my way to school or work. But I've been trying to reform and the only way to do that is to have breakfast become so enticing that I wake up looking forward to it. Here's my favorite of late: avocado, tomato, and lemon mayo with a fried egg. Not only does this sandwich always feel a bit indulgent, but it only takes 5 minutes to make and the price is right. Mere dollars for such a satisfying start to the day.

On that note, I'm going to start adding tags about time and price for the dishes. When I think about the student budget, it encompasses more than just a frugality of funds, but also a squeeze on time. I hope none of the dishes I include on the SE will ever be more than $20 total and will never take more than 30 minutes of active time. Enjoy!

Egg Breakfast Sandwich with Tomato, Avocado, and Lemony Mayo

For each sandwich you will need:
  • 1 English muffin, toasted
  • 1/2 avocado
  • 1 fried egg
  • 1 thick slice tomato
  • 1 T mayo
  • zest of 1/2 lemon
  • ample salt and pepper
  • olive oil for cooking the egg
If you don't have a toaster, throw the English muffin under the broiler in your oven. Meanwhile, heat a small skillet over high heat. When hot, pour in about 1 T olive oil. When the olive oil is shiny hot, break in the egg. Cook until whites have thickened but top of the egg is still runny, about 2 minutes. Flip egg and turn off heat. In a small bowl, mix together mayo and lemon zest. When muffin is toasted, use a knife to spread the avocado on one side. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Top with egg, followed by the tomato slice. Salt tomato slice too. Spread lemony mayo on the top muffin half. Voila!

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Cupboard #2

When: Tuesday, March 2, about 11 AM
Where: Richmond, MA
Who: My parents, physicians, health care activist and poet, respectively
Favorite quick meal: scrambled local egg on whole wheat toast with olive oil and fresh ground pepper (Mom) and Guilin noodles (Dad)

Friday, February 26, 2010

Bourbon Chocolate Bread Pudding is a Finalist on!

Last night as I was making Dr. Zhivago's borscht with some errant beets I found in the vegetable drawer, I started receiving quite a few emails notifying me that a number of people had commented on my recipe for Bourbon Chocolate Bread Pudding on Low and behold, my recipe had been nominated by the editors as one of the finalists for the bread pudding contest! Take a peak: Bourbon Chocolate Bread Pudding!

Friday, February 19, 2010

My Chopped Salad

By the end of February, I'm ready to be done with winter. I need some sunshine and a break from kale, potatoes and other wintry vegetables (although I do love them so). It's the perfect time for a large composed salad. I'm somewhat of a salad freak. When I would come back to the States while living in China, my dad would come downstairs at 11 PM to find me eating enormous bowls of fresh mesclun greens drizzled with olive oil, balsamic vinegar, and cracked Tellicherry pepper. No ice cream for this foreigner.

I've used my favorite ingredients for this chopped salad, but really, it's a recipe that lends itself well to improvisation. If you don't eat chicken, substitute chickpeas. No interest in bacon? A little chopped ham is delicious too. Swap feta for the blue cheese and add some kalamata olives for a Mediterranean twist. Also, you don't have to be fussy with the presentation. I normally would just throw each ingredient into a large bowl as I chopped and then toss them all together with the dressing before serving.

A note on the meaty products I used: although eating tomatoes in February is not very eco-conscious, I do try to be aware of where my animal products come from (thank you, Jonathan Safran Foer for scaring me into ethical omnivore submission). The eggs come from heritage breed chickens raised up the road from my parents in the Berkshires. The bacon is from Applegate Farms. The chicken breast comes from little Amish chickies in Lancaster, PA. The latter two were both purchased at Whole Foods. You can truly taste the differences, especially with the eggs and chicken.

