Thursday, April 30, 2009

Potato Pancake with Ramps

I love potatoes - baked, fried, mashed, pretty much any way. Since ramps are still in season for a while longer, I have been trying to come up with some different recipes to use them in. Basically you can replace onions or garlic with ramps to get a similar flavor profile. I decided to make a potato pancake to go along with my blueberry pancakes. I combined shredded Yukon gold potatoes with sauted ramps and shredded Parmesan to create my pancake. You can use a cheese grater, a food processor, or a mandoline (like I did ) to shred the potatoes into a nice hash. The prep work takes some time if you don't have a food processor, but once everything is combined most of the work is done.

Here are the ingredients for a large potato pancake:
-4 Yukon Gold potatoes (or whatever you want)
-1 bunch ramps, chopped into small dice
-1 cup Parmesan cheese (or more if you like)
-Olive oil
-Salt and pepper to taste

To begin, wash your ramps and chop into a small dice. Remove the outer skin like you would an onion and discard the roots. Heat oil over medium heat in large saute pan (you can use the same pan for the actual pancake. Add ramps and season with salt and pepper. Saute until tender and leaves are wilted. Set aside for a later.
Peel potatoes and shred into fine hash. Place shredded potatoes in a large bowl lined with clean dish towel (not terry cloth). Wrap potatoes in towel and twist and squeeze to remove excess water. It important to get as much water removed as possible to insure a crisp crust.
Finely shred parmesan cheese. Combine cheese, ramps and potatoes. Season generously with salt and pepper.
Heat a couple tablespoons of oil to large saute pan over medium high. Place potato mixture in saute pan and flatten into an even layer. Let cook for about 15 minutes - do not stir during the 15 minutes so you can create a crisp crust. At 15 minutes check to see if you have a golden brown crust and that it is loose from the pan. Place a plate on top and flip pan to release pancake.
Then slide the uncooked side down into pan. Cook for about 12 more minutes until golden brown. Slide out of pan, slice and serve. If you aren't done cooking the rest of your meal, you can always pop the pancake in the oven at the lowest temperature on a baking sheet until everything is ready.You can make this pancake without the ramps and just add herbs.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Smitten for Bittman

Picture from The New York Times
I have been reading The New York Times columnist, Mark Bittman's blog, Bitten for a few months now and I am in love. Mr. Bittman is known for his minimalist approach to simple cooking. I love his weekly videos; they are so quick and delicious looking, it is hard not to get inspired. Mark has a new book called Food Matters: A Guide to Conscious Eating with More Than 75 Recipes (which I want to buy) and plenty of others.

Click here to listen or read his views on eating right on NPR. Click here to read his biography.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Recycle Your Brown Bag and Use a Lunch Box

I have been bringing my lunch to work for as long as I can remember, but I have never owned a real lunch box. I would reuse plastic bags, Ikea containers, mason jars, as well as wrap treats in foil or plastic wrap. Besides having such a mismatch array of container options, worrying about whether something was going to leak in my purse, and the guilt of throwing away foil and plastic into the trash, I decided I desperately needed a lunch box. Recently, I got a Vivo Bento Box for my birthday.

So far I am feeling pretty good about myself every time I carry it around, although I feel a bit like a kid. The lunch box is comprised of 3 levels made of melamine (both microwave and dishwasher safe). The top container is smaller and is divided into compartments, which is perfect for snacks and condiments. This lunch box is great for salads. I love to put the greens on the bottom level and the toppings in the smaller compartments and maybe some bread in the middle; that way nothing gets soggy.
Click here to get one for yourself. Happy Earth Day!

Monday, April 20, 2009

Lemony Angel Food Cake

When I received my May 2009 Martha Stewart Living magazine not only was I thrilled to find recipes for asparagus and pickled beets, but as I flipped to the final page I found a lovely photo of lemony angel food cake.

I love angel food cake with a passion. In fact, I don't really care for any cake but angel food. There are plenty of reasons why angel food cake is so wonderful:

Thursday, April 16, 2009


Goodies from the Green Market on 4/11/09: Maple Candy, Fingerling Potatoes, Ramps, and Apple Donuts.
I went to the Green Market in Union Square last weekend and came across ramps. I had eyed them last year, but wasn't for sure what to do with them. This year I decided I wasn't going to miss my chance. I did a little research to figure out what exactly ramps are. There are couple of posts on The Kitchen blog, as well as recipes on Epicurious and Martha Stewart. Yet nothing sums up what a ramp is as well as The New Food Lover's Companion by Sharon Tyler Herbst and Ron Herbst. This book is a thick dictionary describing cooking terms and foods. According to page 560:

"This wild onion grows from Canada to the Carolinas and resembles a scallion with broad leaves. Also known as a wild leek, ramp has an assertive, garlicky-onion flavor. It can be found - usually only in specialty produce markets - from March to July. Choose those that are firm with bright-colored greenery. Wrap tightly in a plastic bag and refrigerate for up to a week. Trim the root ends just before using. Though the flavor of a ramp is slightly stronger than the leek, scallion, or onion, it can be used - raw or cooked - in many dishes as a substitute for any of those three."

