Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Moving Out

Hey everybody. Exciting news! I've registered my own domain, and Ben Cooks Everything has moved from this humble blogspot home to the brand new Go check it out.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Summer Pasta: Raw Tomato Sauce

One of my favorite dishes for tomato season, which is glorious full swing here in New York, is Pamela Sherrid's Summer Pasta, which I have been making since I read about it in 2007 in a Times article by Amanda Hesser.

Summer Pasta 1

It's a leisurely recipe that involves steeping garlic and basil all day, then adding chopped tomatoes a couple hours before serving. You cook a bag of pasta, strain it and throw in on top of the raw tomato sauce, and then top the pasta with cubed mozzarella. It all gets tossed together to form the perfect combination of hot pasta and pasta salad, but it's not worth making unless the tomatoes are ripe and in season.

Summer Pasta 2

Bittman's got a similar recipe in How to Cook Everything for Raw Tomato Sauce, but it takes far less time: you basically mash together all of the ingredients, then top it with pasta. Mozzarella isn't in his recipe, though it is in a list following the recipe of suggested add-ins. I goofed and forgot to get fresh basil at the market, so I used pesto from Russo's on 11th Street in the East Village--by far the best storebought pesto around. The tomatoes, green-orange-red cherry tomatoes from Lani's Farm at the Union Square Greenmarket, made the dish. I added a healthy amount of parmesan cheese for good measure.

Summer Pasta 3

Honestly, both of these are great summertime pasta dishes, and it would be very hard to go wrong with either of them. Sherrid's recipe can be made last minute, and Bittman's could be made well in advance if you liked. Either way, the unfuckwithable combination of basil, tomato and mozzarella shines. With tomatoes like the ones we're seeing at the Greenmarket of late, you can't go wrong.

Recipe Redux: Pamela Sherrid's Summer Pasta [nytimes]

Monday, July 19, 2010

Slog Much?: Compound Butter

Have you guys been following the slog (a combination of 'salon' and 'blog,' oh brother) over at the recently relaunched It's quite good, kind of like the blog that I always hoped the now defunct Bitten blog at the NYTimes site would be. In addition to regular posts from the man himself, there's a rotating cast of bloggers writing about recipes, cooking methods, politics of food, and everything in between. Included in this stable is Cathy Erway of Not Eating Out In NY and lately of Lunch at Sixpoint, who recently wrote about making herb butter, the best way (after pesto) of preserving fresh herbs in your freezer.

Ramp Butter 1

Which reminded me, I made ramp butter at the end of ramp season last month, looking to extend the rampiness a bit longer. Then I completely forgot to blog about it. This tends to happen a lot. Compound Butter is one of the simplest recipes in the book, and its ratio of ease of making to impressing your friends is astronomical. Cathy goes into more detail than this over at the slog (really guys, you may want to consider slog, slog does not sound like a fun place to visit on the internet), but basically: let butter soften, finely chop any herbs you like (or a combination), mash together, form into a log and use or freeze. Lemon juice is optional (I skipped it) and salt and pepper are too, though those I used. That's it.

Ramp Butter 2

"It's best used as a finishing ingredient in sauces and also on grilled or broiled meats and vegetables," Bittman writes in Everything. Then he gives a list of "15 Easy Flavorings for Compound Butter" (ginger, scallions, capers, peach or plum, olives, chiles, spices, etc.) and "6 Almost-As-Easy Flavorings for Compound Butter" (roasted garlic, sauteed shallots, crispy bacon). So really, anything you want.

Wait, did he say crispy bacon?

Spicing Up Butter--With Herbs [bittman]

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Out of the City: Grilled Lobsters

Remember last year when I went to New Hampshire with Melanie to stay with her mother and aunt? No? Well, it happened. Mel's mom Donna made an incredible brisket, and I made a couple salads from How to Cook Everything, and it was just one of the most relaxing weekends and delicious meals of my life. Last weekend we returned, and on Saturday night Donna turned the kitchen, and the grill, over to the kids.


