Monday, April 28, 2008

Riff and Roll

I've got a delicious appetizer for guests or main course for you and a dinner companion: Glazed Japanese Beef-and-Scallion Rolls. They're a riff on negimaki, the classic Japanese broiled strips of beef smothered with teriyaki sauce and rolled with scallions. Add asparagus to the scallions; substitute miso, soy sauce, ginger and mirin for terikayi; and char the rolls over a hot grill instead of sticking them under the broiler, and you've got a more intensely flavored dish that's still true to the original.

I bought beef tenderloin at my local butcher, and asked him to slice it thinly. When I got home, Fork lightly pounded the beef to somewhere between 1/4- and 1/8-inch thickness. Turns out he could've pounded them even more (see the photo; the meat is definitely rare inside), but the dish still turned out well. You salt and pepper the beef slices, and roll them up with asparagus and scallions that you've blanched and seasoned with salt and sesame oil. A few toothpicks hold things in place, and then you marinate the rolls in a mixture of miso, soy, ginger and mirin (I used rice wine vinegar; not the same, I know, but still good). They need only a minute or two per side on a hot grill pan.

We ate the rolls with jasmine rice and broccoli. The asparagus and scallions were still crunchy, and the beef was tasty, bursting with savory-earthy, salty-sweet flavor (the Japanese supposedly call this 'umami'). We call it delicious.--S

Glazed Japanese Beef-and-Scallion Rolls

Makes 6 first course servings or two main course servings

6 thin asparagus spears
6 large scallions
About 1 t Asian sesame oil, for coating
6 thin slices of beef tenderloin, about 2 ounces each, very lightly pounded to a 1/8-inch thickness
Freshly ground pepper
2 T red miso
2 T soy sauce
2 T mirin [I used rice wine vinegar]
2 T sugar
1 T finely grated fresh ginger
Vegetable oil, for brushing

1. In a small skillet of boiling water, blanch the asparagus until bright green, about 1 minute. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the asparagus to a plate and pat dry. Add the scallions to the skillet and blanch until bright green, about 45 seconds; transfer to the plate and pat dry. Lightly season the vegetables with salt and lightly coat with sesame oil.
2. Set a slice of beef on a work surface and season with salt and pepper. Arrange an asparagus stalk and a scallion lengthwise on the meat; trim them flush with the meat. Roll up the meat around the asparagus and scallion and secure with a toothpick. Repeat with the remaining slices of beef, asparagus and scallions.
3. In a small bowl, mix the miso with the soy sauce, mirin, sugar and ginger. Put the beef rolls in a shallow baking dish and coat generously with the miso mixture. Let stand for 20 minutes.
4. Heat a grill pan over high heat. Lightly brush the pan with vegetable oil. Add the beef-and-scallion rolls and cook over high heat until nicely charred all over, about 1 minute per side. Transfer to a cutting board and remove the toothpicks.
5. Slice each roll on the diagonal 1 1/2 inches thick. Arrange the slices on a platter, cut sides up, and serve right away.

Recipe courtesy of Food & Wine

Thursday, April 24, 2008

My Granola

Okay, it's not really my granola. But it's been about four years since I discovered Steve Silverman's recipe for Cranberry Almond Granola, and though I've tried other granola recipes, I keep coming back to this one.

There's no outrageous secret here; the granola incorporates run-of-the-mill ingredients like almonds, pecans, coconut and cranberries, oats, cinnamon and allspice. But the devil's in the details: you want sliced or slivered almonds; they crunch better than plain old chopped almonds. Use organic cranberry juice concentrate--which, melted, makes up the liquid portion of the granola mixture, along with brown sugar and a little vegetable oil--it's not nearly as cloying as the non-organic kind. And don't stir the granola too often while it's baking so you get some clumps. Sure, you can mix in your favorite ingredients, swap hazelnuts for pecans, whatever you like. It's still a great granola, easy, not too sweet, healthy and crunchy.

Make some for Mom on Mother's Day. Tie it up in a pretty little package and call it your granola. I won't tell.--S

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Brownie Memories

Aunt Betty emailed me this week with her mother's brownie recipe. "I forgot how good it is," she wrote. I didn't have to reach back too far in my food memory to recall those brownies: Aunt Betty made them often when I was growing up. She'd bring a paper plate over to our house, double wrapped in plastic wrap. Underneath would be a stack of perfectly square brownie bites, covered in powdered sugar. Aunt Bet's standard recipe contained walnuts, but she always made me some without nuts, knowing I wasn't such a fan. (I've since warmed up to nuts in brownies.)

