A Sarcastic Appetite

Asian Noodles with Chicken & Sugar Snap Peas
May 23, 2010, 8:44 pm
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I get Bon Appetit every month, and every month I faithfully sit down to read it. Problem is, I never want to make anything in there. It’s not as good as Gourmet was and we all know I’m not the only one to feel that way. I mean, it’s reasonably pretty, and the photographs are reasonably delicious, and the editorial is reasonably entertaining…but out of the 30 recipes featured in the June issue, I wanted to make one. One. And it was a “Later in the Week” recipe, i.e. “Let’s Figure Out a Way to Use Up those Leftovers.”

That being said, it made for a pretty good dinner. It needs some savory crunch to balance the sugar snap peas, so I took the liberty of adding toasted peanuts. But the dressing is delicious, and I’ll use that all week. If you are using leftover (i.e. cold) cooked chicken, just be sure to add it to the skillet a little earlier, so everything has a chance to heat through. And feel free to add other veggies: steam some broccoli, or saute some Napa cabbage, or even spinach….

Is it worth a subscription to Bon Appetit? Well, perhaps not. Then again, that’s what I’m here for.

Asian Noodles with Chicken & Sugar Snap Peas

Adapted from this Bon Appetit recipe. Serves 4-ish.

2 boneless chicken breasts

about 12 oz. sugar snap peas

8 – 9 oz. noodles: udon, or pad thai, or even fettucine

6 scallions, thinly sliced

1/2  – 3/4 c. peanuts, toasted

about 1 c. Mango Sesame Dressing, divided; recipe follows.

Baste the chicken breasts with a few tablespoons of the dressing and then bake in a Pyrex at 350°F for about 30 minutes. In a large pot, boil some salted water and then cook the noodles according to package directions. Drain them and rinse with cold water. Once the chicken’s cooked, slice the breasts horizontally and then into thin strips.

In a large saute pan, heat a few tbsp. of the dressing, then toss the sugar snap peas. Cook, tossing occasionally, for about 5 minutes, then add the cooked noodles and chicken, along with about 1/2 c. of the dressing. Add the scallions and toasted peanuts; add more dressing if need be, and more freshly ground black pepper. Serve with some toasted sesame seeds on top if you’re feeling adventurous.

Mango Sesame Dressing

3/4 c. vegetable oil (I used peanut)

3/4 c. mango chutney

6 tbsp. rice vinegar

3 cloves garlic, peeled, no need to chop

2 tbsp. + 3/4 tsp. soy sauce

1 1/2 tbsp. sesame oil

1 1/2 tsp. Dijon mustard

1 tsp. sriracha, or 1 1/2 tsp. crushed red pepper flakes

lots of freshly ground black pepper

Combine all ingredients in a blender or food processor and process until smooth. Taste and add more pepper or sriracha as necessary. Cover and keep refrigerated – and you can make this up to a week ahead.

Lazy Samoas
May 18, 2010, 9:48 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

I don’t know how it goes where you are, but in these parts, April showers bring May Girl Scout Cookies. It’s a glorious time of year. Except when I’ve tried to exercise restraint by only purchasing one box of Samoas, prompting outcries and vows of revolt from the Nutritional Ninja. (Interestingly enough, it seems his gluten agenda doesn’t extend to dessert.) Anyway, he moaned and wailed so much after polishing off our lonesome box of Samoas that I thought I’d do a little research and see if the Internets could provide me with a suitable homemade alternative. And the Internets, well, they came through with a doozy.

Now, you must be forewarned. I call these “lazy” only because I skipped a few key steps – but it’s still an afternoon-long process. Most of this is just waiting around: first for the shortbread to cool, then for the toasted coconut mixture to cool, then for the chocolate to set.

So don’t think you can bake these off in a flash and be done with it. They are, however, well worth the wait. The shortbread crust is actually quite tender and delicious, and the toasted coconut and caramel is just like the real thing. I covered these guys with semisweet chocolate, but might try milk chocolate next time. Whatever floats your boat.

Another sidenote: the only “good quality” chewy caramels I found came in 5.5 oz bags, requiring me to purchase 3 to get the requisite 12 oz. Next time I’d probably live dangerously and make it work with 11.

Lazy Samoas

Adapted from this recipe. Yields 12-15 bars…or more, if you’re polite and reasonable, and don’t cut them into giant squares.