So we drove from Londonderry, where Melanie's mom's place is, just over the Maine border to Chauncey's, a lobster pound and seafood shack straight out of my dreams. While we were there, we stopped for a dozen oysters, some steamers, clam chowder and steamed mussels. An ideal snack. Everything was beyond delicious. The picnic tables are BYOB, as well as BYO Whatever Else You Might Want. Seriously. As long as they don't sell it at Chauncey's you can bring it in. People had cheese plates, wine, you name it. One table had a tablecloth and candles (it was pretty classy). Everything we ate was incredible, magical even. Nothing makes me happier than a big bowl of steamers, and these were phenomenal. On the way out, we grabbed five little lobsters for dinner. Chauncey's food porn:

Now, Grilled Lobster is in How to Cook Everything, but Bittman doesn't sound to jazzed on the idea. "As for other cooking methods, grilling, stir-frying, roasting and broiling are all good options (but you have to be bored with steaming or broiling to bother)." Thanks Negative Nancy. We were grill happy, and damn if we weren't going to grill those suckers.

Basically, you just kill them and throw them on the grill. They take about 10 minutes, turned once, and they're good to go. Grilling gives a nice flavor, but I see Bittman's point: boiling is pretty foolproof, and the grilling didn't add so much flavor that I was completely blown away (which is not to say these suckers weren't some of the best lobster I've ever had, because really, they were). It's not much more impressive, though it can be more fun. We also feasted on Bittman's No Mayo Cole Slaw (which I made for the first time in NH last year), a smoked country sausage that I acquired on my recent trip to New Orleans at Butcher, Donald Link's butcher shop (there are no words for how incredible this sausage tastes, NO WORDS), grilled corn, a green salad, and hot dogs from Flying Pigs Farm, which while not eclipsing Hebrew National as my One True Hot Dog, come pretty damn close. It was a memorable meal to say the least.

Then we roasted marshmallows.


Then we drank a ton of these. They're delicious.


Then we had to go home. Thanks Donna and Lynne for being such gracious hosts, and letting me go wild in your kitchen. I hope I don't have to wait another year to do it again!

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Porky Pasta: Andrea's Pasta with Pork Ribs

When my friend Jen asked me a few months ago if I wanted to go in on a CSA share from the Piggery, a pork farm near Ithaca, NY, I couldn't say yes fast enough. Weekly deliveries of pork, charcuterie, bacon, cooking lard,* and who knows what else? Yes, yes, a thousand times yes.

This week was my turn to take home our CSA box, and we got five country ribs. I don't know much about country ribs, but these had a ton of meat (and a fair amount of fat), almost like a rib steak. I had nothing else to make for dinner, really, so it was rib night!

Thing is, most rib recipes involve a low and slow approach, calling for at least three hours in a low oven. It was already 7 when I got home, so that was out of the question. Luckily Bittman's got a recipe in How to Cook Everything where you brown the ribs with some garlic, then add a big can of tomatoes and simmer them for about an hour. Make a pot of pasta and you've stretched four or five ribs much further than they would've otherwise gone. Everyone gets some pasta, sauce, and a rib to gnaw on.

I may have had the heat too high, or maybe this recipe doesn't work as well with country ribs, because the meat ended up a bit on the tough side. It wasn't inedible, far from it: this meat we're getting from the Piggery really is top notch, and it'd take a seriously misguided cook to mess it up that badly. The surprise star of this recipe was the tomato sauce that went on the pasta: after simmering for an hour with those ribs, it took on a luscious porky flavor that was so good, I found myself eating the excess sauce out of my brother's bowl. Why waste it?

In any case, how many pasta recipes do you know that end like this? This is one that I'll definitely make again; it's just barely harder than pasta with tomato sauce, but it's way more special. On top of that, it's a great way to get a lot of mileage out of not too many ribs.

*I feel weird having so much lard in the house. What do do with it? Will it kill me? Suggestions appreciated.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Last night on The Real World

The Best Thing Ever to Happen on The Real World

Last night on The Real World, while some dumb kids said really stupid things to one another, the BEST THING EVER HAPPENED.

Friday, July 2, 2010

I'm going to be on All Things Considered.

Just a quick note to let you all know that I was interviewed for this week's Last Chance Foods segment on WNYC's All Things Considered. I chatted with Amy Eddings about July 4th, the patriotism of eating locally and what's in season at the market, as well as a red, white and blue recipe for Queso Fresco Salsa with Blue Corn Chips (I made it for taco night here). You can see the writeup of the segment on WNYC's Culture page here, and listen to the piece tonight on WNYC, 93.9 FM or AM 820 if you're in the greater New York area, or on WNYC's live web stream here (I'm told it should air at about 5:40pm). The audio from the piece should be up on the website after it airs this evening.

