Sunday, August 30, 2009

A Farewell Fiesta: the enchilada recipe

Last week I hosted a little dinner party with some friends before my departure to Boston. I've always enjoyed cooking mexican food, and I have trouble finding a restaurant that creates the flavors I can create in my own kitchen. Last week I served a crazy concoction that I call a baked enchilada. I basically use an enchilada filling, but no sauce, and I bake them until the tortillas crisp on the outside. I can't stand the smothered-in-cheese- soft -shell enchilada in restaurants- it just doesn't have the zip I crave.

I also serve grilled corn and a black bean salad on the side or rice, and usually I'd mix up some guacamole and salsa, too. Ryan will mix up some of his insane margaritas, and voila. One delicious meal.

If you, like I, are seeking a different kind of enchilada, here is the recipe!!

Ingredients- makes 8 enchiladas- eyeball the veggies, about a fistful or two of each.
red onion
green/red/yellow pepper
jalepeno pepper- 1/2 to a whole, seeded or unseeded, depending on spice preferences
2-3 cloves garlic
recaito or mexican seasoning
1 can cream of chicken soup
1 small container sour cream- 8 oz
1/2 lime
1 bag mexican shredded cheese
chicken cutlets or 2 breasts

1. Saute the chicken in butter until cooked just past pink. Set aside to cool.
2. Preheat oven to...350
3. Dice all the vegetables into small pieces
4. shred the chicken with your hands. Mix the vegetables, seasonings, cream of chicken, and 1/2 the sour cream together. Mix well, add in 3/4 of the bag of cheese.
5. butter two baking pans. fill the enchiladas and wrap them.
6. bake for 40 minutes, put remaining cheese on top, bake additional 5 minutes.

Black Bean Salad-
You need to make this one a few hours in advance and let it chill. Light and refreshing, a healthier alternative to refried beans.

1 can black beans- drained and rinsed thoroughly.
1/2 lime
1 clove garlic- use sparingly and to taste
red/green/yellow pepper, very finely diced
red onion- finely chopped
tomatoes- tiny as possible
corn kernels
salt & pepper- you're going to want a healthy pinch of salt here!

Mix all ingredients together, tasting to adjust the amount of lime and cilantro. Chill until ready to serve.

Hope you enjoy the fiesta- maybe later this week I'll reveal the secrets of Ryan's margaritas. It may or may not involve a lot of lime and booze...

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Pasta Sauce

We are not fans of jarred pasta sauce. Let's face it- the inevitable dilemma is to go cheap and flavorless, or expensive and half-decent. It's criminal. Disappointed and frustrated by our finds, and longing for something more flavorful, we turned to the kitchen for results.

My first thought was for a family recipe. Unfortunately, my Italian Grandmother is far from the stereotypical master cook, and her "secret" recipe involved doctoring up a jar of ragu with some sausage. There went that thought.

Our next try was a disastrous concoction Ryan made early in our dating lives. He was a bit heavy-handed with the salt- and then, worse, the sugar. It pretty much was a do-over, with painful lessons learned. A later recipe we found in Cooks Illustrated proved tasty and developed a darker flavor than a traditional sauce- and also a chunky consistency that is great with a larger noodle- but is a lot of work over a stove, and not ideal for weekly meals, or for freezing.

Finally, a friend of mine taught me her family's sauce- a simple, clean recipe that could simmer with relatively little intervention, and was ideal for making in large batches and freezing. This is the recipe I'm happy to share with you now, with a few of my own flavor tweaks tossed in. One batch will sauce 4 boxes of pasta, and keeps really well in the freezer.