Shortbread base:

2 c. flour

1/4 tsp. salt

1/2 c. sugar

1 1/2 sticks salted butter, softened

1 large egg

1/2 tsp. vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 350º. Butter a 9 x 13″ baking dish, then line with parchment paper (just in one direction, so they can easily be lifted out of the pan) and butter that.

In a small bowl, stir together the flour and salt. In another, larger bowl, cream the butter and sugar for several minutes until pale and fluffy. Beat in the egg and the vanilla; add the flour mixture a bit at a time, beating until the dough is like wet sand. It won’t come all the way together; press it into the pan and bake, about 22 minutes, until golden brown. Cool completely in the pan on a wire rack.

Toasted Coconut Caramel & Chocolate Topping:

3 c. shredded, sweetened coconut

12 oz. good quality chewy caramels

1/4 tsp. salt

3 tbsp. milk

12 oz. chocolate chips – whatever kind you like

Leave the oven on, but turn it down to 300º. Line a large, rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper and toast the coconut until golden, about 20 minutes – stirring every 5. (Careful! Coconut burns easily.) In a microwaveable bowl, melt the caramel, milk, and salt for 3-4 minutes, stirring every minute or so. Fold in the toasted coconut, then dollop the mixture onto the cooled shortbread, and spread with a rubber spatula/knife/your hands/whatever works. Let that cool completely.

Lastly, melt the chocolate chips in a microwaveable bowl, about 3-4 minutes (be sure to stir every 30 seconds or so). Pour it over the cooled coconut mixture and let sit undisturbed, until completely cooled and set. The bars are easily removed, thanks to the parchment paper, so you can cut them into small, exact bites….or big honking squares.

Restaurant Round-Up for the Week of May 12
May 13, 2010, 8:10 am
Filed under: Uncategorized

Hey there! Hiiiiiii. I know it’s been awhile, and you’ve probably forgotten what all this is. Not to worry: I just read the food blogs, so you don’t have to. Here are some highlights this week:

The Sifster checks out Fatty ‘Cue in Brooklyn, the newest joint from Fatty Crab creator Zak Pellacio. I still can’t figure this guy out: it’s “dark and shouty inside”? Why not just say it’s loud? Anyway, the Siftster gives it a one spot, getting all hot and bothered over the “incredibly good” food and deems it a restaurant “worth traveling to visit.”

Ron Lieber, another, ahem, ambassador of the Grey Lady, got into a little kerfluffle with Marc Forgione, son of the legendary Larry Forgione and owner of a restaurant called….Restaurant Marc Forgione. (Cut him some slack, he had some naming issues.) Anyway, neither comes off that well, though Ron just sounds like a complete jackass. Duly noted.

Keith McNally’s breathlessly anticipated Pulino doesn’t deliver, according to Grub Street’s Adam Platt. Nobody seems to like the crust, though what do you expect when you import a chef from San Francisco to pull it off? They’re too busy putting figs on a plate out there to know about good pizza.

The boys at Immaculate Infatuation check out Double Crown, and Perry Street, and Bia Garden…but I’m most interested in their rave of Blue Hill at Stone Barns. Add it to the list.

NY Barfly tells me that Spitzer’s revamped its food menu, taking it from beer-licious to beer-tastic. Apparently we’ve dispensed with the classic comfort foods and gone a little upscale – to the likes of pork rilletes and smoked trout. Well color me interested.

In other news, don’t eat at the Popover Cafe anytime soon – and if you were hoping to get your fill of poutine (is anyone, really?) well, you’ll have to look elsewhere: the LES’s T Poutine is down for the count.

It’s supposed to be 70 and sunny this weekend; if you’re somehow hard up for places to drink outside, Citysearch has a few suggestions for you.

Diet Dinner #3: Sauteed Zucchini with Mint & Tomato Salad
May 9, 2010, 10:03 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

I, ah, overindulged a bit this weekend. There was some wine (Sauvignon Blanc), some pasta (homemade macaroni & cheese), some cocktails (vodka soda), and some pizza (chicken cutlet….and pepperoni). I know, I know. I totally went overboard.