Patriotic Eating: Beyond Red, White and Blueberries [wnyc culture]

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Game Changer: 101 Grilling Recipes


Well, this week's Minimalist is another show stopping 101 column: 101 Fast Recipes for Grilling. The list is full of winners; can't wait to cook a few of these this summer. It's too early to pick a favorite, but I'll leave you with this:

46. Not so easy, but so impressive: Stuff squid bodies with chopped chorizo (optional), garlic-toasted bread crumbs, lemon zest and parsley. Close with toothpicks. Char quickly over a very hot fire.

Oh, and the video is SUPER kooky.

101 Fast Recipes for Grilling [nytimes]
Actually Grilled Cheese [nytimes video]

Monday, June 28, 2010

Salad Leftovers: Chopped Salad, Sorta

Bringing lunch to work is a win-win proposition in my book: you save money, and what you eat is tastier (usually) and healthier (usually) than what you'd buy on your lunch break. Salad, however, poses a problem. What started out last night as a delicious plate of greens is nothing more than a mushy pile of yecch by lunchtime today.

Crunchy Salad1.jpg

Well, fellow Serious Eats contributor Maggie Hoffman over at Pithy and Cleaver has a solution: skip the greens altogether. Her Chinese restaurant inspired Crunchy Cucumber Salad has all crunchy ingredients (plus sauteed shiitakes) smothered in a peanut sesame dressing (go check it out). I wanted to replicate this, but my salad had to go with the White Beans with Sausage and Greens I was making for dinner (more on that soon), so I switched in a simple lemon vinaigrette for the peanut sauce, and voila: a salad that's even better the next day. It's not so different from Bittman's recipe for Chopped Salad, so we're going to go ahead and check that recipe off the Everything list, too.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Substantial Salad: Warm Chickpea Salad with Arugula

Here's a nice, substantial salad that you can eat as a main course or a side--I had it as a main, and it was nice and hearty yet light enough for a hot summer day.

You just sautee some garlic, ginger and cumin (I added green garlic to the mix, which worked great) and then add chickpeas and stir until they're coated in the seasonings. Then you just add some honey and vinegar and mash up some of the chickpeas to give this dressing a bit of texture. That goes into a bowl with some sliced shallot or red onion and arugula, mix it up, and you're done. I added some cheese, because hey, why not?

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Mother's Day: Quick-Braised Scallops in Tomato Sauce

For Mother's Day, I was off on a trip to Montreal. Whoops! But as soon as I got back, I headed straight to my parents' place and made Mom dinner. It had to be fast, and it had to be special, so I pulled some tomato sauce out of the freezer and went to the Greenmarket to get some super fresh scallops from Blue Moon.


This recipe is a variation on Quick-Braised Fish Filets in Tomato Sauce. It's great over pasta. Throw in a salad, you've got a special home cooked meal that doesn't take much time to prepare. You lightly dredge the scallops in flour, brown them quickly on each side over high heat.


Remove them from the pan and throw in some garlic and onions, then some white wine, then tomatoes (canned works well here). Or, you could do what I did, which is just dump in some pre-made tomato sauce. You could probably even get away with using a jar, though it's not much easier than just adding a can of crushed tomatoes. Once the sauce is hot, lower the heat a bit, return the scallops to the pan until just done (do NOT overcook them!). I garnished with green garlic, which is great if it's in season and you can find it. Otherwise, some parsley or scallion does the trick. That's it. Spoon some scallops and sauce over a bowl of pasta, and you have something super classy that took almost no time to make.

It was Mom's birthday yesterday, so I guess I better start planning another special dinner...

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Having It All: Mission Burritos


In March, I visited some friends in San Francisco. It was my first time visiting the city as an adult, and I had an incredible time enjoying the weather, seeing old friends and eating like a madamn. There's so much great stuff to eat there. The full list of where I ate is here. Some thoughts:

-The coffee scene out there is stellar. Not only is the coffee great, the service is friendly and refreshingly non-snobby. There's a prevailing attitude of "we want our customers to learn more about their coffee," rather than "we know more about coffee than you, and we're going to act like it" that you get here in NYC (looking at you, Ninth Street Espresso). That being said, I did not have a single coffee drink that was as good as Abraco here in the East Village. And it should be said that the staff at Abraco is just as friendly as any I met in SF, if not more so.

-Oh god, the burritos! I am so ashamed of our burrito scene in NYC.

-The overarching theme of my food experiences in San Francisco has to be one of justified hype. So many places I went to expecting to be let down by all the glowing reccomendations--Blue Bottle Coffee, Tartine, all the tacquerias, the Ferry Building, Cafe Zuni, Four Barrel, Burma Superstar--but left thinking, wow, it was that good. Except...