I'm so glad Aunt Betty shared the recipe with me--I made it tonight and it brought back lots of happy memories of visits with friends and family. The brownies are cakey, even airy, the opposite of rich, dense chocolately brownies (which certainly have their place). I'm going to pull an Aunt Betty and bring a plate of them (double paper plates, double plastic wrap) to the office tomorrow.--S

Aunt Betty's Brownies

1/2 c butter
2 oz unsweetened chocolate
2 eggs
1 c sugar
2 T light Karo syrup
3/4 c flour
1/2 t baking powder
3/4 t salt
1 c chopped walnuts

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease a 9x9 or 8x8 inch pan.
2. Melt the butter and chocolate together, cool slightly.
3. Beat the eggs and sugar until thick and light. Add the Karo syrup and beat well, add cooled chocolate mixture.
4. Sift together the flour, baking powder and salt, and add to chocolate mixture. Add
5. Pour into pan, bake 30-35 minutes.
6. Cool, cut into bars and sprinkle with confectioners sugar.

Recipe courtesy of Aunt Betty

Monday, April 21, 2008

Local Fusion

111 E. 18th St.
NY, NY 10003
Tel 212.260.2020


Tonight, my dad suggested we dine at either ribs mecca RUB or French-Japanese hybrid Japonais. More in the mood for fusion than righteous urban barbecue, we went with Japonais and had an unusual, delightful meal. (Even if my dad still thinks "fusion" is a racket cooked up by restaurant marketers.)

The meal began with a spicy octopus roll topped with sliced tuna and avocado- wasabi- tobiko sauce (amazing, spicy and sweet) and ended with homemade steamed buns with braised pork and scallions with hot mustard sauce (delicious). In between, we ate a sushi/sashimi platter which included some terrific toro; lobster spring rolls with mango relish and blood orange vinaigrette; and--the most fusion-y dish of the night--sirloin tip Wagyu beef cut with shishito peppers, mushrooms and Kirin light beer fondue, made with Brie cheese. And let's not forget the meal's most dramatic dish, "The Rock": thinly sliced marinated New York strip steak, which we cooked ourselves on a 450-degree rock (two seconds per side for medium rare; five seconds per side for medium). Fun!

Japonais is a high-concept restaurant that pulls off its scheme quite nicely. There's some major drama to the space, which is huge, with an Alice-in-Wonderland-type tree in the middle of the room. We wondered how long it'll be around, considering the square footage and the fact that it was barely half full tonight. But we wish them all the best. What neighborhood can't use a great French-Japanese restaurant that lets you cook your own meat on a sizzling rock?!--S

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Springy Ramps & Asparagus

Walking into the Union Square Greenmarket around 8:30 Saturday morning, I was nearly run over by a man pushing a dolly filled with crates of ramps, those tasty, wild leeks that appear in early spring. I got to Rick Bishop's Mountain Sweet Berry stand just as a swarm of chefs (or minions of chefs) were descending, and plucked two bunches off the pile. I also picked up some beautiful, skinny asparagus from Yuno's Farm.

Last spring, I sauteed ramps, which have a pungent bite, in garlic and olive oil and tossed them with some pasta. This year, I followed an Epicurious recipe for a ramps pesto of sorts, in which you quickly blanch the ramps, coarsely chop them, then blend them in a food processor with lemon zest, olive oil, some starchy pasta water and salt. The result was less rampy than last year's treatment; Fork seemed a little disappointed in the ramps' toned-down flavor, but I liked the subtlety of the dish. There was also a nice zing from the lemon.

I went with a Cook's Country recipe for Asparagus Salad, which is definitely a keeper. Topped with fresh chives, it's very springy indeed.--S

Lemon Asparagus Salad

serves 8

2 lbs asparagus, trimmed
Salt & pepper
1/4 c juice from 2 lemons
1 T Dijon mustard
1 T honey
1 garlic clove, minced
3/4 c extra-virgin olive oil
1 T finely chopped fresh chives

1. Bring 4 quarts water to boil in large pot. Add asparagus and 1 T salt and cook until just tender, 2 to 4 minutes. Drain and immediately transfer to bowl of ice water. When completely cool, drain and pat dry with paper towels.
2. Combine lemon juice, mustard, honey, garlic, 1/2 t salt, and 1/4 t pepper in bowl. Slowly whisk in oil to emulsify. Stir in chives. Arranged asparagus on platter and drizzle with vinaigrette. Serve. [I topped the dish with some more chopped chives.]

Recipe courtesy of Cook's Country

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

The It Pepper

If you've seen a Taco Bell ad, eaten at an "upscale Mexican" restaurant, or watched Bobby Flay's show in the past six months, you've no doubt noticed that chipotle has become the It chili pepper. The smoked jalapenos are hot, flavorful and just so fun to say out loud. "I'll have the chee-poat-lay smashed sweet potatoes, please!" Just rolls off the tongue, doesn't it?

I happen to be a chipotle fan, and have been meaning to try a recipe for Chipotle-Cheddar Corn Muffins for months. The recipe is part of a lovely deck of recipes Uncle Marc gave us for Christmas. The muffins are chock full of goodies: cornmeal, buttermilk, honey, heavy cream, corn kernels, sharp cheddar cheese, and, of course, those chipotle chilis, along with the adobo sauce they are packed in. The sauce, made from tomatoes, garlic, vinegar, salt and spices, is pretty spicy itself, but it's a really nice spice, smoky and rich.

