Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Shisito Peppers

If you were in New York City this past weekend, you know how brutally hot it was. If you weren't, I am going to assume that regardless of where you live, you've experienced brutally hot weather at some point. But no, I am not here to talk about the weather, although I find that I always have a lot to say on the topic....not the point. The point is, it was hot hot hot on Saturday and when invited my photographer friend over, I could promise her nothing more than a quick, easy and cold make-your-own salad for dinner.
sauteed shisito peppers
Between our plan making and dinner, I felt a pang of guilt for not putting any effort into our dinner. After a quick peak in my fridge revealed a bag of shisito peppers that I had gotten at the market earlier in the week, I knew I had my solution. For those of you who don't know, shisito peppers are small green peppers that look a bit like jalapenos, but with a ribbed exterior and thinner walls and skin. These peppers are mildly spicy and are very popular in Japanese cooking, especially for tempuras and stir-fries. Anyhow, after spotting these in my fridge I knew that these would be my extra addition to our meal. Yes, the stove would have to go on, but it wouldn't be on for more than 5 minutes and the final result of slightly charred, blistery peppers to munch on was worth the few extra degrees in the kitchen.
market fresh shisito peppers
Well my friend was definitely not disappointed in the peppers either and when I started babbling about shisitos, the market and god knows what else, she came up with a brilliant idea. When I have a 'market find' that I am so excited about, I should write about it here.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Mint Chocolate Ice Cream Sandwiches

I have been wanting an ice cream maker for, like, ever. Every summer as the heat starts to weigh down on me I walk into Williams Sonoma and stare at the ice cream machines, my mind bubbling with ideas of all the ice cream flavors, both unique and classic, that I would be able to make if I had one. This summer, I finally bought one and in my three proud weeks as an ice cream maker-owner, I have had no regrets. Although all the experiments have turned out pretty delicious (how could they not?), my favorite so far* is the mint.
ice cream sandwiches
* I have a feeling I am going to have a lot of favorites this summer, so bear with me.

Made with market fresh mint, this ice cream tastes like the actual herb and nothing like toothpaste or mouthwash or anything else that is artificially mint flavored. Seriously, this is the good stuff. On its own the ice cream is pretty close to perfect, but after reading an ice cream sandwich round up in Time Out New York, I decided to follow the trend and take things to the next level. Do you remember those world peace cookies I made at Christmas time? Well if you don't, let me remind you. They are buttery, chocolatey rounds of goodness, souped up with some extra chocolate chunks. Good on their own? Absolutely. Combined with mint ice cream? Heaven.
homemade mint ice cream
Yes, these are pretty heavenly but that doesn't mean there are no strings attached. If I am going to be honest these are essentially antithesis to bathing suit season. On the bright side, however, these are pretty time consuming to make so they really are a special treat.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Pesto Potato and Green Bean Salad

I'm not a big fan of superlatives, the best this, the worst that, the coolest girl, the cutest guy, etc... It all just seems too extreme and too concrete. However, today I am making an exception to the rule because I think that everyone should know that the Union Square Farmer's market is one of the best places on earth. Now maybe I would think all farmer's markets are that great, but this is the one I know best and I just love it. As a cook, I have had a difficult time coming to terms with farmer's markets. So often the produce and ingredients they offer are so good on their own that the importance of my role in the dinner equation is essentially eliminated. I had to get over it when I realized that some of the best food I have eaten may not be because I am a good cook, but because I am a cook with good ingredients.
pesto potato and green bean salad
That being said, when I do use market fresh ingredients I do my best to keep things simple and avoid interfering too much . For example, in this salad the three main ingredients are potatoes, string beans and basil, all straight from the market, perfect on their own, but even better together. Now unfortunately, I don't have any pictures of the final product because this was made at night and gone by the morning. So you're going to have to use your imagination to visualize the final result. It's easy, take the picture of the string beans and potatoes and tint it green. Not any green though, tint it the green of the pesto in the picture below. There you go. Looks good, right?
homemade pesto
To keep things simple, this salad just tastes like a sum of its parts. Sweet, waxy potatoes. Crunchy, green string beans. Woodsy, biting basil. That's it and that's all you want from it.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Mock Apple Pie

When you've been out of the kitchen and away for such a long time, it seems that cooking again can be daunting. During my travels I so much enjoyed having every delicious bite laid out for me, that the prospect of making anything myself seemed like a thing of the past. Now that I have returned home and settled in, I suddenly got the urge again, the desire to make something new and different. So I made something new and different, something I have never heard of before, Mock Apple Pie.
mock apple pie
If anyone knows about this I would be curious to find out where and how they learned about it. When I saw this recipe I was immediately inspired to make it because it seemed so foreign for a riff on an All-American classic. You might wonder what it is if the apples in this really are 'mock.' Well, believe it or not, this crust is chock-full of a ritz cracker filling that has absorbed a mixture of cream of tartar, lemon juice and cinnamon. The original pictures fooled me and I imagine based on these pictures, you may have a hard time believing me too.
mock apple pie
So, about the taste. When my mom tasted it she looked at me, slightly confused, and said, "wait, so what kind of apples did you use?" There is no doubt that this pie tastes like apples with a delicious hint of cinnamon.