Good ol' italian "gravy":

2 28-oz cans of peeled tomatoes
(Use san marzano or other imported tomatoes for best quality- I like La Squisita)
2 28-oz cans of crushed or pureed tomatoes
2 healthy handfuls of fresh chopped basil
1 healthy handful of fresh chopped parsely
1 handful of dried of fresh oregano
Dashes of marjoram, thyme, and rosemary
3 garlic coves peeled & minced
olive oil
up to 1/2 can of water
splash of wine
sea salt & pepper
Pecorino & Parmeggiano cheese to grate on top

1. Coat bottom of a sauce pot with olive oil. Add garlic and saute, then add in parsley to the oil. Allow garlic to brown.
2. Start pouring in the peeled tomatoes, stirring after each can. Once all 4 cans are in the pot, mix in the basil, oregano, marjoram, thyme, and rosemary. Season with salt and pepper. Add a little bit of water to mixture to ease thickness.
3. Let simmer for an hour, stirring occasionally. Taste sauce after an hour of simmering, and adjust flavor as desired. If too tangy, mix in a pinch of sugar.
4. Continue to allow to simmer for up to another hour, or longer, for deeper flavors. Stir in a splash of a dry italian red, such as chianti, when you are close to serving.
5. Store remaining sauce for future uses!

Friday, August 21, 2009

Ryan finally agrees to try a Greek restaurant...


We went here last night with two good friends from Astoria. Having never ventured to this little pocket of NYC before, we were excited to check out a new 'hood, and of course, a new restaurant! Despite the heat and humidity, we just couldn't pass up dinner in the enchanting grotto of a garden. The greek salad, cheese, and mussels were all amazing for appetizers, and the entrees did not disappoint! I had a ravioli special that involved truffle oil- the portion was perfect for this rich dish, and the flavors really stood out. Ryan had a hanger steak, but the real winning plate was a lamb that just blew my mind. Not being a very big lamb fan, this will be my order next time around!! A wonderful introduction to a new neighborhood, and a great way to remember summers in greece!

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

August Dining....

Here are some quick reviews of the eating & drinking I've been doing over the past month...

Barolo- 8/16-This restaurant looked old and outdated. The SoHo location and backyard- which has previously been described as "transporting" and "romantic"- looked more like a concrete patio than ever. This photo must have been taken much earlier in its life. The Italian food was bland, bland, bland, and the fish gave my husband food poisoning. Never Again.

Kittichai- Awesome
atmosphere, awesome food. This Thai-inspired restaurant had some killer dishes. I had an appetizer of tuna tartar, and my husband had a seabass tempura that was insanely good. The other members of our party were equally pleased with all the dishes. For my entree I had the steak, which was well-flavored and spicy. My uncle had a fish curry that was presented with the whole fish wrapped around the dish. After dinner, we had drinks on the rooftop bar A60, which is labeled as "members and guests" only- but we had no issue getting up there. The view is killer- including the Empire & Chrysler buildings- and it wasn't overly crowded for a Friday night. I'll be back.

Monday, August 17, 2009

I was always bad at keeping a diary, too....

River Cafe
For my birthday Ryan & I ventured to a Brooklyn institution. Located under the Brooklyn Bridge with great views of lower Manhattan, the River Cafe seemed the perfect bon voyage meal. We loved the bar, with live piano player, and the setting is really fantastic. The food... had highs and lows, but the service for me was the biggest disappointment. Ryan started with a special appetizer featuring some tuna tartar, shrimp, and crab. I had a summer salad with melon that was my favorite dish of the night. For our entrees, Ryan had the lobster, and I had the chicken. Though both were good, neither made our knees knock. As for service, the sommelier seemed in a hurry, and our waiter was disinterested. The couple immediately next to us, however, seemed a priority, and continually received better service. They were sent over champagne when they sat down, were visited frequently by the head waiter and given detailed descriptions of items on the menu- it was really bizarre. Even though Ryan had informed the restaurant it was my birthday, our waiter didn't know who to give the complimentary chocolates to- and had to ask. Overall, I wasn't that impressed. After fabulous meals this year at Babbo and Del Posto, where I felt treated like a queen, this just didn't cut the mustard. Considering the menu is prix-fixe, one would expect the service to be just as fantastic for all guests willing to shell out $98 per person!