November 29, 2009

Cauliflower Disguised in Two-Ways: "Mashed Potatoes" and "Popcorn"


After our recent turkey fest, we decided to add a few more vegetarian dishes to our dinner.  After going to the Greenmarket and buying a cauliflower the size of our head, we searched our favorite websites for inspiration.  We landed on two ideas:  Cauliflower Popcorn and Mashed Cauliflower (like Mashed Potatoes) - both very creative ways to make cauliflower more fun and appetizing to kids (and meat-loving husbands).


The biggest cauliflower we have ever purchased!
 
We got the idea for Mashed Cauliflower from fellow food bloggers The Duo Dishes and Mardi of eatlivetravelwrite.  We have also been doing a Holiday recipe email exchange and so coincidentally received another recipe for this dish.  Our version was inspired by all of these sources and makes for a great low-carb alternative to mashed potatoes.    

Ingredients:
Half of that massive head of cauliflower
1/2 stick of butter
1 clove garlic, pressed
low-sodium vegetable broth
rosemary
kosher salt
ground black pepper
shredded cheddar cheese

Directions:
1. Bring water to a boil

2. Boil pieces for 10-15 mins until tender

3. Use potato masher to mash cauliflower

4. Add butter and desired amount of salt, pepper, cheese, and broth to create desired consistency.  Mash all ingredietns together.

5. Optional:  We put the mashed cauliflower in a casserole dish to brown in the oven.



That's it!  It was a really easy dish to create. 

The second recipe comes from Heidi Swanson's wonderful website 101 Cookbooks.  We liked the idea of Cauliflower Popcorn since it was easy and we love chili pepper flakes in most of our foods.

Ingredients:
Half huge cauliflower head, broken off into small pieces
Extra virgin olive oil
Chili pepper flakes
Salt
Day-old bread (anything hard)

Directions:
1. Preheat oven to 400F

2. Completely cover cauliflower pieces with olive oil (Note:  Make sure your cauliflower is as dry as possible after washing and before you cover it in oil.  It will be easier to brown). Sprinkle with salt to taste.

3. Lay a single layer of cauliflower on your baking sheet.

 
4. Bake for 20 mins or until brown on bottom

5. Crumble bread into small pieces (breadcrumbs) and mix in bowl with leftover olive oil, and as much chili pepper flakes and salt as you'd like.

6. Take out cauliflower, turn over, and add bread crumb mixture.

7. Bake until cauliflower is browned (approx 15 mins)

8. Serve immediately

This snack/side dish was so good - crunchy, spicy, and incredibly addictive!  

We had fun making these two side-dishes from one very large cauliflower.  It made us wonder...what dishes do you create to "hide" healthy ingredients?

November 26, 2009

Guinness Chocolate Cupcakes

This week was filled with celebrations for us - In addition to Thanksgiving, it was also my husband's birthday.

He's not a dessert-guy (which works out well when we order fixed-price meals and I get to have 2 desserts!), but I think every birthday (especially a milestone one) deserves a cake.

So I decided to make cupcakes with one of his favorite ingredients:  Guinness beer!

I used Nigella Lawson's Guinness Chocolate cake recipe and poured the batter into muffin tins to make cupcakes.

They came out rich and dark, like the stout, with cream cheese frosting acting as the foam or beer head. 


Ingredients:
For the cake:
1 cup Guinness ( I used the Extra Stout)
¾ cup sour cream
1 stick plus 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 eggs
1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
¾ cup unsweetened cocoa   
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 cups sugar (Nigella's recipe calls for superfine sugar, but I just used regular sugar)
2 ½ teaspoons baking soda

For the Frosting:
8oz Philadelphia cream cheese
½ cup heavy cream
1 ¼ cups confectioners' sugar

Directions:
1. Preheat the oven to 350°F
2. Line muffin tins with cupcake liners.  (If making a cake, butter a 9-inch springform pan instead)
3. Pour the Guinness into a large wide saucepan.
 
4. Add the butter – in spoons or slices – and heat until the butter's melted
 
5.  When butter is melted, you should whisk in the cocoa and sugar.
 
6.  In a bowl, beat the sour cream with the eggs and vanilla.
 
7. Pour into the brown, buttery, beery pan.
 
8. Finally whisk in the flour and baking soda.
 
9. Pour the cake batter into the muffin tins (or greased and lined pan).
10. Bake for 45 minutes to an hour.
11.  Leave to cool completely in the pan on a cooling rack.
12.  When the cake's cold, sit it on a flat platter or cake stand and get on with the frosting.
 
