April 24, 2006

Ginger Beer

Bon Appetit magazine’s current issue is all about the Caribbean—where to stay, what to do, and of course what to eat. Although reading about the various islands was interesting, I was most interested in reading the various recipes that are traditional to the region.

Amongst all the enticing recipes in my Bon Appetit magazine, I spotted a recipe for a Ginger Beer. How interesting is that? I have always loved ginger beer, so to make it myself using fresh ginger was very exciting (please remember that I am a bit of a food dork—a “forky”, if you will. Ha, ha!).

This recipe does take some time in that you need to start it 24 hours prior to serving; however, overall it was quite easy and simple. The end result? Fabulous! It is such a refreshing, simple drink with a great bite to it. I also think it would be great mixed with vodka to make a ginger martini. Doesn’t that sound great? What a fun drink to serve guests!

So here is the recipe, adapted from Bon Appetit (per 6-8 servings):
  • 6 cups Water
  • 1 lb Fresh ginger, peeled and coarsely chopped (about 2 ½ cups)
  • 1 cup Sugar (brown or white)
  • Ice
  • 1 Lime, cut into 6-8 wedges
  1. Boil water. As you are waiting for the water to boil, put ginger in a food processor to finely chop it. If you do not have a food processor, just chop the ginger as finely as possible with a knife.
  2. Once water begins to boil, add it to a large bowl. Then add the finely chopped ginger to the bowl and mix it with the water.
  3. Loosely cover the bowl with tin foil. Let this sit at room temperature for 24 hours.
  4. Strain the water/ginger mixture into a pitcher and discard the ginger pulp.
  5. Mix the sugar into the ginger water until it is fully dissolved.
  6. To serve, pour mixture over ice-filled glasses. Garnish glasses with lime wedges.
Bon Appetit suggests that if the drink is too strong, just add club soda. I really think y’all will like this drink—it is a great drink for a summer day!


April 22, 2006

Salmon with Creamed Leeks

Ever since I made Martha Stewart’s Chicken and Leeks with Crème Fraiche dish, I have been craving more dishes with leeks. So I came up with this salmon dish to satisfy my leeks craving, and I must say it certainly did the trick! The idea is similar to Martha’s, but the flavors are a bit lighter. I must point out that this is definitely one of my favorite dishes that I have made!

So here is how I made it (per 1 serving):
  • 1 Leek
  • 1 1/2 tbsp Olive oil
  • 1/3 lb Salmon filet
  • 1 Lemon slice
  • 1 Shallot, chopped
  • 1/3 cup White wine
  • ¼ cup Crème fraiche
  • ¼ tsp Lemon zest
  • Salt and pepper
  1. Turn oven on to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
  2. Trim the dark green part off of the leeks leaving only the white and light green leaves. Also trim off the other end’s roots. Cut the leek in half length-wise. Then cut width-wise into centimeter-wide pieces. Place these pieces into a colander or strainer and rinse under water to rid all dirt. Shake excess water off of leeks.
  3. Place leeks into an oven proof omelet pan (8” or larger) and toss with 1 tbsp olive oil.
  4. Place pan in oven and roast leeks for about 20 minutes. This may take longer for more than one serving. The leeks are ready once they begin to brown.
  5. As leeks are roasting, place salmon on a tin foil sheet that is large enough to wrap the fish. Rub remaining olive oil onto fish and surrounding tin foil that will touch the fish once wrapped (including underneath the fish). Place the lemon slice on top of the filet and finish it with some salt and pepper. Now loosely wrap the salmon with the tin foil like a package. Place the wrapped salmon in the middle of a baking sheet.
  6. Place salmon in oven and let cook for about 12 minutes. Generally, it should bake 35-40 minutes per pound of fish. When the fish is cooked, carefully un-wrap the tin foil and discard the lemon slice.
  7. The leeks will likely finish roasting around when the fish is finished baking. Once the leeks begin browning, remove them from the oven and place the pan on the stove over medium heat. Add the chopped shallot and sauté for 1-2 minutes.
  8. Add the wine to the leeks and let reduce to half. Then mix in the crème fraiche and lemon zest. Add salt and pepper to taste.
  9. Place the salmon filet on serving dish and top off with the leeks.

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April 16, 2006

Easter Bunny Gifts

So, did the Easter Bunny visit you this morning? He visited me! What I love about this special rabbit is that he keeps in tune with what I want to find in my Easter basket each year. This year, he recognized that I now I crave kitchen gadgets so today the Easter Bunny brought me an oven thermometer and meat thermometer. So exciting, right?!