You can do a lot with ramps if you start thinking about them as an onion, scallion, or leek. You can roast them with potatoes, sprinkle them in miso soup, scatter them in a frittata or toss them in pasta like I did last night.

Here are some recipe suggestions:

Roasted chicken, Ramps, and Potatoes
Scrambled Eggs with Ramps, Morels, and Asparagus
Spaghetti with Ramps

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Baggu Bags

Most people know by now that bringing your own bag to the grocery store is a good thing. After living in New York for the past year and half, I feel guilty if I forget to bring my own bag. Between my roommates and I, we have plastic bags filled with plastic bags. It gets pretty sickening. That is why these Baggu bags are so convenient. Watch the Cool Hunting video to find out more about them. The colors of the bags and the designer Emily are just too cute. Click here to visit the Baggu Bag website to order a couple for yourself.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Almonds Interrupted

While I was at Fairway on Sunday I saw bin filled with what looked like fuzzy tree buds. What I thought were buds were actually young almonds harvested before their shells had hardened and their nuts had fully developed.

I didn't know for sure what they would tastes like or how I would prepare them, but they were $3.48 a pound so I grab a couple (58 cents worth) and brought them home. After doing a bit of research by googling and looking through Aliza Green's Starting with Ingredients, I found out that young or green almonds are eaten traditionally in the Middle East, the Mediterranean, and European countries such as Russia and Ukraine. After reading a lot of blogs on green almonds according to the comments most Americans seemed to hate their taste. It seems to be acquired.

So I decided to give it a try. The almond was crunchy like a dense sugar snap pea and had a tart, tangy yet grassy taste. I actually liked it. My friend on the other hand bit into the almond and in disgust immediately trashed it. I decided to slice a few in half and sprinkle with kosher salt. I found them to be pretty good. Green almond centers vary in consistency depending on how young they are. The younger almonds have a liquid to jelly-like consistency and as they age the centers solidify and become soft white nuts. The center has a light, sweet flavor and the green exterior is what gives it their tangy, grassy and somewhat bitter flavoring. Some chefs just use the center of the green almond as garnishes in salads.

I suggest you just try them if you see them around (they will only be around for about a month), I found the almonds to be refreshing and a good way to start the spring. Click here for a chili-salted green almond recipe from New York Magazine.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Crackle-Dyed Eggs

For Easter this year I decided to do a more non-traditional dyed egg. I still used the Paas Egg Dye kit, but instead of dyeing the eggs in their perfect non-cracked form, I gently cracked the eggs before dyeing them. I also left out the vinegar (which gives the eggs a more vibrant color) so that I wouldn't end up slightly pickling the egg.

With your cool hard boiled eggs, gently tap the egg to crack the shell and then roll on a towel to create small cracks throughout the egg. Be careful not to crack the shell too much so that your entire interior of the egg doesn't become colored.
Place your eggs into the colored water and put in the refrigerator over night. Since there is no vinegar, it will take longer for the color to adhere.
The next morning, peel your eggs to unveil your masterpieces. I also dyed some eggs traditionally in case I was disappointed in these crackled eggs. Here are my results:
Note: Because the shell is already cracked, these eggs will probably perish quicker than normal dyed eggs.

The Perfect Hard Boiled Egg

Making hard boiled eggs are easy, but do you know how to make them perfectly? For years I thought there wasn't really a science to making them. I didn't realize that the gray ring around the yolk meant I had over cooked them. In The Elements of Cooking Michael Ruhlman gives specific steps on how to create the perfect egg, whether it be fried, poached, scrambled, etc. Since Easter is tomorrow and egg dyeing is a traditional way to celebrate, I thought I would focus on hard boiled eggs.

First, place eggs into a pot (size of pot depends on the amount of eggs) and fill with cold water about 2 inches above the eggs.
Bring eggs to a boil with the lid off. Once eggs are to a boil, remove from heat and place lid on. Let set for 10 minutes.
After 1o minutes, rinse eggs in cold water to stop the cooking process. Rinse or soak in cold water until the eggs are cool.
When you crack your eggs, the yolk should be a soft yellow with no gray rings.

Note: I used large eggs. The size of eggs you use will affect the amount of time your eggs need to set before you rinse them with cold water. The smaller the eggs - the shorter the set time, the larger the eggs - the longer the set time. Experiment to find the right time.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Food For Thought Film Festival April 11th & 18th 2009

The 2009 Food For Thought Film Festival focuses on several crucial issues: access to clean food and water; human rights; local and sustainable agriculture; and the effects of policy on small American farmers. For more information click here and for the schedule click here.