13.  Lightly whip the cream cheese until smooth, sift over the confectioners' sugar and then beat them both together. Add the cream and beat again until it makes a spreadable consistency. 
 
14.   Ice the top of the black cake so that it resembles the frothy top of the famous pint.

My husband loved the cupcakes - especially paired with his Guinness and other stout beers.  The cupcake was rich, chocolatey, with only a hint of Guinness taste.  I think the cake instead of the cupcakes would have been even more moist, but the cupcakes were fun and easy to share with his family. I'll definitely make these again - I think they'd be perfect for St. Patrick's Day with a Guinness milk shake or ice cream float!

November 25, 2009

Happy Thanksgiving with Scenes from the Macy's Thanksgiving Parade

We wanted to wish everyone a very Happy Thanksgiving!   

To our family and friends (both online and offline!), thank you for all of your love and support (and patience with our numerous photos!)

We are very thankful to have met new people though our website and have been inspired by your comments, writing, and shared love of food.

We wish you all a safe and happy holiday.  In lieu of food pics, we hope you enjoy these photos from past Thanksgiving Parades in NYC.


 
Macy's Thanksgiving Balloon viewing - 2006
 
Macy's Thanksgiving Parade - 2008
 
Macy's Thanksgiving Parade - 2008 (The Smurf balloon was our favorite!)

Happy Thanksgiving!

November 24, 2009

New Amsterdam Market: November Edition


This past Sunday, we went back to the New Amsterdam Market and despite getting there just after it opened, it was even more crowded than the last time we were there!  We were actually happy to see more people enjoying the market - the more people out there supporting the vendors, the more likely the New Amsterdam Market will continue beyond December.


As it was last month, Luke's Lobster was the most popular booth with the longest line for their fresh lobster rolls.  We went straight for The Bent Spoon - after all, what's better than ice cream for breakfast?  We got a scoop of Bourbon Sea Salt Caramel ice cream (made with Hudson Valley Bourbon) with a scoop of Sweet Potato-Pecan ice cream.


Cheese please!  Ricotta, Cheddar, Mozzarella...


Beautiful mushrooms, pumpkin soup, bacon peanut brittle, and cucumber sandwiches.

One of the new vendors this month was Intelligentsia Coffee & Tea .  Based in Chicago, Intellisgentsia is known for some of the best coffee in the country.

At the market they were demonstrating their Celebration blend with each of the component beans (from Kenya and Ethiopia).  Though the Celebration blend was fresh, balanced, and fragrant, we ended up buying the Kenya beans for their stronger, richer flavor.






Stumptown Coffee was the other new popular vendor.  We have enjoyed their coffee before in the Ace Hotel and so we knew it was wonderful, rich coffee.  Many others did too, with one woman declaring Stumptown the best coffee in the world, while others waited patiently (despite being told there were already 10 people on the waiting list for cups of hot coffee) while individual coffees were being brewed.


As expected, there were lots of fresh produce, jellies, and dips.  The brussels sprouts on the stems were quickly sold out.


We ended our day at the market with a New York wine tasting.  One vineyard even provided the Riesling grapes that would be used in the wines. 

It was another fun outing to the market and hope to see it pop up again in the new year!  The next market is scheduled for Sunday, December 20th - just in time for Christmas!

November 23, 2009

Blue Hill at Stone Barns Part II: The "Table" part of our "Farm to Table" outing


After wandering about the Stone Barns farm area and seeing how much the farm animals, produce, and herbs are well-treated and respected, we were eager to see how our meal would be prepared.  We have showed you the "Farm" part of our "Farm to Table" adventure, and now we bring you the "Table" part with Blue Hill's $85 Sunday farmers' feast (4 courses).

When we first sat down and looked at the menu, we immediately noticed that there were no entrees listed.

Instead of "Today's Special dish", we were given "today's freshest and most seasonal ingredients" from both Stone Barns and from local vendors.

It was a little overwhelming, but we knew we were in good hands.  We told our server to bring us whatever the chef recommended and that we eat anything and everything.