My Chopped Salad
  • 2 hard boiled eggs
  • 1 poached chicken breast, cubed
  • 1 avocado, cubed
  • 1 medium sized tomato, chopped
  • 2 carrots, chopped
  • 1/4 c. crumbled blue cheese, such as Roquefort
  • 1/2 English cucumber, chopped
  • 2 extra crispy bacon strips, finely chopped
  • 10 romaine lettuce leaves, cut crosswise into 1 inch strips
For the dressing:
  • 1 small shallot, finely chopped
  • 1/2 t kosher salt
  • 1 t Dijon mustard
  • 3 T olive oil
  • 1 T sherry vinegar (red wine works too)
Combine salad ingredients in a large bowl. In a separate cup, mix salad dressing ingredients together with a fork. Drizzle dressing over salad, toss well, and serve.

Some cooking tips:

To hard boil an egg: place eggs in a small sauce pan and cover with cold water. Bring to a boil over high heat and let boil vigorously for 1 minute. Remove pan from heat, cover tightly, and set aside for 12 minutes. Drain eggs in cold water, then peel. If you would like some gently and amusing hand holding for your first try, check out this: (Thank you, Abby!)

To poach a chicken breast: in a shallow pan, place 2 inches of cold water. Add the chicken and bring to a gentle simmer over medium heat and cover pan with lid. After about 4 minutes, turn breast over and cook for 4 more minutes. Check for doneness by slicing into the breast since you will be chopping it up anyway! Cooking times will vary slightly depending on the thickness of the breast.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Bouillabaisse with Garlic Roux

I spent this past week on the Cape with my friend Tracey. We slept in, spent the days reading, writing, and walking on the beach when we were not hunkered down preparing for Snowpocalypse. I'd never been on the beach in a winter coat, but this confirmed my love for vacation destinations in the off season. As such, we had to try a couple places before we found a fishmonger who was open, but we hit the jackpot. Planning to make my parent's version of bouillabaisse, we bought local steamers, monkfish, and bay scallops. When buying seafood, I try to adhere to the advice of the Monterey Bay Aquarium and buy seafood that is sustainably raised or fished. I totally failed by using the monkfish (lesson learned), but swapped in tilapia the second time I made it. In reality, you can come up with any combination of seafood for the soup: mussels, shrimp, other kinds of fish. Just try to buy whatever is fresh and sustainable!

For those who like a milder dish, omit the roux, which is wonderfully spicy and has quite a kick. Usually a roux is made to thicken a soup or sauce at the very beginning of preparation. Here, I add the roux at the end to round out the flavors of the soup.

I just submitted this recipe to the food52 contest of the week. I'm totally enamored with this website's project, spearheaded by the inimitable Amanda Hesser and her fellow foodie writer Merrill Stubbs: collect the best recipes for classic dishes from home cooks. Definitely check it out when you have a moment!

Bouillabaisse with Garlic Roux

For the bouillabaisse:
2 T olive oil
1 medium onion, thinly sliced
4 garlic cloves, roughly chopped
1 fennel bulb, halved and thinly sliced
2 russet potatoes, thinly sliced
3 plum tomatoes, roughly chopped
1 bouillon cube (optional)
1 1/4 lb fresh white fish, cut into slightly larger than bite size pieces
8 live medium-sized clams, soaked in a bowl of water before cooking
bay scallops

For the roux:

2 garlic cloves, as finely minced as possible
1/3 c fresh bread crumbs
1/2 t chili flakes
1/2 t salt (increase to 1 t if not using bouillon cube)
1 T olive oil

In a large soup pot, saute onion and garlic in olive oil over medium high heat until fragrant. Add the fennel and continue to saute until slightly softened. Add the potatoes and cook for about a minute. Add 6 cups of water and turn up heat to high. When boiling, add tomatoes and bullion cube and reduce heat. Simmer until potatoes and tomatoes are cooked through.

Meanwhile, in a small bowl combine the roux ingredients and mix with a spoon. Add about 2 T of broth from the soup to soften. Set aside.

