May 26, 2008

Sole Filet with Ramps

I know, I know…y’all have been sitting at the edges of your seats since my ramps posting wondering what I made with them, right? Well, here it is.

I sautéed my ramps from the Union Square Greenmarket for a really tasty sauce that perfectly complimented a sole filet. The sauce included a touch of Dijon mustard to round out the garlicky flavor of the ramps and to add a bite, which was balanced out with a touch of cream. Since sole is a delicate, white fish; it perfectly took on all the simple flavors of the sauce. I really enjoyed this dish!

So here is how I made it (for 1 serving):
  • 1 Sole fillet
  • 2 tbsp Olive Oil
  • 3 Ramps, chopped (with bulbs and pink parts separated from the green leaves)
  • 2 tbsp Heavy cream
  • 1 tsp Dijon mustard
  • ½ tsp Ground pepper
  • 1 Lemon wedge
  1. Set the oven to 350 degrees. Rub the sole with 1 tbsp of olive oil, sprinkle with salt, and place on tin foil. Loosely wrap the fish with the tin foil like a package and place on a baking sheet. Once oven is ready, bake fish for about 12 minutes (My filet was 0.4 lbs. If yours is a bit bigger or smaller, you may want to vary the cooking time by a minute or so.)
  2. As the fish is cooking, sauté 1 tbsp olive oil and the chopped bulbs and pink parts of the ramps in a small sauté pan over medium to medium-low heat.
  3. Once the bulbs are translucent, add about ¼ cup water and the heavy cream. Whisk in the Dijon mustard, and let cook down a little.
  4. Add ground pepper and turn off heat. Mix in about 1/4 cup of chopped green leaves from the ramps.
  5. Serve fish and pour sauce over it. Squeeze lemon wedge over the top and garnish with some additional fresh chopped leaves from the ramps.

May 19, 2008

Pasta Shells with Gouda Cheese

On a recent Sunday afternoon, I was craving comfort food (i.e., something really unhealthy). As I watched The Food Network, one of the shows featured a macaroni and cheese dish. It looked incredible and was exactly what I was in the mood for; however, I didn’t want to make some huge casserole dish. I do have my limits when eating super unhealthy dishes so I needed to come up with my own single serving version.

For my single serving version, I figured I could just make a cheese sauce to mix with pasta shells. I did some research on cheese sauces and basically learned that you just make a white sauce and then add the cheese. I can do that! So I headed to the market and perused the cheese isle. I found gouda cheese, which sounded perfect, so I grabbed it and headed back home.

This dish ended up being pretty easy to make, and the final product was sooo luxuriously rich and tasty. The shells perfectly held the sauce to ensure every bite was a rich bite. I also added chopped sage as a garnish, but as it turns out the flavor of the sage really complimented the gouda cheese and brought a freshness to the dish.

If you prefer to cut down on the richness, just using all whole milk instead of incorporating the heavy cream should be fine. Also, when choosing your gouda cheese, find one that is relatively soft (i.e., it has not been aged for terribly long). The softer it is, the easier it will melt.

Okay, here is my recipe for the special shells and cheese:

  • 1 large serving of shell pasta (or 2 small servings)
  • 1 tbsp butter
  • 1 tbsp flour
  • 1/3 cup whole milk
  • 1/4 cup heavy cream
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 cup grated gouda cheese
  • dash of paprika
  • healthy dose of fresh ground pepper
  • salt to taste
  • chopped sage
  1. Start boiling water in a large pot and prepare the pasta per the directions on the box.
  2. Meanwhile, over medium low heat in a sauce pan add butter and melt.
  3. Whisk in flour and let cook a minute or two.
  4. Add milk, heavy cream, and bay leaf. Whisk frequently until the milk is hot. If needed, turn the heat up a little bit.
  5. Remove bay leaf and then add the cheese. Continuously stir until all melted.
  6. Mix in paprika, pepper, and salt.
  7. Once pasta is ready, drain and mix in with cheese sauce. (If sauce is ready before the pasta, you can just keep over very low heat, stirring frequently).
  8. Serve with chopped sage on top.

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May 14, 2008

Ramps (also called “Wild Leeks”)

I just finished serving jury duty for a trial that lasted a whopping two full weeks! On the upside the trial was conducted in the New York Supreme Court, which is the courthouse with all the steps that you see in Law & Order. That made me feel kind of cool, and of course I was sure to smile whenever I left the building since I was in the background of many tourists’ photos.

So what was my case? Well, as Uma Thurman’s stalker trial was going on a couple buildings down, I was placed on a trial dealing with the breach of an oral contract and fiduciary duties related to a hedge fund partnership. Okay so honestly I actually thought it was really interesting, but I know one of my fellow jurors disagreed as he literally slept through half the trial!