The oven thermometer is made by Taylor and clips securely onto my oven’s rack. Did you know that most ovens are not actually accurate in temperature? I do not bake that often, but when I do, I want to feel confident that the oven’s temperature is correct. Especially since my oven is by no means anything to brag about!

My new meat thermometer is also made by Taylor. It is so cool! Tonight I baked pork tenderloin and it was perfectly cooked to an internal temperature of 170 degrees. No more guessing if the meat is done. No more pulling the meat out of the oven, cutting it, and then determining if it should go back in. I also love my new thermometer because the dial shows the points of beef cooked rare, medium, and well done. This is all so very exciting—thank you, Mr. Easter Bunny!

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April 13, 2006

An Interview with Me

A couple months ago Sebastian Dickhaut (a German cookbook author living in Munich, Germany) contacted me to see if he could ask me some questions for an article he was writing about the Food Network here in the States. He had read in my Introduction that the Food Network has played a large role in my development as a cook, so it was a perfect match for the interview. After doing a little research to make sure this Sebastian was not a stalker, I gladly accepted!

The article he wrote is appearing in Conde Nast’s magazine, Myself. Unfortunately, Myself magazine is only in Germany, but those of you who can read German and live in the area can find the article in the May issue. As Sebastian explains, Myself is a mixture between Glamour and Vogue (which are two other Conde Nast magazines).

Since most of you will not be able to read the article, I thought you might be interested in reading some of Sebastian’s questions to me and my answers. So here are a few (slightly edited):

How (and why) did you come to FNW? And what hooked you to it for the long run?

I fell into watching the Food Network about a year and a half ago. The Food Network is considered a cable channel, and although I do not have cable, somehow the Food Network miraculously appears on my TV! (This may have something to do with the fact that I sort of steal my TV reception via a cable I found coming into my apartment). Anyway, excited to have this random cable channel appear on my TV, I had to watch it and I instantly got hooked!

I grew up with a mother who is very into food. Trying out restaurants has always been a very big deal with my family, so I grew up in an environment where I was able to try out lots of types of food and learn about them. We have dined at restaurants all over the Eastern part of the states that range from very high-end to little shacks on the side of the road. My mom was very good with teaching me about the quality of food and not being fooled by a fancy atmosphere.

My mother also tried teaching me to cook, but I had absolutely no interest when growing up. Therefore, when I moved into the “real world,” I all of a sudden became really scared of cooking since I had NO idea what I was doing. It just seemed so intimidating! A friend and I started cooking together every Sunday night to get ourselves more comfortable with recipes, but even then I was still terrified—mentally I could not get myself comfortable with cooking.

When I started watching the Food Network, I was hooked on Rachel Ray’s 30 Minute Meals. Rachel Ray, who I believe may be the Food Network’s most popular TV show host, is probably in her early thirties. I instantly liked her as a person—she was someone I would be friends with so I enjoyed just watching her do her thing and listening to what she had to say. Rachel Ray has a great way of making everything look easy, and taking the scare out of the kitchen.

After becoming a fan of Rachel Ray’s 30 Minute Meals, I began watching many of the Food Network’s other shows as well. I became a regular watcher of Paula’s Home Cooking with Paula Dean, Everyday Italian with Giada De Laurentiis, and Barefoot Contessa with Ina Garten. By watching these shows in a non-intimidating environment I was able to see that I could do what they were doing. I was also beginning to learn how to think about cooking because the cooks/hosts shared information as they cooked. So I was hooked and have not stopped watching since!

What influence had and has FNW on your cooking?

I pick-up a lot of ideas from watching the Food Network. I am not one who writes down the recipes and actually tries them out. Instead I enjoy seeing the ideas that the cooks have and taking what I like from them to create my own. I also learn lots of great techniques from the shows, which in turn help me feel more comfortable trying them out myself—like working with filo dough, for example.

Anything you would still like to see at FNW?

Me! My dream job is hosting my own show. I think they could use a magazine-like show with a young, sassy host like me. It would be much like my food blog including easy gourmet dishes to make, lessons about various types of foods, creative ideas/suggestions when hosting dinner parties, cool restaurants to try out, etc. Other than that, nothing else jumps out at me as a need for the Food Network.