-I ate with some friends at the Cafe upstairs at Chez Panisse. The meal was delicious, and I'm glad I went. But I was not blown away--the snacks we'd had earlier in the evening to tide us over at Bar Tartine were less expensive and more interesting, not to mention tastier.

More food porn from my trip can be found here.

Below, a recipe for really authentic Mission style burritos. Many thanks to Felicia Wong for teaching me this recipe.

Authentic Mission Burritos
Adapted from Felicia Wong
Yield: 6 burritos.

1) On your way to SFO, stop at your favorite San Francisco burrito joint and order six burritos without avocado, guac or sour cream.

2) Pack them securely in your carry on luggage. Protect them with your life. Check every 10-15 minutes on the plane to make sure they're not getting crushed under your feet.

3) When you get home, put them in the freezer.

4) When ready to eat, heat in a 300 degree oven for about an hour, until soft and warmed through.

5) Enjoy while contemplating a move to San Francsisco.

Monday, May 3, 2010

Grind Date: Bittman's Favorite Burger, Cold Asian Greens and Ginger Salad


Mark Bittman's been talking about grinding your own meat for hamburgers since a 2007 Minimalist column. I'm just gonna let him explain:

The key is to avoid packaged ground meat. When you buy it, you may know the cut of the meat — chuck, for example — and the fat content.

But you have no way of knowing whether the meat came from high- or low-quality animals. It could come from dozens of animals, and they could all be poor-quality animals — old dairy cows, for instance, rather than cattle raised for beef. The meat from these animals is ground together in huge quantities.

If the aesthetics of that don’t give you pause, consider the health concerns. Massive batches of ground meat carry the highest risk of salmonella and E. coli contamination, and have caused many authorities to recommend cooking burgers to the well-done stage. Forgive my snobbishness, but well-done meat is dry and flavorless, which is why burgers should be rare, or at most medium rare.

The only sensible solution: Grind your own. You will know the cut, you can see the fat and you have some notion of its quality.


Sold. I don't have a meat grinder, of course. But I do have a food processor, and you guys know how I love to use it. Score one more for the Cuisinart--it grinds meat!

Bittman suggests starting with a chuck roast or sirloin steak, cutting it into 1- or 2-inch cubes, and just pulsing it with a bit of onion. I did it in batches, not wanting to crowd the processor's bowl. I was careful not to chop too much, which Bittman warns against. Hindsight being 20/20, I definitely could have pulsed the meat a bit more, but it was still good. In this burger recipe, entitled simply My Favorite Burger, the only ingredients are the meat, about 2 lbs., half an onion, and salt and pepper. I added to that some soy sauce, but I figured on this inaugural DIY grinding project I'd just keep it simple.

The burgers were fantastic; you can really taste the quality of the meat. Bittman is right; it's going to be hard to go back to preground meat after this. The benefits far outweigh the perceived inconvenience which, really, only amounts to a few minutes of cutting, grinding and washing of the food processor. On top of that, you can use this method for any kind of burgers; pork, chicken, lamb, fish, whatever you like. Check out the Minimalist article, or HTCE, for more ideas.


With the burgers, I made the Cold Asian Greens and Ginger Salad, which sounded great but ended up kind of mushy and weird. I may have just overcooked the bok choy, I'm not entirely sure, but either way I think I'd have preferred the Cold Cooked Greens, Greek Style which this recipe is a variation on.

The Minimalist: For the Love of a Good Burger [nytimes]
Thanks to Kyle Kabel for taking these pictures.

Friday, April 30, 2010

On Ramps: Grilled Ramps, Ramp Chimichurri

I'm excited to say that I'll be writing a weekly Greenmarket report for Serious Eats: New York! So, what's at the market? Right now it's a shit ton of ramps.


Yes, the ramp hype is way out of hand. No, they wouldn't be this exciting if they were around for more than a few weeks in the beginning of Spring. But this is the case, and so I am going to eat as many ramps as is possible before they're gone forever.


The most straightforward thing to do with ramps is to grill them, and Bittman's recipe for Grilled Scallions does the trick. Just rub some oil on the ramps and throw them on the grill or in a grill pan on the stove and cook until they're just tender. It's hard to really overcook these; I like any member of the onion family to get as charred as possible, and with ramps the green leafy tops get this wonderful crispiness when they hit the grill (or grill pan). A little salt and pepper is all these need. Once grilled, you can eat them as a side dish or put them into any pasta, salad or on top of pizza or really anywhere. I have trouble thinking of a dish that wouldn't receive a boost from the addition of ramps.