When you are ready to eat, raise heat to bring soup back to a gentle boil. Add clams and cook until they have opened wide (about 3-4 minutes). Remove to a separate bowl. Add scallops, followed by the fish. These will cook very quickly. Taste test after about 1 minute for doneness. When fish is done, place clams back in the pot. Serve in large soup bowls letting guests add as much roux as they like. Make sure to have a crusty loaf of bread to serve as well!

The Cupboards of Others

When: Friday, February 12, 10 PM
Where: Near Fenway, Boston, MA
Who: Physician, poet
Favorite quick meal: garlic toast

We all have our secret guilty pleasures. A few of mine include: buying dresses for $5 at the Urban Outfitters bargain basement, reading US Weekly in airport lounges, eating anchovy stuffed green olives out of the jar when I can't sleep, sifting through remainders at Harvard Books Store, and watching The Bachelor over breakfast on Tuesday mornings. These are habits I do not often disclose without a few Jim Beams in my system. There is one other guilty secret that, until now, I've managed to safely keep under wraps, except from a few close friends: I love to see what people have in their cupboards.

I know bookshelves, iTunes libraries, and medicine cabinets are where we tend to snoop at first. But for me, so much is revealed by what someone likes to cook. What kind of spices do they have? Are the cupboards bare or do they seem to be preparing for Y2K? Are they bakers or pasta eaters? Do they shop at Whole Foods or Star Market? I once was at a friend's house and found 15 pounds of dried pasta and 10 jars of tomato sauce in his pantry. Priceless.

I usually get caught. But the host, though a bit embarrassed, always laughs and often moves to show me the contents of the fridge. At that point I demure. There's something so much more personal about what one keeps in the refrigerator.

My new side project here on the Student Epicure is going to be to start collecting photographs of my findings. Let me know what you think!

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Soba Noodle Bowl

Soba noodles are my new obsession. In all honesty, I'm somewhat of a noodle whore and my cravings will often be satisfied by almost any pasta. However, soba is my choice of the moment and I found an organic brand at the Super 88 that is both delicious and cheap (about $3 for 3 noodle bundles). I have no doubt that soba can also easily be found at Whole Foods or perhaps even Stop & Shop these days.

There are myriad ways to prepare soba and what you will find below is a rather bastardized Asian preparation. But it's delicious and filling, as well as reasonably quick. I love composed salads, like salade nicoise or cobb salad, and I think this falls into that realm. Over a bed of seasoned noodles is a mix of vegetables. In this version, I've used carrots, broccoli, bean sprouts, tofu, and dried mushrooms, but I can think of many variations that would be equally lovely. I'd recommend trying it also with sweet potato cubes, thinly sliced red bell pepper, spinach, pea pods, baby bok choy, or shredded savoy cabbage. For you carnivores out there, the tofu can easily be substituted with shredded leftover chicken or a little beef or pork sauteed with a sprinkle of soy sauce until crumbly. I've never tried the dish with fish, but I think some leftover salmon would be delicious too.

The point is this is an opportunity to improvise, use up what's leftover in your fridge, and get creative. Below are the directions for the vegetables I used, but you can throw caution to the wind and use whatever you like, just make sure to taste test the vegetables for doneness along the way.

Soba Noodle Bowl
serves 2
  • 1 bundle soba noodles
  • soy sauce
  • sesame oil
  • 2 1/2 c. mixed vegetables cut into bite size pieces (carrots, bean sprouts, dried mushrooms, broccoli, tofu)
  • chili garlic sauce
  • optional: 2 fried eggs to top the bowls
Bring a medium pot of water to a boil and then salt the water. Add the soba and cook as directed on the package. Using a pasta fork, remove noodles when done and drain in a colander. Be sure to save the boiling water! Divide noodles between two bowls and season with 1 t soy sauce and about 1/4 t sesame oil each. Set aside.

