January 2011

Here are some more fun and delicious-looking recipes and articles that have caught my eye this past week; both from my site and from some pretty sweet-looking foodie blogs.

I have decided to finally put my fabulous new cast iron dutch oven to work. And what will be my inaugural dish? A take on this Beef Carbonnade stew from Epicurious with a few steps from The Joy of Cooking (a.k.a.: my favorite cookbook) thrown in. I’m using Fuller’s London Porter for the stewing liquid and adding a red bell pepper and potatoes to the rest of the veg in the stew. Stay tuned for pics and the recipe!

BabyCakes bakery in Downtown Disney: Vegan and gluten-free indulgence – My review of the new branch of NYC’s popular vegan bakery.

An unlikely pair: Cheese paired with coffee is a buzz for your taste buds – Our cheese guru, Kira, pairs different cheeses from various coffee blends from a local roaster. Be sure to check out her fab blog, Whey Cool Curds.

The Urban Daddy blog touts these Boozy Donuts, “warm donuts injected with some of your favorite cocktails.” Unfortunately, they can only be found at Flex Mussels in NYC and the recipe isn’t listed online. I smell a copycat recipe challenge.

Add to the ‘Want to Make’ list:

The Brazilian cocktail (Yum Sugar) – This South American-inspired drink is “one part healthy smoothie, one part fizzy spa cocktail.” And, no, it’s not named after the popular waxing technique.

Baked Buffalo Chicken Nachos (How Sweet Is Is) – If buffalo chicken dip and nachos had a baby, this would be that dish. And it would be delicious. Easy game day fare! …even if you’ll just be watching the Puppy Bowl next Sunday.



If you’re one of those people who have, thus far, stuck to your New Year’s resolutions of healthy eating (or are trying to get back on the bandwagon), here’s a quick, easy and scrumptious dessert recipe that won’t leave you with extra calories to burn off or the guilt of cheating on your diet. It’s also a good way to get a serving or two of fruit into your daily diet.

What’s great about this recipe for frozen yogurt is that you don’t need an ice cream maker to put it together. The only equipment you’ll need is something many people already have stowed away in their kitchen cupboards — a blender or food processor. If you don’t have either, I’d highly suggest investing in one, as their blending and chopping possibilities are practically endless. Purchase an inexpensive one at Target, Wal-Mart or online (and you don’t need anything fancy, just one that performs the basic functions).

The original recipe I adapted this from uses a half cup of sugar which I’ve replaced with a quarter cup of light agave nectar. Agave nectar (or agave syrup) comes from the sap of the agave plant. Yep, the same plant that tequila is made from. But don’t worry, you’re not going to get buzzed from this sweet nectar, it’s just a healthier substitute for refined sugar. It’s lower in calories than sugar and also has a much lower glycemic index, meaning it won’t give you a spike in your blood sugar and can be used by those on low-carb diets and those with blood sugar issues.

As for the base, I like to use natural, low-fat Greek-style yogurt that’s free of preservatives, as it has more protein and is bit lower in sugar and carbohydrates than regular yogurt. It’s thick texture also makes for a creamier frozen yogurt. If you’re going the vegan route, then use a soy-based yogurt instead.

The rice cooker was a lifesaver when making sushi in culinary school (and that’s about the only time we were allowed to use a household appliance). I found it to be useful because cooking rice perfectly on the stove is not as easy as one would think (and I’m not talking about the boil-in-bag kind). Outside of class, those cookers are convenient if you eat rice frequently, but never suited my personal cooking needs, or piqued my interest. Until I was shown the way, at least.

I was scrolling through my Google feeds — packed with various food blog posts — and stumbled upon an article about rice cookers from the New York Times. What’s this?! Not only can it cook perfect rice, but it can steam, bake, saute, braise, simmer, poach and more?

Turns out, you can make a whole meal in this contraption, and it doesn’t even have to include rice! Of course, you can make rice-based dishes such as pilafs, Italian risotto, Indian biriyani, Thai curry dishes, Chinese fried rice, rice pudding, etc. But you can also cook other grains and legumes — barley, oats, quinoa, lentils, beans — great bases for soups and one-pot meals. If you simply switch the machine to “cook” and let it heat up, you can also saute and braise. For example, to braise baby back ribs: add your liquid and ingredients of choice, close the lid and switch it to “cook.” It’ll be done in less than an hour.

First order of business: HAPPY NATIONAL PEANUT BUTTER DAY! I can’t believe my day is almost over and I’ve just found out about this! But thanks to Tastespotting and their drool-worthy peanut butter recipe roundup, I have been informed and will be celebrating. Well, I did start my day with a dollop of natural peanut butter in my breakfast smoothie. Maybe I’ll finish off more of those Reese’s cups left over from Halloween. (They don’t have a shelf life, right?)

Ooh ooh, look what I found today: a Molecular Cuisine Starter Kit on ThinkGeek! Because “nouveau-cuisine is so last year.” It includes 5 different food additives (Sodium Alginate, Xantham Gum, etc.), fun little tools (and a syringe in case you don’t already have those lying around) and a DVD with recipe demos. Like Marcel on Top Chef All-Stars, you too can now make all the foam that your little heart desires. Watch the video trailer for it here. FYI: This will be added to my half birthday (April 30th) gift list.

Here are some more fun and delicious-looking recipes I’ve found in the foodie blogosphere that caught my eye recently. Plus, they’re on some pretty sweet-looking foodie blogs that are worth visiting.

Stuff I’d like to make:

Apple-Infused Vodka (Boulder Locavore) – I’ve made fruit infused vodka — which is easy-peasy — and this apple vodka recipe looks fab. I’m going to use Galas because they’re the most perfect pommes.