But as I mentioned before, my yearly love affair with ramps is a fleeting one. They pop up for maybe a month total, and for the first couple weeks of that period it seems like restaurant chefs are hogging the whole supply. When basil's in season, I make loads of pesto and freeze it. I figured I'd try the same thing with ramps. Now, you can make ramp pesto, but I figured that I'd try something new: Chimichurri, the ramped up variation on the Parsley (or Other Herb) Puree recipe. It's a puree of ramps (usually it would be parsley), olive oil, a bunch of garlic, vinegar or lemon juice (I used lemon juice but both work really well) and some red pepper flakes. Bittman sternly warns you, "do not refrigerate." Oh well, I'm still freezing it. I'll let it come to room temp before I use it, I promise.


Aren't food processors just the best? This stuff can be used as a condiment anywhere, really, but I like it to get cooked just a little bit so the harsh bite of the ramps mellows just a bit. I spooned it on some asparagus and put it under the broiler. Tastes like early spring in the best way possible.

Friday, April 23, 2010

I Love You But You're Bringing Me Down: Beef Stew, Buttered Cabbage

I don't want to waste a lot of time or words on this one. I made it back in February when it was freezing and it was quite good, but not earth shatteringly delicious, and nowhere near as good as the Beef Daube.


It photographed poorly and frankly, it's springtime now and I don't even want to think about braised meat until next year.

Served it with Buttered Cabbage, a pretty great vegetable dish that basically consists of butter, cabbage, salt and pepper. But again, it's such a wintery dish that looking at it now is bumming me out.

If anyone needs me, I'll be eating an enormous salad.

Monday, April 19, 2010

How to Cook Everything: The Super Cheap iPhone App!

When I got a Kindle a couple weeks back, one of the first things I downloaded was How to Cook Everything. It's been super handy, great when I want to check a recipe if I'm standing in the green market or grocery store. It was a bit steep at $20, but I figured I'd get my money's worth.
Well, this morning Bittman himself sent out the following tweet:
Good news. Iphone app for How to Cook Everything alive, fabulous, feature-packed, and $1.99. Really. The whole book.
So there you have it. Two bucks, you get the whole book on your iPhone or iPod touch, plus neat features like kitchen timers, shopping lists, and customizable search ("Show me fast vegetarian recipes with spinach in them, iPhone!").

I'm trying not to get too excited, as I haven't really tested the app, but this is basically the one I've been waiting for. This looks good. I'm talking Instapaper good.

How to Cook Everything [iTunes App Store]

Friday, April 16, 2010

I'm Never Making Pancakes Again: Everyday Pancakes

The batter is easy enough. But are pancakes so good that they're worth standing over a griddle for what feels like forever?


No, they're not.

Of course, there's another pancake recipe in How to Cook Everything, so I'm not going to get off that easy. Good news: this one is more involved!

Monday, April 12, 2010

New Favorites: Beer Glazed Beans

Okay, here is the best way I've seen (so far) to prepare black beans.

Beer Glazed Beans

Cook some onion, add some garlic, then add everything else: black beans (cooked, or canned), some honey, salt, pepper and a cup of beer. You can also add some cayenne or hot sauce or chiles or whatever you like for heat. Bring it to a bubble and just let it cook until the sauce has thickened. That's it. The beer gives it real depth, the honey just a bit of sweetness. I want some right now.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Doing It Right: Cold Brewed Coffee

It's warming up around here, so now is the perfect time to talk about iced coffee. I'm a big fan. I like my iced coffee strong. There's going to be ice melting in there, so it better be. Now, for years I just kept leftover coffee in a pitcher in the fridge. There's no shame in that. The only truly unacceptable way to make iced coffee is to pour hot coffee over ice. If you try to give me that shit, I am sending it back.

But in 2007 I read about New Orleans iced coffee, also known as cold brewed iced coffee, in T Magazine. T is the New York Times' quarterly-or-something glossy style mag. This marks the first and only case of T Magazine being useful in any way, to anyone, anywhere.

Anyway, cold brewed coffee is great for a few reasons, first and foremost being that it is delicious and refreshing in a way that no other brewing method can achieve. By steeping the grounds in cold water for at least 12 hours (longer is fine) and then straining through a paper towel (don't laugh, it works) or cheesecloth if you're fancy, the coffee acquires absolutely zero bitterness. Hot water hitting cool grinds is a big part of what makes traditional coffee bitter. By starting with cold water and cool grinds, you eliminate all the bitterness, and a fair amount of acidity as well.

