Monday, July 30, 2012

Summertime Pasta Primavera [Rhonda]

Degree of difficulty: easy to medium, only because you're working with angel hair pasta
Time: 15 minutes prep, 10 minutes to cook
Serves: 2 generously

There was a restaurant, Dieci, around the corner and down the street from our E. 84th Street brownstone when Mike and I lived in Manhattan, that served the absolute best pasta primavera, always with snips of fresh basil. Their choice of springtime vegetables--asparagus, snow peas--can be subbed out for seasonal summer produce. The Saturday lunch version you see here is just zucchini, yellow squash, ripe tomatoes and basil.

Two secrets that you already know. One, use real parmesan reggiano. Two, use homemade stock if you have it. Takes it from amazing to ridiculous.

12 ounces angel hair pasta
2 tablespoons butter
1 1/2 cups or more homemade chicken stock, or canned
Splash of white wine
A squeeze of fresh lemon juice
1 zucchini, chopped
1 yellow squash, chopped
2 ripe tomatoes, chopped (I used Roma)
Handful mushrooms, chopped (not used here because of Mike's sad aversion to them)
2 to 3 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup or so grated parmesan reggiano
10 or so basil leaves, chopped
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

Prep (clean and chop) all veggies. Heat the water for the pasta in small stock pot. Melt butter in saute pan, add garlic and those vegetables that take longer to cook--here, the zucchini and squash.

Saute, then add tomatoes. Add splash of white wine, saute to reduce slightly, add stock. (If you're using canned stock and want to reduce it a bit, strain out the veggies before they are can always add them back in at the last.) The trick is to balance the amount of stock with parmesan cheese--too much cheese (Mike believes there is no such thing) will make the whole dish dry. Too much stock, well, that doesn't work either. Add some of the grated cheese to the sauce, and squeeze just a little fresh lemon juice into it.

Drain the angel hair pasta after cooking it al dente (and watching it! the whole cook process for angel hair is measured in small minutes, 2 or 3, tops). Dump pasta back in stock pot, add vegetables, sauce, basil, salt and pepper, and some parmesan. Toss, taste and adjust seasonings and liquids if necessary. Serve with basil leaves for garnish and a light sprinkle of parmesan.

Suggested soundtrack: Luciano Pavarotti's "Che gelida manina" from La Boheme
Che gelida manina by Luciano Pavarotti on Grooveshark

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Pulled Lamb Shoulder Carnitas V2 [Zack]

"Lamb Carnitas" have been the most popular keywords in a Google search that have led people to Mama Tommy's blog.  This only slightly edges out the keywords "bang bang sex", which leads to my mom's Bang Bang Shrimp post.  I still don't understand how someone looking for bang bang sex gets distracted and clicks on a picture of shrimp (or I don't even understand what bang bang sex means), but there are more important things to ponder in life.

This second version is easier than my first Lamb Carnitas post.  You don't need to confit the cubed shoulder, you just brown the whole sucker in a pot, and then let it roast in a covered vessel for about 6.5 hours.  The meat will fall apart with just one stern look at it when it comes out of the oven.

The savory, juicy pulled lamb is accompanied with a fresh tomato salsa that brightens up your tacos.  It will make your taco pop!


Arrange your ingredients for roasting the lamb shoulder.

Start a large oven-proof pot over medium heat.  You will brown your shoulder in here.  Loosely chop your big red peppers, slice your spicy peppers, and chop your onions.

Salt each side of the lamb shoulder and add it to the pot with 1T of oil.  Brown all sides of the shoulder, then add your whole cumin seeds, whole unpeeled garlic cloves, and your chopped veggies.  Stir it all around for a few minutes until you can smell the cumin and the veggies develop a bit of color.

Add in your chicken stock and then dust the lamb shoulder with your cumin and coriander powder.

Cover your pot and add it to your oven at 250F / 125C.  Let this roast for 6 hours or so, and then poke it with a knife to see if the meat falls apart.  I decided to pull mine at 6.5 hours, but it's not a science.

I placed the whole pot into the fridge and let it sit covered overnight (yes I added a 2nd shoulder because I wanted to make a lot and freeze it).  It's not necessary to let it sit - you can go straight to the shredding step if you can't contain yourself.

The next day, the fat had solidified on the top of the liquid and I scraped off the the fat with a spoon.

Shred the lamb with your fingers or a couple of forks.