Rather than ask us what ingredients we wanted in our meal, our server instead asked us a few questions regarding game meat (yes, please), cooking preparation preference (however the chef recommends, but usually the rarer the better!), and any aversions or allergies (none!). 
We started off with a bottle of house sparkling water and cold Captain Lawrence's Xtra Gold beer ($19, which was kept on ice, like champagne, for us!).  Drinking beer from a Burgundy wine glass made us feel very proper and sophisticated (like when George on Seinfeld started eating chocolate bars with a knife and fork).
 
We love it when bread is crusty and crunchy.

Our next drinks were a bit more serious:
Apple Pie (left, $14):  This was made with Heart of the Hudson vodka (infused with apples), apple cider, brown sugar, and cinnamon.  This drink smelled like apple pie fresh from the oven, but the cold drink definitely had a kick to it.  Hmm...we never thought of adding vodka to our pies before...

2007 Melville "Estate-Verna's" Santa Rita Hills Syrah (right, $15):  This Melville Syrah, like their pinots or chardonnays, is always a good choice.  Their wines are great because you can drink them young for the primary fruit and spice, or let them open up or age so it they're smoother.  When we let this wine open up a little bit, we enjoyed this with our meal.  It was an affordable glass of rich, red wine.


Beet Burger:  This amuse bouche was buttery, rich, and sweet.  It was like popping a warm mini muffin in your mouth with deep rustic flavors from the recently-pulled-from-their-backyard Forono beets.

The Cauliflower Soup was made with Hudson Valley cauliflower.  It was warm, rich, yet simple and full of cauliflower flavor.  Growing up with steamed store-bought cauliflower, we never knew how much flavor could come from this vegetable.     

This is where our preference for all types of meats was rewarded.  We were served Bresaola (left) which was nice and salty and the cured ham (right) which was meaty and fatty.  While other tables were being served garden vegetables (which were displayed standing up so they looked really pretty),we enjoyed our house-made charcuterie.
 
Grilled Wahoo with purple and yellow cauliflower, concord grapes, and pumpkin.  We loved the vegetable mixture with the fish.  The fish itself was nicely prepared, on the rarer side as per our preference.  It was meaty and light.  Upon reflecting on this dish, we are not sure where the Wahoo was from since it was not on the menu nor is it usually found in the Northeast.
 
These eggs, just picked the morning of our meal, illustrated how fresh our next entree would be.

 This Morning's Farm Egg with forged mushrooms, kale, and pine nuts.
 
This photo does not do justice to the actual color of the yolk.  The yellow was such a deep color that it was almost orange.  The flavor, of course, was intense with a thick texture that coats the throat.  This shows what a difference the hen's diet makes in producing this egg.
The mushrooms were tender, the pine nuts were crunchy, and the kale (which we had just seen in the garden) was so flavorful and delicate we wanted more.  
 
Wild Turkey with Brussels Sprouts, rutabega puree, concord grape, and walnuts.
 
These brussels sprouts were so bright, beautiful, and delicate.  It lacked the bitterness normally associated with brussels sprouts.  The wild turkey's white meat was better and more moist than any turkey dark meat we have eaten before.  Though the portion looks small on the plate, it was actually very substantial. 
 
Next up was our dessert courses to end our celebratory meal.
 
This was our favorite of the two desserts.  It had Maple ice cream wrapped in chocolate crisps.  There was also white chocolate and mint in the dessert to add to the mix of flavors.  We loved all of the crunchy textures mixed with the melt-in-your-mouth chocolate.
 
The second dessert was also good, but not as sinfully rich as the previous chocolate dish.  This dessert had a Poached pear with vanilla ice cream and cream of wheat.  It was lighter than the other, similar to having pear preserves.  Overall, we were happy to be able to try two different desserts.

We ended our meal with a double espresso and cappuccino.  Loved the curved dish (in the background) our warm milk was served in!

Just before we were about to pay our bill, our server offered to take us behind the scenes to see the kitchen!

We excitedly finished our drinks, pay our bill, and headed to the kitchen.  It was a surprisingly calm operation in a bright space.  We were pleasantly surprised to see Executive Chef Dan Barber preparing a dish (it was of beet chips, artfully displayed on a tower).


On our way out, we spoke with the hostess to find out what was the best ways to score these hard-to-get reservations at Blue Hill.  She mentioned that phoning the restaurant was best (vs OpenTable) and that the full menu was also available for walk-ins at the more casual bar. 
 
Blue Hill at Stone Barns is located at 630 Bedford Rd in Pocantico Hills, New York.