I have a bad habit of laughing at inappropriate moments, and there were definitely plenty of times throughout the trial that this bad habit was challenged. For starters, one of the defendants was named Mr. Freelove. Are you kidding me? Every time I heard the lawyers or witnesses say his name, I kept hearing in my head (set to very cheesy music) “Doctor Freeeloooove”. Yes, I chuckled each time.

I also loved that every time an important point was made, everyone’s heads would snap towards us jurors to see our reactions. Their faces were so serious. Yes, I laughed here too. Not sure how they read that reaction.

Meanwhile, our judge was a sweet older woman but she could not hear a word! Throughout the entire trial, she kept abruptly yelling out, “What? What? You have to speak louder! I can’t hear you!” Yes, I laughed out loud at these moments too.

Then of course there was one witness who had these abnormally massive hands. I kid you not, the palm of his hand alone was about ¾ the size of his face! His hands were just as out of proportion as the woman with “man hands” in that Seinfeld episode. Yup, I laughed.

Anyway, despite the entertainment of the court room, the days were long and tiring. So after being cooped up in the court room for yet another day, I decided to take advantage of how beautiful it was outside and walked home one day. Along my walk I came upon the Union Square Greenmarket. This time of year the market is filled with farmers selling ramps. I have always been curious about ramps so I picked some up and continued my way home.

Ramps, also known as wild leeks, have a taste that is somewhere in the middle of onions and garlic. If you buy some, you will quickly smell that they have a strong odor that is closer to garlic (I might even go as far to say that they have a stinky smell). As I suggested above, ramps are only in season in the spring time. I also learned that they are native to North America, and I believe that they are most popular in the Appalachian Mountains.

So where can you find them? Unfortunately, even with access to all the wonderful grocery stores in New York City, I have only seen them at the Farmers’ Market. So you may need to go to your local market to find them (but how great it is to support local farmers!). I also found that you can order them online from Earthy Delights.

So what did I make with my ramps? I sautéed them for a sauce served with a delicate white fish, which was such a great combination. Stay tuned as I plan to post my recipe for the dish I made…

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May 10, 2008

Orange Rice Pudding

I am not a huge dessert person so when the occasion arises to make one, I want it to be quick and easy. I still have lots of Arborio rice sitting in my cabinet, so I decided to look for recipes for rice pudding. I have always loved rice pudding but never actually made it so figured this would be fun to try.

This recipe particularly stood out not only because the orange aspect sounded so interesting and yummy, but there are hardly any ingredients! How easy! Not to mention, a lot of the other recipes I looked at included more fattening stuff so I felt as though this was somewhat on the light side for dessert.

As I had guessed, this was super easy to make and the final product was very, very good. In fact, as I let the rice pudding cool in the refrigerator I seriously ate like half of it—my fridge must have lost all its cool air from me opening the door so much to have just one more little taste! I also think this is a great dessert for entertaining because you can make it ahead of time, and since it is so quick and easy, you can focus your efforts on the rest of the meal.

The only thing I want to note about the recipe is that it calls for four oranges when I think you can get away with just one. The idea is to serve the orange pieces with each serving, but do you really need a whole orange for each serving? I think just a single orange segment on top is plenty. I also suggest that you remove the membrane from the orange segments—it looks so much nicer. Or you can skip the orange slices all together and garnish with either chocolate shavings or orangettes.

Lastly, the recipe claims that it is for four servings, but I think they are pretty small servings so this may be more for three healthy size servings (either the French really do eat tiny portions, or may be I misjudged the amount before eating half of it from the fridge?).

So here is the recipe (for 4 servings) from Daniel Young’s The Bistros, Brasseries, and Wine Bars of Paris:

  • 1/2 cup short-grain rice
  • Salt
  • 4 oranges
  • 2 cups whole milk
  • 3 tablespoons sugar
  • 2 tablespoons orange marmalade
  1. Place the rice in a saucepan, cover with cold water and a pinch of salt, and bring to a boil. Remove from the heat and drain.
  2. Grate the zest of 1 orange (don't be shy zesting--this is where most of the orange flavor will come from!). Peel all the oranges, divide them into sections, and refrigerate until ready to serve.
  3. Combine the orange zest, milk, and sugar in a saucepan and heat over high heat to a boil.
  4. Add the rice, cover, lower the heat to very low, and cook, stirring occasionally so the rice does not stick, for 30 minutes.
  5. Remove the rice from the heat, add the orange marmalade, stir well, and let cool. Refrigerate until ready to serve.
  6. To serve, surround each serving of rice pudding with orange sections.


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May 05, 2008

Soft Boiled Egg with Prosciutto & Rustic Toast

Ginny at Just Get Floury is hosting a food blogging event. For those you not in the food blogging world, a food blogging event is when a blogger comes up with a theme or challenge and fellow food bloggers create a dish that abides to the rules of the event. In other words, it’s one of those dorky things that foodies do!