That is it for questions and answers for now—I don’t want to bore yall! I will probably post more of the interview later.


April 11, 2006

Storing Parsley

Are you wondering, “Kristin, why are you photographing boring, old parsley?” Aside from the fact that I think parsley is so underrated (flat leaf parsley, that is), I have been trying to figure out the best way to store this versatile herb.

As y’all may recall from earlier posts, I am a big advocate of using fresh herbs in lieu of the dried kind. They provide a much better flavor and instantly make dishes taste and look better. However, I will not deny that they are more of a nuisance to store. How frustrating is it to bring home fresh herbs, and when you reach for them a few days later, that are wilted or dried out?

With this frustration, I am trying to figure out the best way to store herbs to maximize their life in my refrigerator. Rachael Ray always says to store herbs wrapped in a moist paper towel in a zip-lock bag. Although this method works for some of my herbs with tougher leaves (such as rosemary), my parsley leaves were just getting gross!

So I finally found how to best store my parsley that allows the leaves to breathe yet not dry out. I placed them in a tall glass of water, which I then placed in the refrigerator. See the picture above? That is my parsley after sitting in my refrigerator for two weeks! Unbelievable! I did pick out some yellow leaves before taking the photo, but as you can see, overall the parsley is doing quite well.

This method of storing will also work with other similar herbs such as cilantro and watercress. Also, you might be surprised to see how fast your parsley “drinks” the water so check it every few days to see if you need to add more water. Do not add more than 2-3 inches of water because if the water reaches the leaves, this will just cause them to go bad. Lastly, use a tall glass which will help keep the parsley from tilting (if it tilts too much, the glass will tip over!).

Here’s to long lasting parsley!


April 09, 2006

Fennel Salad

As it is now becoming warm out, I have been craving light, summary salads. So when I was in the market and spotted the beautiful fennel, I decided that would make up my next salad.

I actually had never worked with fennel before but see chefs on The Food Network using it all the time. As I recall, these chefs would describe the taste as being similar to licorice, and after having tasted it myself, I definitely agree. Fennel has a very unique and refreshing flavor. It also maintains a nice crunch, which makes for a great salad.

So here is how I made the salad (for either 2 side servings, or 1 entrée serving):
  • Juice from 1 lemon
  • Extra virgin olive oil (enough so that the lemon juice to oil ratio is 1:2)
  • 1 Fennel bulb, sliced very thinly (See Note 1)
  • 1 Shallot, diced
  • 3 tbsp Fennel fronds, chopped (See Note 2)
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  1. In a bowl add lemon juice. Now slowly pour in the olive oil while whisking to emulsify the dressing.
  2. Add remaining ingredients and toss
Wow that was easy and yet so good and perfect for a warm spring day! Enjoy!

  1. You only want to use the bulb portion of the fennel. Some grocery stores, like the one I bought my fennel at, leave the stalks on the fennel. Just cut these off where they attach to the bulb and put aside. Do keep the stalks, though, because we will use the fronds in just a little bit. Now thinly slice the bulb, discarding the tough core.
  2. What? Your fennel didn’t come with the stalks and fronds? You freak! No, no, do not worry. Most markets sell just the fennel bulbs so you are not really a freak. In place of the fronds, I suggest using flat leaf parsley or dill. If you use dill, add about 2 tbsp (1 tbsp or less, if dried).

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April 05, 2006

Bread & Squid Salad

On Sunday as I was getting ready to meet up with my friend for brunch at Inoteca, I had the Food Network on in the background (generally what my TV is always turned on to!). Boy Meets Grill with Bobby Flay was the show, and I caught him making a salad with grilled tomatoes, bread, and squid mixed with a mint leaf dressing. I did not catch the details, but I knew it was definitely something I wanted to try.

Growing up, my mother (aka, “Momma”) used to make such a great bread salad that was similar to this. Her’s was using bread that was lightly toasted mixed with diced tomatoes, basil, kalamata olives, and balsamic vinaigrette. I loved the simplicity of this salad yet how flavorful it was. The bread pieces would soak all that vinaigrette goodness yet remain slightly crunchy. This mixture of textures was such a refreshing delight, especially on warm days.

Walking home from brunch on such a beautiful Spring day in New York, I knew I had to make this salad as an ode to the start of warmer weather! So I picked up the ingredients that would allow me to make a combination of Bobby Flay’s and Momma’s salads. The result—perfectly yummy!