What you end up with is sometimes called coffee concentrate. It's dark and inky, almost like a super smooth espresso. I like to drink it with an equal amount of milk and a ton of ice. Sometimes I add a bit of simple syrup, but it's not really necessary--this stuff has a sweetness of its own. I compare it to coffee ice cream. If you take your coffee black, dilute this stuff with some water. If you drink a whole cup of it you'll be vibrating for days. For more info, and the recipe, follow the link to the Times below. You'll probably never look back.

Iced Storm [t magazine]
(Photo from flickr user thebittenword)

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Steak!: Pan-Grilled/Oven-Roasted Steak, Simple Pan Sauce, Braised Potatoes and Raw Beet Salad

I like steak alright, but it's not my absolute favorite thing in the world. Ambivalence combined with my own trepidation at trying to make it kept me from ever attempting to cook a steak myself. Turns out it's easy, and it'll make you look good! I mean, come on, steak is impressive. It just is. I don't know why, as it's super simple.


I was scared because there's not a ton of wiggle room with steak. It's just a piece of meat. You can't really mask any big fuck ups. But that's also what makes it fairly easy to make. It's just a piece of meat. There aren't a lot of places to fuck up, short of overcooking it, and even then, it's probably going to be edible. And as long as you're not cooking for a big jerk, shouldn't be a huge problem. It's a good litmus test, actually: feed someone an overcooked steak, see how they handle it.

So, we turn to the first recipe in the Meat chapter of How to Cook Everything: Grilled, Pan-Grilled, or Broiled Steak, Many Ways. Many ways, indeed! I settled on the Pan-Grilled/Oven-Roasted Steak, "an excellent method if you don't have first-rate exhaust system or your steak is thicker than 1 1/2 inches." Mine were about 1 1/2 inches, rib steaks that were on sale at the store, and my exhaust system I would say is good-not-great.


Basically you crank your oven up to 11 (at least 500 degrees), then heat a cast-iron skillet (I used my huge dutch oven, as it's the only cast-iron cookware I've got) until it's really hot. Sprinkle the bottom of the pan with some kosher salt and add the steaks. Then you immediately transfer this to the oven. Turn once, cooking until the steaks are done. That's really it; I don't know why I was so freaked out about all of this. Really it's one of the simplest things I've made, and that says a lot.


With the bits stuck to the bottom of the pan, I turned to another recipe I probably should have made by now: Simple Pan Sauce. Pour off some of the fat, and with the pan back on the heat, add some red wine and minced shallots, scraping the brown bits off the bottom of the pan until they're all free and floating around and most of the wine has evaporated. Then add some stock or water, turn off the heat, and add some butter, a little bit at a time. As much or as little as you like works here. I didn't use much and it was still delicious. Then just add a bit of lemon juice or vinegar (optional), and you're done. You can garnish with parsley but I was eating this with my brother, and he hates parsley.*


On the side, I made Braised Potatoes, which is basically just potatoes seared then cooked in stock with a bit of chopped onion and whatever other aromatics you like. The stock gives them a lot of flavor and they end up perfectly tender, soft enough to soak up some of that extra steak juice and pan sauce.


Finally, I made the Raw Beet Salad, where you grate beets (thanks food processor!) and toss them vinegar, mustard and a bit of olive oil. I topped it with some goat cheese, because goat cheese is delicious. I also added an arugula salad to the beet salad, because they go well together, pretty much. I would have made it all one glorious amalgam of a salad but arugula's not everyone's favorite. I know, I don't get it either.


And that was our steak dinner. It was freaking great.

*How can you hate something as inoffensive as parsley? Hell if i know.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Bittman Speaks!

Grub Street pointed out this great video from Big Think, embedded below, featuring the man himself speaking on a number of food related issues. Some interesting tidbits in here. I like the reminder that it's very rare that you mess up a dish so badly that you can't enjoy it. Truth.

