Seared Scallops with Fried Shiitakes and a Sweet Relish Served with Lemon Basil Oil

For a certain special chef's recent graduation, I created this appetizer as part of our final assignment. Everyone was extremely pleased with the results! (makes 16):
2 T olive oil
1.5 cups red onions-brunoise (very small dice~1/8 inch)
1/2 cup yellow peppers-brunoise
1 green chili-minced, seeds and all
3/4 cup raisins
1/4 cup dried currants


Savory Carrot Bread

This is my adaptation of a bread recipe from a book which is old enough to be my mother! Loosely translated, "The Book of Tasty and Healthy Food" was published in 1955 and glorified by the academy of medicinal sciences of the CCCP! Wonder what Lenin would have thought of my recipe...? The bread comes out exceptionally moist on the inside with a tender crispy crust. It's a vibrant orange/yellow color, which makes for an exciting presentation (makes 1 loaf):
.4 oz dry yeast
1/2 cup warm water
 9 oz A.P. flour-separated by weight into 5 oz and 4 oz
4.5 oz carrots-shredded
2 eggs
1/4 t oregano
2 oz olive oil (plus extra for oiling baking dish)
2 T sugar
1 t salt
1/4 t nutmeg
1/4 t garlic powder
1/8 t cayenne pepper
1. Dissolve yeast in warm water for ~10 minutes, until it begins to bubble.


Review: Lomzynianka

Lomzynianka (try saying it three times in a row) has made Greenpoint Brooklyn its cozy home. With a typical gaudy Polish decor (fake animal heads, bright ribbons, plastic flowers, and the like), the 10-12 table dining room provides a surprisingly comforting and welcoming atmosphere.

Typically, during regular dinner hours, this place is spilling over with guests, especially due to the early closing hour of 9pm. This time, however, upon entering for a very late Tuesday lunch (3pm), we were faced with only two occupied tables and a fairly relaxed waiter...so relaxed that we helped ourselves to our seating of choice and waited a few moments for him to arrive.

For starters, my dining companion ordered a marinated red cabbage salad, heavily dressed in olive oil, with an appropriate balance of sour vs. sweet. My choice was the shredded red beets, which, on their own were a bit overly sweet, yet when consumed along side the rest of the meal provided a refreshing accompaniment.

As we waited for our main meals to arrive, we couldn't help but fixate on the various NY Times and Yelp reviews, interlaced with cheesy random paintings and religious iconography engulfing the room (to include a photo of the late Polish Pope). This time of day must have been 'family meal' for the staff, as the various cooks (resembling sweet grandmothers) strolled out of the kitchen with bowls of borscht and hearty bread, to get them through the day.

As our main meals emerged, we were faced with a great challenge...attempt to finish the enormous plates or save room for dessert? My friend's tongues in horseradish with mashed potatoes weren't the Miss America of plating, however it's what's on the inside that counts! Tender slices of freshly boiled tongue (most Americans are not very open to this dish, however, you have to try it to believe) were cradling the creamy horseradish sauce, which could have used a bit more kick. Creamy mashed potatoes, in combination with the sauce, were a great side.

My choice was the all-inclusive Polish platter. The extra large plate supported a mount of food! Three pierogies (potato, chicken, and mushroom/cabbage) were not overly fried and seemed to be pan seared, providing for a light texture and flavorful filling. The kielbasa, sweet and salty was grilled to perfection. Stuffed cabbage was extremely tender, yet the meat/rice filling could have used a bit more seasoning. The bigos (sauerkraut with chunks of beef) was incredibly flavored and came with tender, tiny, less-than-bite-size pieces of beef. While the kasha side-an Eastern European staple-was typically done. We feasted only for a short while, before coming to an answer to our initial dilemma of dessert vs. no dessert...I'm sure you've already guessed who won.

A crisp blinchik (crepe) filled with tender farmer cheese, sporting a side of sour cream was presented for dessert. Typically, the filling for this dish is a bit sweeter than Lomzynianka's, satisfying your after-dinner sweet tooth. Although this was probably the better choice, when choosing among various canned fillings of other blinchiki offerings (blueberry, cherry, or strawberry).

If you're in search of a great Polish home-cooked meal, head here...but don't forget your spice rack...you might be on your own in seasoning some of the dishes!
Lomzynianka 646 Manhattan Avenue, Brooklyn, NY 11222


All-In-One Spaghetti & Meatballs

This discovery came to me while contemplating making a lasagna vs. spaghetti/meatballs. Essentially, lasagna can be thought of as an all-in-one, combo meal...so why not make spaghetti and meatballs too? This recipe incorporates all of the components in one, super-flavorful, yummy ball! (serves 4):
2 cups bowtie pasta
1/4 cup olive oil
3/4 cup onion-small dice
1 T garlic-minced
1.5 lbs lean ground beef-grass fed
2 eggs
2 T paprika
1 T nutmeg
2 t cayenne pepper
2 T dried oregano
1/2 cup dried currants (or diced dried cranberries or apricots)
1/4 cup pistachios-shelled
1/2 cup shredded cheddar cheese
1.5 cup tomato sauce (homemade or store bought-organic)-divided
2 T salt
1.5 T pepper
1. In a saucepan, cook pasta according to directions; if you typically like it al dente, cook it ~2 minutes longer this time; remove from heat, drizzle with 1 T olive oil (so it doesn't stick), and reserve.
2. Heat 2 T olive oil in a pan and add onions; cook until translucent.
3. Add garlic and cook for 1 minute longer; remove and reserve.
3. In a large bowl, mix onion/garlic mixture, ground beef, eggs, paprika, nutmeg, cayenne, oregano, currants, pistachios, cheese, half of the tomato sauce, salt, and pepper.
4. Working in batches, dice bowties on a cutting board.
5. Add to the beef mixture and mix well.
6. Roll mixture into 1 to 2 inch balls.
7. On medium, heat 1 T olive oil in a pan and add meat balls to the pan; add the remaining 1/2 cup tomato sauce to the pan and cook for ~10-12 minutes, or until cooked through.