Brie & Brisket Quesadillas with Mango Barbecue Sauce (Confections of a Foodie Bride) – I love every single element of this dish. Plus, I can put my slow cooker to work for this one (my new fave kitchen appliance).

Caramelized Onion Cornbread (Sweet Potato Soul) – Ooh, I never thought about putting caramelized onions in my cornbread! This would also go great with the above recipe.

Chocolate French Toast (La Mia Vita Dolce) – If you don’t like French toast and chocolate, there’s something wrong with you. (Unless you’re allergic to chocolate or wheat, then you have my pity.)

Maple-Bacon Kettle Corn (Brown Eyed Baker) – Um, hello? Bacon. And maple syrup. Together for one night only. ‘Nuff said.

The Nikki Heat Cocktail (The Pegu Blog) – I love a bit of heat in my cocktails (well, in pretty much everything) and this one looks pretty good.

Pork and Tomatillo Stew (Smells Like Home) – Because I love me some Mexican and Tex-Mex fare, this is right up my alley. I think this might be the first recipe I make in my new cast iron dutch oven!

The Retox Cocktail (Saveur) – Bourbon, maple syrup, bitters, lemon juice and cayenne. “An alcoholic version of the Master Cleanse diet.” Awesome.

Roasted Winter Squash with Cranberries, Pepitas and Honey-Lime Vinaigrette (The Perfect Pantry) – Colorful, simple and just plain delicious-looking.

Veggie and Parmesan Cake (WordFlux) – I have another confession to make: I love vegetables. And this colorful, savory cake has lots of them. It’d also be a good way to get some veggies in your kids (or your veggie-hating pals).

top_chef_logo_lgIt was a pop-up restaurant showdown in NYC on the latest installment of Top Chef All-Stars!

The episode began with a fillet-o-fish-off at Eric Ripert’s Le Bernardin restaurant with, surprise — Anthony Bourdain! Yes, kids, he’s still here. After hacking away at the fish, the four chefs who did the best — Jersey Mike, Angry Dale, Marcel and Richard — then had to take the nasty parts of the fish (i.e.: the collar, head, liver, innards, etc.) and create a Le Bernardin-worthy dish. Dale won with his bacon dashi with salt roasted cod collar. He made a silk purse out of a sow’s ear with that dish.

With the Quickfire win came immunity for Dale, and he also got to choose the team leader for the opposing restaurant for Restaurant Wars. Being the strategist that he is, he chose Marcel, saying it was so he wouldn’t have to work with him, but we all know what his ulterior motives were (though not having to work with Marcel is a pretty sweet deal in itself).

Dale, Blais, Fabio, Tre and Carla teamed up to form Bodega, and created a fun, playful menu of “stoner food” (to quote Bourdain). Etch (as in “wretch”) was comprised of Angelo, Tiffany, Antonia (“The Black Hammer”), Mike Isabella and captained by Wolf Boy himself, and had a menu of “elevated,” “Medi”-inspired food — that didn’t look Mediterranean at all. Fabio, of course, took the role as charming maître d’ who wooed all of the ladies, and the same role was forced upon Tiffany who did a disappearing act most of the time — even when the judges came to be seated!

The cool twist in this Restaurant Wars episode was that the diners were able to try both restaurants and vote to decide the winning team. The ultimate winner and person chopped would then be decided by the judges. Finally! A challenge where they can actually cook for the guests! Of course, if you want to give your guests undercooked food and cat spit (a.k.a.: foam) for two courses, that’s your prerogative.

top_chef_logo_lgIt’s my favorite time of the season: Restaurant Wars! And I’m thrilled that the producers are bringing it back for the All-Stars to suffer through again.

For the Quickfire, Bourdain actually shows his face again on the show and challenges the chefs to a fish fillet-off at Le Bernardin, which just so happens to be owned by occasional Top Chef judge Eric Ripert. Coincidence? I think not.

And, of course, Restaurant Wars serves as the Elimination in this episode. You know the rules: Two teams. Two restaurants. Utter Chaos. And the team whose dishes and service sucks more is on the chopping block. It looks like the chefs will be cooking outdoors for the challenge, which could lead to all sorts of things that could possibly go wrong.

Preview video highlights:

  • Marcel says Tiffany can’t cook an egg. Oh. My. Gosh. He did not just go there!
  • Looks like Dale forgot to take his happy pills and is about to go postal on Fabio and the entire wait staff.
  • Antonia is talkin’ smack because she thinks her team’s food is more “elevated” than her opponents’.
  • Then some of the diners send back Antonia’s food because it “doesn’t look like it’s cooked.” See, this is when I’d be getting pissed off at the diners, not my fellow teammates. If I’m a Top Chef All-Star and I’m serving you “raw” food, then there’s a very good chance I meant it to be eaten that way. So quit your griping, shut up and eat what’s in front of you or GTFO. (I was channeling my inner Angry Dale there.)

This week’s question: Which Top Chef All-Stars would you pick to be stranded on a desert island with? Keep in mind foraging and cooking skills (given the circumstances) and how long you’d be able to stand their presence before wanting to cannibalize them.

Check out the preview videos below.

Tune in to Bravo tonight at 10 pm EST/9 pm C, join our Twitter party during the show (Jeff: @JeffHouck, Katie: @culinarypirate), and listen to our podcast here tomorrow! (You can even download us on iTunes!) Check out our fellow Top Chef fanatics, Please Pack Your Knives And Go and All Top Chef, for the latest news (and some laughs).

Marcel Isn’t Heard
Rare Dishes

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