Friday, May 28, 2010

Picnic Salad to pep up your Memorial Day

Why does Memorial Day weekend have to begin so dark and gloomy, right off of a full moon? I think its a proven fact that people go CRAZY during the full moon. I had insane, tripped-out dreams last night. Eric has a mysterious, feverish virus. My mother is currently a little overwhelmed and I'd like to help. Uncle Kenny, I wish I could help you feel just a teensy, tiny bit better today.

However unsettled your holiday weekend may be beginning, take comfort in the fact that once you make this pasta salad to take to a picnic, you'll find yourself revisiting it again and again, year after year. It's like my old, reliable friend. I'd even say its a kitchen soul mate...something familiar that arrives with the spring as sure as thunderstorms and azaleas to bring a bit of color back to your life. I am a true believer that once you find something as tried and true and delicious as this recipe, you should spread the love around.

Happy Memorial Day, friends. Let's take the "memorial" part literally and extend true thanks to those who have enriched our lives in meaningful ways, particularly those who have served this country. I'm sorry this isn't a particularly aesthetically patriotic salad, but lets leave that to the jello mold, shall we?

The New Basics. Julee Rosso & Sheila Lukins

Introduced to me by Aunt Linda and Uncle Brack many moons ago...

~14 oz. linguine
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
1 tablespoon brown sugar
6 tablespoons chunky peanut butter
¼ cup soy sauce
6 tablespoons sesame oil
3 tablespoons hot chili oil
~ 1 - 1.5 lb boneless and skinless cooked chicken breasts
5 tablespoons sesame seeds, toasted*
1 lb thin asparagus, trimmed
3 scallions, white bulb and three inches green, cut into 2-inch julienne
1 small cucumber, halved, seeded and cut into ¼-inch dice

1. Bring a large pot of water to the boil. Add the linguine, and cook at a rolling boil until just tender. Drain, rinse under cold water, drain again, and set aside in a large mixing bowl. (must be cold before setting aside, so noodles don’t stick to each other).

2. Place the garlic, vinegar, brown sugar, peanut butter, and soy sauce in a food processor. Process for one minute. With the motor running, slowly add the sesame and hot chili oils through the feed tube, and process until well blended.

3. Shred the chicken into 2-inch julienne, and toss with the linguine. Add the sauce and 4 tablespoons of the sesame seeds, and toss to coat well.

4. Cut the asparagus on the diagonal into 1-inch lengths. Blanch in a saucepan of boiling water for 1 minute. Drain, rinse under cold water and pat dry. (adding ice cubes to the asparagus helps cool it rapidly so that it retains an intense green color).

5. Place the linguine and chicken in a large flat serving bowl, and arrange the asparagus on top. Sprinkle with the scallions, cucumber, and remaining 1 tablespoon sesame seeds. Serve at room temperature.

6 servings

*Spread sesame seeds on pan and place in 350° oven for 10-15 minutes, or until golden.

AND PS: this salad is GREAT vegetarian. I've added snap peas and tofu in the past as well.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Top 50 Restaurants in the WORLD

San Pellegrino has put out THE list again and I wasn't going to comment on it since (a) I haven't been to any of these restaurants and (b) couldn't it be somewhat biased towards really expensive restaurants? I mean, sure, expensive restaurants have access to the best ingredients, therefore by default offering a better product. But I will argue that in almost every city, my favorite and most enjoyable meal is at the hole-in-the-wall on the corner (such as Fattoush in Brooklyn Heights).

But this week as I caught up on my usual food blogs THE LIST keeps appearing everywhere. Everyone is talking about it. I doubt I'll ever make it to any of these restaurants. But just in case you happen to find yourself in Denmark, you'll want to hit up the Number 1 restaurant in the world. It's good information to know anyways (and a shout out to Chicago!)

There. I've done my civic duty.

What's your favorite restaurant ever?

love, me.

Monday, May 10, 2010

We declare the farmers markets OPEN!!

Let us commence the celebration! (Get it? Let us? Lettuce!?)

Eric and I enjoyed a gorgeous spring weekend in Richmond; the kind that reminds you of the joy and bounty of warm weather. In fact, as usual for us, it was a culinarily delightful weekend all around!

After a night at Richmond's First Friday gallery openings, we headed over to Comfort, a unique restaurant and bar across the street from Eric's apartment that features soothing, classic southern food. I'm not talking fried chicken and biscuits, though. The menu changes weekly and features local pork belly or wild tile fish or 1/2 roasted chicken with 2 or 3 sides. It was late, so we shared friend green tomatoes and two sides: braised collards and mac and cheese. We agreed that the best way to eat our late night food was to mix the greens and mac and deliver it to our mouths in mixed up forkfuls washed down by the BEST SUMMER COCKTAIL EVER. It took trips to four liquor stores the next day to find the right liquor, but we did it. Comfort called this cocktail something that I can't remember now. So instead, we rename it:

"Richmond in May (on bicycle)"

1/2 lemon, juiced

1/2 tablespoon sugar

small bunch fresh mint

muddle all that together and add lots of ice

equal parts vodka and St. Germain (about a shot each)

big splash very fizzy soda water

Give it a good stir and enjoy

We figured out that St. Germain is also decadent with champagne and there is a recipe for Pisco Sours with it thats on the list for next time.

St Germain is an elderflower liquor and the website specifically says that each spring the elderflower is collected in the foothills of the alps by peysan (a french peasant) on his bicycle and trekked to market. Isn't that charming? I wonder if its true...

Anyways. Saturday began early at the Forest Hills Farmers Market, which could also be called The Happiest Place On Earth. Seriously. There were guys playing banjo and singing "Goodnight Irene", babies with faces stained with fresh berries petting puppies. Even a big old hound dog that wanted love from everyone. And produce a-plenty. We left with some stunning red leaf lettuce, a bunch of scallions and the most gorgeous strawberries I've seen in a awhile.

After a trip to Ellwood Thompon's, a local organic grocery to get some rainbow chard and scallops for dinner, we dropped our treasures at home and headed to Pocahontas state park for a hike and picnic lunch. We were feeling aggressive: I had 11 miles in mind. But the pollen in the air had us beat and we settled for around 5. Just enough to whet our appetites for a healthy dinner and a cocktail (or 3).

Eric and I have recently become obesessed with all leafy greens: chard, kale, spinach, you name it (except for mustard greens). It's DELICIOUS and filling in a way that I thought only carbohydrates could satiate me. And so simple. And easy to change up! This weekend we made rainbow chard with the method below. But be advised that kale or chard are also delicious sexed up by being steamed with orange juice, garlic, raisins and crushed red pepper flakes.

Bring a small pot of salted water to boil. Meanwhile, get a nonstick pan heated with about a tablespoon of olive oil. Add fresh minced garlic to sizzle. Add slivered almonds and mix it up with the garlic and oil. Keep the pan hot and sizzling. When the water is boiling, add your rinsed and chopped greens for just 30 seconds to a mintue. Using tongs, tranfer your greens right to the sizzling garli, nuts and oil. Pan fry for about 3 minutes adding any other flavorings you like. Parmesean cheese is a nice finisher, but we didn't have any. A note: you can also dunk your greens in iced water after they boil to stop the cooking for a moment.

Our dinner of scallops, sauteed chard and salad with tomatoes, avocado and scallion was plain and decadent at the same time: in the way that only a farmers market can produce. And it made us both HAPPY! Welcome spring :)