Don't waste the valuable tasty liquid!  Heat it up and reduce it down a bit.  Puree the mixture until it's a smooth sauce.  You can use a tablespoon of this to add juiciness to the lamb (after cooking it in the frying pan).  Also, you'll have sauce more left over - this is a great sauce for pasta, use it as a base for a soup, be creative - go nuts!

Now, it's time to prep your salsa.  

Lightly chop the tomatoes, onions, garlic, peppers (de-seeded if you want to cut down on the heat), and cilantro.  Toss it all in a food processor with 1.5T of red wine vinegar, and puree until chunky.  Add a pinch of salt.

In a frying pan over medium heat with 1T to 2T of oil, add in the lamb and cook until parts of it  become crispy and brown.  This should take about 5 minutes.  Add in 1T of the sauce if you want right before taking it off the heat.

Spoon it into a nice tortilla, top with salsa, cilantro, and maybe some fresh avocado.  Enjoy!

2.5 lb / 1.1kg lamb shoulder
2 onions
1c chicken stock
1T cumin powder
1T coriander powder
1T whole cumin seeds
3 birdseye chiles, sliced in half
6 whole garlic cloves
a few tortillas
a few cilantro leaves for garnish
1 avocado (optional)

4 finger-hot peppers
1 handful cilantro
1 medium red onion
1 large or 2 medium tomatoes
1.5 T red wine vinegar

Song:  Jamie Cullum - Wind Cries Mary (cover of Jimi)
Wind Cries Mary by Jamie Cullum on Grooveshark

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Corn Cakes with Habanero-Infused Honey and Maple Syrup [Rhonda]

Degree of difficulty: easy unless you're nervous about flipping pancakes
Time: prep 15 minutes, cook time 5 to 10 minutes
Serves: 2 or 3

Here's the challenge: you've gone to the New Albany Farmer's Market on a sweltering hot July afternoon and returned home with three amazing purchases. Fresh-picked blackberries, the season's early sweet corn, and a most wonderful treat, habanero-infused honey. One dish that uses all three?

These corn cakes were fabulous. I served them with a small side of bacon (goes with anything on the planet, right Zack?) and dressed up the plate with a slice of blood orange and a snip of sage.

Since the habanero-infused honey (from Latshaw Apiaries in New Albany, in case you want to order some online) is precious, I drizzled some pure maple syrup on the plate as well.

  • 1 cup stone-ground yellow cornmeal
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
  • 2 teaspoons sugar
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and cooled, plus additional melted butter for cooking
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 cup buttermilk
  • 1 cup fresh sweet corn, removed from cob
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped onion
  • 1 fresh jalapeño or serrano chili, or to taste, seeded and minced
In a bowl whisk together the cornmeal, flour, salt, baking soda, pepper and sugar. In another bowl whisk together 2 tablespoons of the butter, the egg, and the buttermilk, stir in the corn, onion, chili, and stir in the cornmeal mixture, stirring until the batter is just combined. Heat a nonstick pan over moderately high heat until it is hot, brush it lightly with the additional butter, and working in batches drop the batter by a 1/4-cup measure into pan. Spread the batter slightly to form 3 1/2- to 4-inch cakes, cook the cakes for 2 to 3 minutes on each side, or until they are golden, transferring them as they are cooked to a heatproof platter, and keep them warm.

Serve with habanero-infused honey and pure maple syrup.
Suggested soundtrack: Carly Rae Jepsen's "Call Me Maybe" (don't's cute)

Call Me Maybe by Carly Rae Jepsen on Grooveshark

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

All Natural Baking Soda Deodorant [Zack]

Some of us go to big lengths in order to buy organic food that hasn't been touched by chemicals or pesticides.  I try to buy organic as often as possible, but I'm not a nut about it.  One morning while I was in the shower, I had an epiphany.  Think about how many times you either ingest or touch chemicals before you leave to go to work.  They are in the shampoo, the soap, on your drinking glass from the dish washer, in your toothpaste, in the counter cleaner, etc etc.

I got inspired to look up some natural recipes for deodorant since I knew that anti-perspirant deodorants have some really strong chemicals and carcinogens in them.  This one couldn't be more simple and it really works.  I need to apply it one time every two days (even if I go on long bike rides).  If you want to smell masculine or feminine, you can spritz some cologne on your clothing.

If you still aren't convinced - think back to your mom putting baking soda in your fridge to eat up the odors.  Why not let it eat up the odor under your arms?

Mix together in a bowl:

1 part baking soda
2 parts corn starch (because baking soda alone is sometimes too harsh - also helps keep you dry)

Apply about 1/2 tsp under each arm and feel fresh!!