Here is how I made it for about 2 small servings (measurements can be very flexible):

  • 8 slices of baguette bread, about 1 centimeter thick
  • 3 tbsp olive oil
  • 5 squids
  • ½ large tomato, diced
  • ½ cup of chopped basil
  • 2 tbsp balsamic vinegar
  • 3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 shallot, diced
  1. Brush slices of bread with olive oil on both sides, and then place in slices grill pan over medium-high heat. Let grill until lightly toasted with grill marks. If you do not have a grill pan, toasting bread in a toaster or oven will work as well.
  2. As bread is toasting, start making dressing (be sure to keep an eye on the bread, though, to make sure it does not burn!). Mix all dressing ingredients together well. (See Note 1)
  3. When bread is properly grilled (or toasted), start grilling the squid. You only need to cook the squid until it becomes opaque, about a few minutes on each side.
  4. As squid is cooking, cut the bread slices into bite-size pieces.
  5. Once the squid is cooked through, cut the squid width-wise into bite-size pieces.
  6. Toss squid, bread, and the remaining ingredients in a bowl. Add salt and pepper to taste.
This is a great salad—Enjoy!

  1. In order to best emulsify the oil and vinegar, first add the vinegar to your bowl. With one hand rapidly whisk the vinegar. While whisking, slowly pour in the oil with the other hand.

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April 03, 2006

Inoteca - New York, NY

Yesterday my friend Julia called me to go to brunch and insisted that we must go somewhere that we could sit outside (it was New York’s first Spring-like day that actually fell on a weekend). A friend of hers had highly recommended Inoteca so that is what we decided on.

Inoteca is an Italian cafe located in the up and coming Lower East Village on the corner of Rivington and Ludlow Streets. Although the outside seating is limited to the sidewalk, the windows span the façade and open wide allowing those sitting inside the feel of being outside.

We arrived at 2:30 and were told we had a half hour wait—not too bad for a popular place during Sunday brunch time. We were then seated at one of the coveted outside tables, which made Julia especially happy! Our waiter soon greeted us and handed us an array of menus. No kidding, we each had a regular menu plus menus for brunch, wines, and cheeses! We narrowed our search to the brunch menu.

The brunch menu was all in Italian, but rather than being annoyed, I actually liked this aspect. Most items were close enough to the American spelling that I was able to figure them out, and our waiter was very knowledgeable and explained the remaining items. Now, I am by no means an expert of Italian food, but I was definitely under the impression that the menu was quite authentic.

Rather than serve the normal omelets and waffles you find at other cafes for brunch, even if they are Italian, Inoteca’s menu is not at all conventional. The brunch menu included a selection of panini sandwiches such as mortadella and egg ($7), pancetta with fontina cheese and egg ($7), culatello with mozzarella and noci ($9), and basil pesto with egg ($7). It also offered egg porchetta ($10), which is what Julia and I both ordered.
I learned from this meal that porchetta is a roast suckling pork that is stuff with seasonings. This dish served the porchetta on top of a very, very thin slice of toast with a poached egg on top. I really enjoyed it, especially since it is a bit different from the ordinary eggs. With my meal, I also had a freshly squeezed blood orange juice and a latte—both were great.

Julia and I were enjoying our table so much that we wanted to extend our stay by ordering a dessert. I ordered the affogato ($5). This was a glass filled with vanilla gelato topped with a shot of espresso. Just as the waitress explained, it was so simple yet sooo good.

Julia ordered the biscotti with passito. Did you know that traditionally biscotti is actually meant to be dipped in wine? Passito is a sweet wine that biscotti goes with very nicely. I didn’t have a taste of the wine, but I did have a taste of the biscotti, which was very tasty and freshly baked.
Overall, the food was fun and different and also just good. Furthermore, I loved the atmosphere as it reminded me of being in Italy leisurely hanging out at the cafés for hours with out being rushed out. Julia and I took our time and the waiter not once made us feel guilty for doing so.

Since I have been feeling sick, I was not in the mood to drink, but this would be a fabulous place to end your meal with a glass of wine and take advantage of Inoteca’s extensive cheese list. Their wine list was extensive but not overwhelming, and I was very impressed by the variety of cheeses. I can not wait to come back here to take advantage of them!

Oh the luxury of hanging out at an Italian café for the afternoon enjoying a friend’s company while sipping on wine and tasting fabulous cheeses—seriously, can it get any better than that?

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