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.