Song:  Outkast - So Fresh and So Clean
So Fresh And So Clean by OutKast on Grooveshark

Monday, July 9, 2012

Stuffed Sirloin Steaks [Tom]

Shopping List:
~ 2 Top Sirloin Fillets 1/3 to 1/2 lb each
~ 1 teaspoon chopped flat leaf parsley
~ 1 teaspoon diced chives
~ 1 small minced garlic clove
~ 2 slices of blue cheese 1" x 2"
~ A pinch of salt and pepper

Stand the steak on it's side and cut a pocket.

Stuff the pocket with the ingredients
Use 2 to 3 toothpicks in each to hold the pocket together
Grill to taste


Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Firey Chipotle Beef and Bacon Enchiladas [Zack]

Happy July 4th

I have a weird tradition with my friends that we cook Mexican food to celebrate holidays.  This recipe is what Pete, Lauren, and I are preparing tonight to celebrate July 4th remotely.  If you’re tired of the traditional burger, give these spicy enchiladas a shot!

Overall, Belgium has really great food and I don't miss too many meals from the US. There are two main things that I do occasionally crave, a freshly-ground cheeseburger and good Mexican food. When  I fancy one of the two, my only option is to cook it myself.

This enchilada recipe is not meant to be a traditional recipe. This is my interpretation of what Enchiladas are to me. The bacon and the chipotle peppers add a smokey and spicy kick to the rolls that really make these special.


Here is a picture of the ingredients you will need.  I included the "less spicy" amount of chipotle peppers, but feel free to make it as spicy as you can handle!

Dice one whole onion. You are going to use half of it for the chopped beef and bacon, and the other half for the smoky salsa.

Hand-chop your beef and bacon until it is in roughly 1/8 inch cubes. The meat doesn't have to be exactly uniform (that's part of what makes this fun) and make sure you don't over-chop it into a mush.  

Place it in a bowl and add 1tsp cumin, 1tsp onion powder, ½ of the diced onion, 1tsp hot sauce, a pinch of salt, and an optional chopped chipotle pepper.

Let this sit for a while until you are ready to cook it (if it's going to sit longer than 30 mins, put it back in the fridge).

Start 2 saute pans over medium heat. Slice your 2 onions and 2 peppers into moons. Toss them into a sauté pan over medium heat with 1T of olive oil and cook for about 8 minutes until they soften and caramelize a bit.

In the second sauté pan, cook your beef mixture through - this should take about 8 minutes as well. Put both the veggies and the beef aside and continue working on the rest.

For your tomato salsa to top the enchiladas, grab a sauce pot and place it over medium heat. Put the remaining ½ of your diced onion in the pot with 1tsp of olive oil. Dice your 2 tomatoes and 2 chipotle peppers, and add them to the sauce pot. Add 1.5 T of hot sauce as well. Let it simmer for 10 minutes. You can also add 1T of sriracha for an additional kick!

Once that is reduced, you have all of your ingredients ready to get rollin. Start your oven preheating at 400F / 200C.

Place a tortilla shell on a flat surface and add the beef mixture in a line down the center. Add the sauted onions and peppers on top, 1tsp of the tomato salsa, and a splash of sriracha if you are feelin cray cray (you know if it's Pete and me cooking, it's going to happen).

Roll everything up into a tube and place it in a large baking dish. Once you have filled the dish with the rolls, brush them with 1T of olive oil and bake them for about 5 minutes. You want the top crispy, but not dark brown.

Take the dish back out of the oven, cover the tops with the tomato salsa, and then cover everything with a nice layer of cheese. Bake until the cheese melts and everything is cooked through.  Top with some cilantro and serve!

Ingredients (serves 4):
1.1lbs of beef (.5kg) either ground, or a whole piece to be chopped later
1/4lb bacon (100g)
6 tortilla shells
2 T olive oil
5 canned chipotle peppers in adobo (less spicy =3)
2T sriracha (optional)
2.5T of hot sauce
1 tsp cumin
1/2 cup Emmental or another melty cheese
3 medium onions, sliced into moons
2 colorful peppers, sliced into moons
2 medium tomatoes
1 small handful of cilantro

Creativity options:

  • Make a green salsa to add to the filling (jalapenos, onion, garlic, cilantro)
  • Go greek and use ground lamb and top with a creamy feta sauce
  • Use pulled pork and make a green salsa for the top
  • Go all-veg and use something like eggplant (aubergine)

Song:  Hugh Coltman - On my hands
On My Hands by Hugh Coltman on Grooveshark