Meanwhile, I just got a Kindle and the second book I downloaded for it? That's right, How To Cook Everything, now ultra lightweight! (The first book? Street Gang, Michael Davis' in-depth history of the groundbreaking early days of Sesame Street)

If You Don't Like Bittman's Food, 'Something's Wrong' [grubstreet]

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Minimalistist: Stir-Fried Pork with Spinach

The longer, more involved recipes in How to Cook Everything are great. But it really excels in the fast and dirty recipes that Bittman has been dispensing in the Times' Minimalist column for years now. This is one such recipe, so fast and simple, utterly delicious, and endlessly adaptable that you wonder why anyone would ever spend more than an hour or so in the kitchen.

stir fried pork with spinach

The trick with this recipe is to get all your prep work done beforehand; it only takes ten minutes once you get your pan hot. So, take some pork shoulder, slice it into bite size pieces as thin as you can get them (freezing for 30 minutes will be a huge help here), then wash the spinach (or whatever leafy green you want) and tear it up a bit.

Okay, oil in the pan, get it really hot, cook the pork 'til it's just cooked through, then get it out of there. Throw in the garlic, let it get some color for a mintue, then add all the spinach. Lots of spinach. It cooks down like nobody's business. When it is cooked down, throw the pork back in, along with some lime juice and soy sauce. Add scallions (lots of scallions). That's it! I'm sure you can do this with any kind of meat, or any kind of veg thrown in, but the pork/spinach combo seems to work really well.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Things I've Actually Baked: Scones

Scones, it turns out, are not the hardest thing in the world to make. Bittman says you can mix the batter in the food processor, so that's exactly what I did.


For some reason, my batter ended up incredibly runny when I plopped it onto the counter out of the food processor, so I added some more flour to the mixture before kneading it ("10 times; no more"). I also forgot to add the dried currants, which would have been a nice touch. Oh well. Bittman says to cut circles out of the dough after rolling it out to 3/4 inches, but I decided to just roll it into a square and cut amorphous triangle things off of that. They didn't look great, but they tasted fine and cooked evenly. These were really good for plain scones, but next time I'd definitely use the currants, or anything else Bittman suggests in the adjacent list, "13 Additions to Virtually Any Quick Bread, Muffins, Biscuits or Scones." He's always got you covered.


The best part of the scones recipe is, you can do it all way ahead of time. Deb at Smitten Kitchen even says in her scone recipe that she rolls and cuts them out, freezes the dough, then throws them in the oven the morning of brunch to save time.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Brunch Dish: Spanish Tortilla

It's big, filling, cheap, and you can cook the whole damn thing at once: Spanish Tortilla is the best thing to make if you have some friends coming over for brunch.


The Spanish Tortilla recipe in How to Cook Everything is basically a big pile of potatoes, eggs and onions cooked together in one pan. You sauté some onions and thinly sliced potatoes until soft in a large skillet (it helps a lot if it's nonstick). The potatoes and onions cook together in a whole bunch of olive oil--one cup. It's a lot, but you drain it out before adding the eggs. After draining the oil, 6-8 eggs go in a bowl with the potato-onion mixture, and that goes back into the pan (add some of the oil that was drained before you add the potato-egg mixture to the pan. You just cook this over medium heat until the edges firm up. Then, using a spatula to loosen the tortilla from the pan, transfer it to a large plate, turn it upside down using another plate, and finally return it to the pan, thereby flipping the tortilla. Cook it for another five minutes or so, and it's done. This thing is damn tasty, and it can be served warm or room temperature. I want some right now.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Schmauthenticity: Carnitas

The How to Cook Everything recipe for Carnitas is a variation on Bittman's Shredded Pork recipe. Both, I assume, are great taco fillers, which is what the carnitas I made were used for. Crispy little pieces of shredded pork: major drool factor. There are probably more authentic ways of doing this, and they may taste better, but these were damn good and they certainly did the trick.

Carnitas Taco

In the mother recipe, you simmer chunks of pork shoulder along with a quartered onion, a bunch of smashed garlic cloves, bay leaves, cumin, a dried chile (I used ancho) and water to cover for about an hour or longer, until the meat is tender. Then you shred it, and you're done. The carnitas variation has you shred or chop the meat at this point, but then return it to the pot to cook further until all liquid is evaporated and the meat is getting nice and crispy.

Now, I simmered the pork in my enormous 8 qt. dutch oven and it took over 12 cups of water to cover the pork. I was not about to simmer this stuff for 12 hours waiting for all that water to cook off. So I shredded the meat, removed most of the liquid (strained it and froze it as pork stock, natch), returned the meat to the pan, added a bit of neutral oil and simmered until the meat was getting crispy. Then I let it cook a while longer, because in my book the crispier the pork is, the better.