Anyway, back to Ginny’s event…her theme is coming up with a dish that serves at least two people for less than $5. Seeing that I blew too much money the other day after spending a relaxing afternoon sitting at Café Cluny while grazing on a wonderful selection of dishes (coupled with an excellent white ale from Maine, whose name I wish I could recall), this challenge was of a particular interest to me.

Since I live in New York, everything has an automatic 10% increase in prices. So the focus of my dish needed to be really cheap to allow me the budget to dress it up appropriately. Mmm…what is super cheap? Eggs! Okay, I now had something to work with.

I recently was reading about the various ways of preparing eggs and learned about soft boiling eggs. Yum! So elegant yet simplistic. I love eggs on toast so this was the next logical item to add to the dish, but I still needed something more. I wanted it to be special so I figured prosciutto would be fabulous with this. Oh, and topped with some parmesan cheese and a little sage…now I have the perfect dish.

Soft boiling the eggs did take a few tries—I’m not going to lie. In a large pot you need to boil enough water that will cover the eggs by a couple inches. Once the water comes to a boil, quickly turn down the heat to bring it to a simmer. At this point, lower your eggs into the water and cook. I had large eggs and found that 6 minutes cooked the whites of the eggs but left the yoke nice and gooey. You may need to play with this to get it right. When the eggs are ready, remove them from the pot and place them in a cool water bath. Serve soon after.

To remove the top of the egg shell, take a spoon and firmly (but with caution) tap around the top of the egg (about 1/3 way down from the top). I basically created a dotted “crack” line around the top and then went back to further crack the remaining line. Then, take a pairing knife and cut around the egg where you broke the shell with the knife. You can now remove the “lid” of the egg.

If you prefer to make an easier egg, I think serving a sunny side up egg will work just as well.

This dish is super simple, but is really good. The gooeyness of the egg is such a great compliment to the crunchy toast. Furthermore, the saltiness if the prosciutto helps make the egg taste somewhat sweet. The sage then brings in a really nice earthy tone to the flavor. I originally meant for the sage as only a garnish, but it actually brings a lot to the dish and pulls together all the components.

So, how much does this dish cost for two servings (note, we get an exception for 3 staple pantry items)? $3.66 (taking into consideration unit pricing).

So here is how you make it for two people:

  • 2 Sourdough bread slices ($0.30)
  • 4 tbsp Olive oil (staple pantry item)
  • 4 slices of Prosciutto ($2.10)
  • Fresh parmesan cheese, to garnish ($0.25)
  • 6 large Sage leaves ($0.25)
  • 2 large Eggs, soft boiled (see my explanation above) ($0.76)
  1. Place a grill pan on high heat. Lightly brush olive oil onto both sides of sourdough bread slices and place in hot grill pan. Let sit until toasted and then flip bread over. Once toasted, remove and put aside on serving plates.
  2. Drape two slices of prosciutto over each slice of toast.
  3. Grate or slice fresh parmesan cheese on top of prosciutto. Place sage leaves on plate next to toast (or you can also chop it up and sprinkle the sage over the prosciutto and toast).
  4. Once eggs are ready, quickly serve next to toast. You will need small holders for your eggs (you can find actual “egg holders”, but I used sake cups).
If you have leftover prosciutto and sage, you can use it for a pasta dish. Tonight for dinner I cooked up some pasta. As it was cooking, I chopped up some prosciutto, sage, and garlic. I then drained the pasta, reserving some of the water. In the pasta pot I added some olive oil and the garlic and quickly sautéed it. Then I added back the pasta and mixed in the prosciutto, sage, some pasta water, a little heavy cream, and fresh ground pepper. In the serving dish, I topped it off with some fresh parmesan cheese. It was so easy and so yummy!

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May 03, 2008

The Pretzel Croissant

I was reading the food section of my New York magazine a few weeks ago and they had a feature about unique pretzel products in the city. One caught my eye in particular—the pretzel croissant from The City Bakery. Apparently, this croissant has such a following that it even has its own website. Its own website? I had to try it for myself.

So one Sunday afternoon after running my errands for the day I treated myself to one of these famous croissants, and it was certainly divine. As you would expect from a croissant, it was rich and buttery. The croissant was very fresh (even still warm from the oven) filled with doughy layers inside with lots of flakiness outside. The pretzel aspect added such a nice salty compliment to the buttery flavor, and the toasted sesame seeds added an extra texture and flavor. I am definitely a fan of this croissant and have actually already been back to have another one!

So if you find yourself in the Union Square area, I recommend you stopping by The City Bakery for this special treat. (They also have locations in California.)

The City Bakery
3 West 18th Street (between 5th and 6th Avenues)
(212) 366-1414

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