Now it's time to cook the vegetables. I recommend cooking the "hardest" ones first. By that, I mean cook first the ones that will take the longest, such as carrots, potatoes etc. Cooking time will vary depending on the vegetable and their size, but don't worry, just taste as you cook and keep track of the doneness. Worst case scenario: you overcook them a bit, which is really not the end of the world. Blanch veg one by one in boiling water until tender and then remove with a slotted spoon to drain. Make sure to save the water for the next one. The order for the vegetables I used was: carrots, broccoli, mushrooms, tofu, bean sprouts. After draining, arrange vegetables over noodles and top with little dashes of chili garlic sauce to taste (don't over do it - you can always add more later). Top with a fried egg, if you so desire.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

A Simple Chinese Dinner

Although I lived in China for two years, I am always embarrassed to admit that I didn't learn to cook many Chinese dishes while I was there. There were too many delicious and cheap restaurants to make cooking and washing dishes even vaguely appealing. However, I wanted to make sure I had some favorites under my belt, so I arranged for our ai-yi (housekeeper) to show us how to make some classics: eggs with tomatoes and baby bok choy with mushrooms and oyster sauce. These recipes are simple and quick, as well as perfect for the student budget. The only crazy ingredient involved is the oyster sauce, which can be found at Whole Foods or an Asian market. It's also delicious drizzled on steamed broccoli or stir fried bean sprouts with a fried egg on top. In a pinch, you can omit the oyster sauce and season the vegetables with a little soy sauce and sesame oil to taste. My best advice to you is to eat the dishes hot hot hot -- Chinese food just doesn't do well when served cold. The quantities below serve two people. You might also want to make some rice to go along with everything. I recently discovered that Trader Joe's sells brown rice frozen that cooks in 3 minutes in the microwave.

A special thanks to my friend Chrissy for being a wonderful Chef #2 last night!

Egg and Tomato

Staples: salt, pepper, vegetable oil (peanut or canola). Olive oil is OK too in a pinch.
  • 4 eggs, whisked with a fork
I usually opt for 4 egg whites and 2 yolks to tame the cholesterol.
  • 1 t dry vermouth
  • 1/2 t sugar
  • 1 c chopped tomato, about 2 plum tomatoes
  • optional: MSG
Whisk vermouth into eggs. Set aside. Heat a large frying pan (or wok, if you have one) over high heat. Add 2 T oil and heat. When oil is hot and shiny, but not smoking, pour in eggs. As soon as eggs begin to set, push them to the side of the pan and pour the tomatoes into the empty space. Sprinkle on sugar and MSG, if using. Give the tomatoes a few stirs and then fold into the eggs, flipping over once or twice to fully cook. If not using MSG, season with salt now. Remove eggs and tomatoes to a bowl and cover with a plate to keep warm.

Baby Bok Choy with Mixed Mushrooms in Oyster Sauce

Staples: vegetable oil (peanut or canola). Olive oil is OK too in a pinch.
  • about 8 baby bok choy, washed well and cut in half or into quarters wedges
  • 3 garlic cloves minced
  • 1/2 lb mixed mushrooms, I used a combination of oyster and button
  • 1 1/2 T oyster sauce
Rinse out the pan used above and wipe down with a paper towel. Return to heat and over high heat again add 2 T oil. When oil is hot and shiny, but not smoking, add garlic and stir for about 30 seconds until fragrant. Add baby bok choy and reduce heat to medium, stirring to incorporate garlic. Cover and cook for about 2 minutes, checking to make sure nothing is burning. Now add the mushrooms and stir a couple of times. Cover again and cook until baby bok choy is tender and the mushrooms have released their moisture. Remove from heat and pour on oyster sauce. Serve immediately.

Monday, January 25, 2010


Whoa, that's a mouthful! I first discovered this Middle Eastern breakfast staple at the inimitable Sofra Bakery and Cafe in Watertown, MA. I worship the chef Ana Sortun and this wonderful dish only adds to her allure. The recipe came by way of Libya and consists of tomatoes, onions, garlic and spices in which whole eggs are poached until just cooked. This version is inspired by the recipe I found on Saveur , though I have amended it to more closely resemble the version at Sofra by pureeing the vegetables before poaching the eggs.