It worked, and it was great. There are more authentic ways of making carnitas, I'm sure, but let me tell you: these tacos were pretty effing good, especially with the leftover Red Beans with Meat I'd stashed in the freezer. The remaining toppings were roasted tomato salsa (Trader Joe's) and ricotta salata--could've used something green like lettuce or my favorite, the gringotastic cucumber, but these were pretty delicious as it was. The leftovers I just ate mixed with a big bowl of rice and beans (cheese on top) for lunch.

Friday, February 12, 2010

A Few Links For The Weekend: Apps Only, Momo for 2, $3 Pizza Stones, FEAST

Hey everyone! More cooking going up as soon as the pictures of my first attempt at carnitas are ready. In the meantime, here's some stuff from around the internet you might be interested in.

First off, I'm thrilled to tell you that I'm writing a column for Serious Eats! I'm so siked to be involved with them--you may notice I mention them a lot around here--and I hope you'll check out my stuff, and all the other great stuff over there. The Talk section can answer just about any question you have. I'm contributing to SE: New York with a column called Apps Only, where I go to restaurants I can't afford a whole meal at, and try to construct a meal composed of sides, appetizers, and small plates. Check it out.

I love Momofuku, and I love to stare at the pictures in the cookbook, but the only thing I think I'll ever make from it is the simple ginger scallion sauce. Badass chick Steph is not scared like I am; she's making every recipe in the Momofuku cookbook. Her blog is well written, beautifully photographed, and lovingly executed. A ton of the shots, like the signature pork buns, for example, look better than the photos in the book itself. As a bare bones kind of home cook, I am flabbergasted by how adventurous she is in the kitchen. Check it out.

The always helpful Paupered Chef shows us how to make a pizza stone from about $3 worth of tiles from Home Depot. Check it out.

Finally, last week I attended a FEAST (Funding Emerging Art with Sustainable Tactics) in Brooklyn: a community dinner where the price of admission goes to fund art and community projects. I wrote a short writeup of the event, also for Serious Eats: New York. Check it out and also check out the FEAST site for more info on this amazing organization.

Apps Only [serious eats: new york]
Momofuku Pork Buns [momofuku for two]
How to Make a 3 Dollar Pizza Stone [paupered chef]
FEASTing in Brooklyn [serious eats: new york]

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

More Greens: Stir-Fried Broccoli

This recipe couldn't be much easier, and it's pretty versatile: broccoli is a good accompaniment to almost everything in my opinion. You could probably just add some meat or tofu to this and have a whole main course to serve over rice.

Stir-Fried Broccoli

Basically you take your broccoli (I used this thin-stemmed kind that I can't remember the name of, but you can also use cauliflower, broccoli raab, or a terrifying hybrid I never heard of but Bittman suggests called Broccoflower) and cut the tops into florets, then peel the stems and chop them up. Stems are like the chicken wings of broccoli: so often overlooked, but so clearly the best part. Jacques Pepin agrees, so it's true.

Then you heat up some neutral oil over high heat and throw in the broccoli until it's just starting to brown. Add salt, sugar, and stock, then keep stirring until most of the liquid is evaporated--you end up with a slightly thickened sauce. Add soy sauce, and you're done.

Ate this with a salad and roast chicken parts in ginger scallion sauce (David Chang's recipe, not Bittman's). It was a fast, easy meal that felt more like a feast.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Still Here: Asian Greens, Chinese Restaurant Style

Sorry, guys. I've been totally MIA lately, I know. It's not my fault! OK, well, it is my fault, but let's just move on.

On Christmas Day my friend Melanie and I observed the time honored Jewish tradition of Chinese food and a movie (Dim sum at Madarin Court on Mott Street and Up In The Air, if you're wondering). Mandarin Court is the place where I discovered how much I love baby bok choy--simply steamed and slathered with a bunch of oyster sauce. It's so good, and there's no reason you wouldn't be able to do it at home.


Sure enough, How To Cook Everything has a recipe for Asian Greens, Chinese Restaurant Style. It suggests using gai lan, but I opted for mustard greens (you can use any kind of Asian greens or broccoli, kale, collards, and the like). Basically you just separate the stems from the leaves, sautee the leaves in some neutral oil until the wilt, put them on a plat, sautee stems, add some water, and toss until the stems are tender. Then add the stems to the aforementioned plate, hit it with a bunch of oyster sauce, and you have pretty much the best preparation of greens possible, and also the easiest. It might not look like much, but it's damn tasty and really good for you.