Nov 22, 2009

Big Fat Greek Feta

Is it just me, or did the "holiday season" start a little early this year? Christmas carols are being piped through store stereos, it's impossible to park at the mall, and I actually passed an SUV with a big red bow stuck on it's hood... what happened to waiting until AFTER Turkey Day for all this nonsense?

First things first - Thanksgiving is this week and it deserves our full consideration. Yeah, December may bring all the presents, but the really good eating happens in November. 

So whether you're heading home to feast with family, across town to stuff yourself with friends or hosting the whole showdown at your place, start everybody off with this pretty baked feta appetizer.  It's full of greek flavors and takes just minutes to prepare - so you can appease the crowd with a snack and get back to business in the kitchen!

How to: Baked Greek Feta
Layer quarter-inch slices of good feta cheese in a shallow oven-proof serving dish, overlapping slices slightly. Scatter 8-10 chopped kalamata olives (pits removed) over the cheese and drizzle with olive oil and a little salt & black pepper. Place under the broiler until cheese is bubbling at the edges and starting to brown on top.  Remove from the oven - carefully! - and top with chopped fresh mint, lemon zest and red chili flakes. Serve hot with crusty bread or toasted pita.

NOTE: It's really important to use good feta cheese here - the commercially packaged feta from the grocery store is so tangy it'll be overpowering. I like to use the kind that comes in a container of water - it's usually imported from Greece. You may have to go to a farmers market or specialty market to find it.

Nov 16, 2009

Pressed for gift ideas?

Want to impress the hell out of your holiday hostesses? Head over to Cost Plus World Market and pick up a bottle of their Pomegranate & Raspberry or Cranberry Presse. It's a beautifully packaged sparkling juice that will make a terrific hostess gift - simply pair it with a small bottle of good-quality vodka. 

Hosting your own shindig? Serve with a splash of champagne at brunch or straight up as a mocktail for your designated drivers or knocked-up gal pals!

Nov 11, 2009

Get Sauced

Perhaps you’ve heard of the Momofuku food empire? What started as a noodle shop in NYC has become a force to be reckoned with in the food world. Every time you turn around someone is praising the vision & talent of Momofuku’s founder, David Chang. He’s a regular mention in food magazines, was featured on the USA network, and he recently released his first cookbook.

I tried one of the recipes from the book this week, but rather than describe it, I’m going to let you read David’s instructions from an excerpt posted on - his enthusiasm and passion for food are addictive:

The dish goes something like this: boil 6 ounces of ramen noodles, drain, toss with 6 tablespoons Ginger Scallion Sauce (below); top the bowl with 1/4 cup each of Bamboo Shoots (page 54 of Momofuku); Quick-Pickled Cucumbers (page 65 of Momofuku); pan-roasted cauliflower (a little oil in a hot wide pan, 8 or so minutes over high heat, stirring occasionally, until the florets are dotted with brown and tender all the way through; season with salt); a pile of sliced scallions; and a sheet of toasted nori. But that’s because we’ve always got all that stuff on hand. Improvise to your needs, but know that you need ginger scallion sauce on your noodles, in your fridge, and in your life. For real.-- David Chang

2 1/2 cups thinly sliced scallions (greens and whites; from 1 to 2 large bunches)
1/2 cup finely minced peeled fresh ginger
1/4 cup grapeseed or other neutral oil
1 1/2 teaspoons usukuchi (light soy sauce)
3/4 teaspoon sherry vinegar
3/4 teaspoon kosher salt, or more to taste
(Makes about three cups)

Mix together the scallions, ginger, oil, soy, vinegar, and salt in a bowl. Taste and check for salt, adding more if needed. Though it’s best after 15 or 20 minutes of sitting, ginger scallion sauce is good from the minute it’s stirred together up to a day or two in the fridge. Use as directed, or apply as needed.

I actually added quite a bit more soy sauce to mine, but other than that I stayed pretty true to the noodle bowl he suggested and it was phenomenal. Though I did use the pickled carrots from a can of pickled jalapenos instead of the cucumbers he listed. I know, I know - I have a problem with those damn jalapenos!

And the sauce is just fantastic. You’ll come up with a thousand ways to use it – I’m trying to decide between a gingery pork stir fry or a pile of dumplings to dunk in it. But one thing I know for sure is that David’s right – Ginger Scallion Sauce now has a permanent place in my fridge.

Nov 4, 2009

Easy, Delicious Meals

Real Simple magazine has put out a new compilation of their best recipes and it's great. As promised on the cover, it's full of easy recipes that sound pretty delicious. Most require only a handful of easy-to-find ingredients and simple techniques - pretty basic stuff but perfect for weeknights or starter cooks... 

It's $13 and you can find it on newsstands or the magazine section of your bookstore. It's scheduled to be on display until January 8th, 2010 but there's no guarantee - if they sell out before then there won't be any reprints.

Starting your gift list for the holidays? Why not wrap up a copy for a kitchen-minded gal pal and include a year-long subscription to Real Simple? Your gift will last all year long and she'll love it-