I love to eat this for dinner, though obviously it is delicious for any meal of the day. I add a little Sriracha for some heat, but you can also try fresh or pickled jalapenos or a dash of cayenne. If you want to include some more vegetables, add some diced green bell pepper after you have browned the onions. This dish is quite dramatic served in a skillet at the table with some warm pita bread. (TIP: if you freeze fresh pita and then toss it back into the microwave for 30 seconds you can really stretch its longevity.) If you aren't cooking for anyone but yourself, you can also freeze half of the tomato mixture and use it another time.

My mother brings me amazing multicolored eggs from The Berkshires. If you can find a source for local eggs, buy them! Trust me, you can taste the difference.

after Saveur

Staples: olive oil, salt and pepper
Special equipment: a frying pan, skillet, or small pan that can be put in the oven
  • 1 small-medium yellow onion roughly chopped
  • 6 garlic cloves, peeled and whacked a couple of times to squish
  • 1 t cumin
  • 1 T paprika
  • 1 can diced fire roasted tomatoes
  • fresh local eggs
In a large skillet (cast iron is amazing, if you have one), saute the onions in 3-4 T olive oil over med-high heat until soft. Add the garlic and continue sauteing until fragrant. Add the cumin and paprika and keep stirring for another minute. Add the tomatoes with all their juice. At this point, you can also add your spice of choice if you want some heat. Reduce heat so that the mixture simmers gently until it has thickened (about 15-20 minutes). Remove from heat and let cool slightly. Scoop everything into a blender and puree until smooth. Season with salt and pepper.

Return puree to the skillet and over medium heat bring the it back to a simmer. Turn on the oven broiler. Make as many small wells in the bubbling sauce as eggs you plan to use. Make sure to space them so that the eggs do not run together, though it isn't the end of the world if they do. Gently crack eggs into wells. Simmer until eggs begin to set. You will see the whites start to thicken after about 4-5 minutes. Place skillet under the broiler for 1-2 minutes or until desired doneness is reached. Spoon the eggs with sauce into small bowls and serve with warm pita.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Hello, World!

Welcome to my latest foodie blog the Student Epicure! I know many of you have been pining for the Sexy Spoon, but I came to the realization that I have outgrown the Spoon and it is prime time to move on. Don't worry, I promise there will still be a salacious post here and there! But the Spoon got a little too personal over time, and I feel it's best to change up the chronicling of my culinary and romantic exploits.

Those of you who are friends with my beyond the interwebs know that I love anything food-related and always relish foodie gossip. Over the years I've noticed that friends tend to divulge their food secrets to me, which often involve either their limited experience in the kitchen or the precious little time they have to cook. Also, for those of us who are mid-twenty somethings still in school or who work hard and earn little in the nonprofit world, finances can crimp our foodie style. The story of a friend who started eating Progresso soup cold from the can was so terrifying that I knew I had to take matters into my own hands.

I am a prennial student, of sorts. Post-college, I studied dance in China, came back to the homeland and returned to school to finish my premed requirements, and next fall I will be starting medical school. I've loved cooking since I was old enough to stand on a stool next to my mother at the kitchen counter learning to make polenta, pasta puttanesca, and chocolate souffle. I've never been one for very fussy recipes and really Julia Child is the only culinary icon who can convince me to peel and de-seed tomatoes. But I love to eat well, especially when I've spent a day buried under lab reports, flash cards, and MCAT prep.

I hope this blog will develop into a collection of recipes that can be cooked in 30-45 minutes on a weekday night with simple ingredients that won't break the bank. Some recipes will be original, others will be ones I have collected as an epicurean student along the way. I plan to post every Monday, fingers crossed. As always, I welcome feedback, questions, and special requests!

Looking forward to cooking together --