Fork picked up some soup at the newly reopened Havana Chelsea tonight, and the muffins were just coming out of the oven as we sat down to eat. The homey soup, made with beef, pork, yucca and other Caribbean vegetables, was a perfect prelude to the moist and delicious muffins. We split one after finishing the soup, me picking through to get the bits of spicy chipotle, Fork fishing around for the pepper-less parts (we're quite a pair, aren't we?). I wouldn't recommend these muffins for breakfast, unless you're eating huevos rancheros, and even then, brace yourself, because they are pretty darn hot. But as far as kicked up corn muffins go, these are perfecto.--S

Chipotle-Cheddar Corn Muffins

1 1/4 c all-purpose flour
3/4 c cornmeal
1/2 c sugar
1 t kosher salt
2 t baking powder
2 eggs, beaten slightly
1 c butter slightly
1 c buttermilk
1 T honey
1/2 c heavy cream
1/2 c frozen corn kernels, thawed
3/4 c sharp cheddar cheese, grated
3 chipotle chilis, canned in adobo sauce, seeds removed, finely chopped
2 t adobo sauce
4 T melted butter

1. Preheat oven to 350. Butter two mini-muffin trays (or one regular-sized 12-muffin tray).
2. Combine flour, cornmeal, sugar, salt and baking powder in a mixing bowl.
3. In a separate bowl, whisk eggs, buttermilk, honey and cream.
4. Stir in flour mixture until incorporated. Stir in corn kernels, cheese, chipotles and adobo sauce. Stir in melted butter.
5. Spoon batter into muffin tins until each well is half full. Baked 12-14 minutes for mini-muffins, or 20-24 minutes for regular muffins, until golden and firm to the touch, or until a knife comes out clean. Cool slightly.
6. Run a thin knife around the sides of the muffins and unmold.

Recipe courtesy of The Sumptuous Small Plates Deck by Bibby Gignilliat

Monday, April 07, 2008

Inside Out

Fresh off a day at Yankee Stadium (beer, hot dog, popcorn, you know the drill) and my first long-ish run in awhile (9 miles), I thought my body deserved a healthy meal tonight. Who else to turn to but Heidi Swanson? Fork was off to Brooklyn for dinner with a band mate; a burger was in his future. I knew he'd snicker when I told him the kind of burger I was planning on for my meal: Sprouted Garbanzo Burger. So I spared myself the snickering and told him to have fun with his beef burger.

This recipe is the result of Heidi's experiments to come up with a new kind of bean or lentil burger, since often when you put one of those kinds of burgers on a bun, the burger as a whole is too dry and bready, with too much doughiness and not enough snap, crackle and pop. So she turned the patty into a bun and stuffed that with the good stuff.

You make a hummus-like spread out of chickpeas, eggs and some salt, and then mix that with chopped cilantro, chopped onion, lemon zest, micro sprouts (I used a blend of onion, radish, clover and cabbage sprouts) and whole-grain breadcrumbs. You form this batter into patties and brown them on each side. Slice open, and a burger is born. I filled mine with sliced avocado, more sprouts and a sprinkling of smoky Spanish paprika. Yum.--S

Sprouted Garbanzo Burgers

2 1/2 c sprouted garbanzo beans (chickpeas) OR canned garbanzos, drained and rinsed
4 large eggs
1/2 t fine-grain sea salt
1/3 c chopped fresh cilantro
1 onion, chopped
Grated zest of one large lemon
1 c micro sprouts, chopped
1 c toasted (whole-grain) bread crumbs
1 T extra-virgin olive oil

1. If you are using sprouted garbanzos, steam them until just tender, about 10 minutes. If using canned beans, so jump right in and combine the garbanzos, eggs, and salt in a food processor. Puree until the mixture is the consistency of a very thick, slightly chunky hummus.
2. Pour into a mixing bowl and stir in the cilantro, onion, zest, and sprouts. Add the breadcrumbs, stir, and let sit for a couple of minutes so the crumbs can absorb some of the moisture. At this point, you should have a moist mixture that you can easily form into twelve 1 1/2-inch-thick patties. I err on the moist side here, because it makes for a nicely textured burger. You can always add more bread crumbs a bit at a time to firm up the dough if need be. Conversely, a bit of water or more egg can be used to moisten the batter.
3. Heat the oil in a heavy skillet over medium low, add 4 patties, cover, and cook for 7 to 10 minutes, until the bottoms begin to brown. Turn up the heat if there is no browning after 10 minutes. Flip the patties and cook the second side for 7 minutes, or until golden. Remove from the skillet and cool on a wire rack while you cook the remaining patties. Carefully cut each patty in half, insert your favorite fillings, and enjoy immediately.

Makes 12 mini burgers.

Recipe courtesy of Super Natural Cooking