In a time of crisis like this, I am forced to channel my mother, who makes so-called “diet dinners” when things have gotten a bit out of hand. Her standby is roasted chicken and steamed broccoli….but something tells me she’s not using my recipe for it. The chicken here had a little spice rub, but sorely needed a sauce – which of course is strictly verboten in my current situation. If you’re still intrigued, a similar recipe is here – just swap olive oil for the corn oil and let the spice rubbed chicken sit for ten minutes before pan roasting. And serve it with some kind of sauce, for crying out loud – even honey mustard will do.

Anyway, onto the veggies. I just hope they do the trick, so I can go back to slipping a Thin Mint or two before dinner….

Sauteed Zucchini with Mint

Serves 3.

1 small zucchini, thinly sliced

1 small yellow squash, thinly sliced

3-4 tbsp. olive oil

2 cloves garlic, minced

1/4 c. mint, chopped

In a large saute pan, warm the olive oil over medium-low heat. Add the garlic and saute until fragrant. Add the zucchini rounds and toss; add salt and freshly ground pepper. Continue to saute until tender, about 5-6 minutes. Add the chopped mint, heat through for a minute or so, then serve.

Tomato Salad

Serves 3.

1 pint cherry tomatoes, halved

1/4 small onion, thinly sliced

1 avocado, diced

1/4 c. olive oil

juice of one lemon

1 tbsp. dijon or whole-grain mustard

lots of salt and pepper

dash of crushed red pepper flakes

In a small bowl or measuring cup, combine the lemon juice, mustard, salt, pepper, and crushed red pepper flakes. Keep stirring, then add the olive oil in a smooth, steady stream, and keep stirring to emulsify it. Combine the tomato, onion, and avocado in a bowl; pour the dressing over (you may not want to use all of it). Let sit at room temperature so the flavors can meld. The dressing keeps well in the fridge if you end up hanging on to the leftovers.

Red Velvet Cupcakes
May 3, 2010, 8:25 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

Occasionally, I get a hankering to make a complicated dessert in the middle of the week – like after dinner’s been made and cleaned up. It’s a stupid idea, since it usually means the kitchen’s covered in flour until well past 11, but it often yields good results. Like, ahem, these red velvet cupcakes. They’re delicious, and they store surprisingly well. I kept the cream cheese frosting separately in a piping bag in the fridge and frosted as needed…which was maybe too often.

Regardless, if you’re a red velvet fan, then you probably have all sorts of opinions about how to give these cakes their signature hue. Apparently people get riled up about this; some use cocoa powder, some supposedly use Coca Cola, and Martha claims some people use beet juice. his little number requires good old red food coloring, and it does the trick just fine. Of course, since it was late and I was tired, I managed to get red food dye all over my kitchen, but I suppose it’s better than counters covered in flour. Right? Right?

Red Velvet Cupcakes

From Martha Stewart’s Cupcakes. Makes 12.

1 1/4 c. cake flour, not self rising, sifted

1 tbsp. unsweetened Dutch process cocoa powder

1/2 tsp. salt

3/4 c. sugar

3/4 c. vegetable oil

1 large egg, room temp

1/4 tsp. red gel-paste food coloring (which is more concentrated than the liquid)

1/2 tsp. vanilla extract

1/2 c. buttermilk

3/4 tsp. baking soda

1 tsp. white vinegar

Preheat oven to 350º. Line a standard 12-cup muffin tin with paper liners. In a bowl, whisk together the cake flour, cocoa, and salt.

In another bowl, beat the sugar and oil until combined with an electric mixer. Add the egg, then mix in the food coloring and vanilla. Add the flour in three batches, mixing on low, and alternating with two additions of buttermilk. In a small bowl, stir together the baking soda and vinegar (it will foam); add it to the batter and mix on medium speed for 10 seconds.

Divide the batter among the 12 cups, filling each about 3/4 full. Bake, rotating the tin halfway through, until a tester comes out clean, about 20 minutes. Transfer to wire racks to cool completely. Frost with cream cheese frosting.

Cream Cheese Frosting

Makes 2 cups

1 stick unsalted butter, softened.

6 oz. cream cheese, frosted

2 c. confectioner’s sugar, sifted (I obviously could not be bothered with the sifting and suffered no ill effects. Just beware of lumps.)

1/4 tsp. vanilla extract

With an electric mixer, beat the butter and cream cheese in a large bowl until fluffy. Add the sugar, 1/2 c. at a time, and then vanilla, beating well the whole time. Mix until smooth. Pour into a Ziploc bag and snip a corner off to pipe onto cupcakes. Keep refrigerated.