Bequet Caramels

Last summer I was perusing through a Martha Stewart Living article (August 2008) about things made in America. The article was dedicated to handmade crafts, candies, and antiques. Montana's Bequet Confections was mentioned as having the best caramels around. According to Martha, they were enhanced with unusual gourmet flavors.

The next day I got on the Bequet Confections website and ordered myself an 8 ounce bag variety pack of caramels so I could experience them all. They have ten varieties ranging from black licorice to pomegranate, but my top four favorites (it is really hard to choose) were the Celtic sea salt caramel, espresso caramel, chipotle caramel, and the ultimate salt-chocolate caramel. I just love the salty-sweet combination. You can order any flavors you want, which is so nice after you figure out your favorites. When my bag arrived I savored every caramel like they were small treasures for my mouth. Each caramel was surprisingly soft and melt-in-your-mouth. They all were rich and well-flavored.

Bequet Confections was started by Robin Bequet after working in technology sales management for 25 years. She had always been making caramels for friends, and after she lost her job in 2001 she began to seriously consider candy making as a business endeavour. In December 2001, Bequet Confections became a reality and today is an award-winning caramel company. In a blind test taste 17 out of 18 people prefer Bequet's caramels compared to other gourmet caramels.

My mom gave me a large bag of Bequet's caramels (with my four favorite varieties) for Christmas. I just finished the last one this week. To spread this small quantity out for three and a half months takes restraint. To try these caramels click here, you won't be disappointed - promise!

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Sweet and Spicy Lentil Soup

I have been trying to make a weekly soup. It is an easy way to use seasonal vegetables as well as have leftovers throughout the week. I came across this curried lentil and sweet potato recipe in The New York Times in the fall, when I was trying to use up the swiss chard I got from my CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) group. Click here for original recipe.

Monday, April 6, 2009

Matzo Toffee

For a sweet treat during Passover, try matzo toffee from Everyday Food. It is so easy and good! Click here to view original recipe.

Matzo is a cracker-like flat bread made from white flour and water. It is a substitute for bread during this Jewish holiday. It tastes similar to Saltines, but without the yeast. The crackers are thin and crispy and would be great with slices of cheddar cheese.
Here are the ingredients:
-2 cups crumbled coarsely matzos
-1 1/2 cups sliced almonds
-1/2 cup unsalted butter (1 stick)
-1/2 cup light brown sugar, packed
-1/2 teaspoon salt
-2 tablespoons water
-2 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips

To begin, preheat oven to 325 degrees. Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper (I only had foil, but parchment would be better).

Toss matzos and almonds together on baking sheet and spread out.
In small saucepan, melt butter, sugar, salt, and water together. Bring to a boil and then pour over matzo-almond mixture. Toss quickly to coat evenly and spread out in the pan.
Place in the oven for about 30 minutes or until golden brown. Once matzo is out of the oven, sprinkle with chocolate chips and let sit for 5 minutes. Then take spatula and spread chocolate evenly over matzo.
Place baking sheet in refrigerator to allow for the chocolate to set. Break into pieces and place in an airtight container or plastic bag and keep refrigerated up to 5 days.
Enjoy and Happy Passover!

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Vegetable Pot Pie

As the weather is slowly warming up I realized that there are a few hearty meals I want to make before it gets too hot. One of the meals is vegetable pot pie. Before I was a vegetarian, my old boyfriend got me hooked on chicken pot pie. His mom had a simple delicious recipe that I couldn't resist. I think why I liked it so much was because I thought I would hate it. I have a thing against casseroles as well as white sauces (I know I am a freak), but this pie changed my mind. I finally finagled my way into getting her recipe and decided to change a few things since I would no longer be adding chicken to it.

I took a look at Ina Garten's vegetable pot recipe for another reference point. Ina's recipe is loaded with butter and other specialty ingredients, click here for her version (it got five stars). Below is my recipe, but feel free to change it up with what you have around as well as what is in season. You can also add chicken in substitute for some vegetables. Simply take two or three chicken breasts and boil them for about half hour, let cool and then cut into bite-sized pieces. Add the cooked chicken at the same time as the vegetables to the sauce. I used puff pastry for the top, but you can use pie dough or biscuit batter. Really, the possibilities are endless.


Getty Images
It's that time of year again when pastels are in and sugary marshmallow chicks are devoured. Click here to see how Peeps are made in the Chicago Tribune!

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

In Cod We Trust

When you are walking around Greenwich Village and it is a somewhat rainy day, a sudden craving for fish and chips can hit you. The neighborhood and weather strongly influenced my decision to go for a "snack" at the tiny fish and chip shop called "A Salt and Battery."