Yep...it's me...featured on the front page of Food52  =) Couldn't have come on a better day...my graduation from culinary school. So excited! Thank you!


Sesame Almond Risotto with Parmesan

Making risotto is a bit of a consuming venture, as you must stir it throughout the entire cooking process. However, the creamy, cheesy grains are a great accompaniment to fish, poultry, or meats! Make up your own combo by simply substituting a different cheese and herbs. (serves 2:)
2 T sesame oil
1 small onion-minced
1 cup Arborio rice
2 t salt
pepper-to taste
1/4 cup dry white wine
5-7 cups hot chicken stock
1/2 cup grated Parmesan
1/4 cup sliced almonds
2 T cilantro-minced
1. Heat oil in a sauce pan and sweat the onion until translucent (on med-low heat).
2. Add rice to the pan and toss to coat; add the salt and pepper and saute, stirring constantly, on low heat for ~2 min.
3. Add wine to the pan and reduce until it's almost gone, stirring constantly.
4. Using a ladle add stock to the pan, one by one; once the rice has absorbed the first ladle, add the next one and continue. You must do this on low heat and stir constantly! The process should take 15-20 minutes. The risotto should be creamy and soft.
5. Add Parmesan and stir to incorporate. Turn the heat off and cover. Allow to sit for 2-4 minutes.
6. Garnish with almonds and cilantro.


Carob vs. Cocoa Powder

Since my recent post of the devilish chocolate indulgence cookies, a curious follower of my blog posed the following question: "These cookies look delicious! I may try them very soon. Might you know of any good (healthy) carob recipes? I have a vat of carob powder and I don't know what to do with it. Thanks dear!"

This sent me on a short excursion to find the best use for the tub-o-carob the reader has stored away. Carob, like cocoa powder, comes from a tropical pod, which is dried, roasted, and ground into the powder that we're familiar with. However, carob is a slightly healthier alternative when comparing the two. With a higher calcium count (three times as much), no caffeine content, nor fat, carob presents your taste buds with a different experience (1). When contemplating substitution, consider that while unsweetened carob powder is slightly sweeter than its cocoa counterpart (containing twice the carbohydrate content), due to the composition and lack of fat, carob is considerably less flavorful. When making the switch, for every one part of cocoa powder, use 2.5 parts carob by weight (1). 

Don't forget that both contain properties thought to reduce artery clogging and cancer risks (1), so go ahead and indulge...I mean get healthy!
Try sweet carobutter squares (2); freeze and use them at your leisure in various baking projects (makes 12, one ounce squares):
1 cup butter-room temperature
1/3 cup powdered sugar
1 cup carob powder-sifted

1. Mix butter and sugar together; stir in carob powder. Mix until smooth. Measure out into containers (such as ice trays or individual, one ounce cups) and refrigerate or freeze for later use.
2. Omit the sugar for regular carobutter squares.
3. Use for carob cupcake surprise by: cutting each sweet carobutter square into quarters; filling muffin tins 1/2 way full with batter; dropping a quarter of a carobutter square inside, and placing the rest of the batter on top. Bake as directed
3. Try carobutter ice-cream swirls by: allowing 1 quart of vanilla ice-cream to sit at room temperature for ~30 minutes. Adding 3-4 sweet carobutter squares and swirling them into the ice-cream with a knife, then refreezing the ice-cream (2).
Also, why not try using your carob powder in moist zucchini carob cookies (4-5 dozen cookies) (2):
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1/2 cup butter-room temp
1 egg
1 cup carob powder
2 t vanilla extract
1 cup brown sugar
2 cups whole wheat flour
1.5 t baking soda
2 t cinnamon
1 t nutmeg
1/2 t salt
1 cup grated zucchini
1 cup coconut
1 cup chopped pecans

1. In a bowl, mix oil, butter, and egg; beat in carob powder, brown sugar, and vanilla until thick.
2. Stir in flour, soda, spices, and salt; mix well.
3. Add zucchini, coconut, and pecans and mix well.
4. Drop spoonfuls, 2 inches apart, on a lightly greased cookie sheet.
5. Bake at 375F, 8-10 minutes. Allow to cool (2)
I would also consider mixing carob powder with powdered sugar and adding it to cream cheese for a delicious carob cheese cake! Will have to do some testing and report back with the yummy findings.
(1)Source: Easy Home Cooking Magazine; TLC Cooking, What is Carob? Discovery Communications LLC.
(2)Source: Carob Cookbook; by: Tricia Hamilton;Sunstone Press Publishing.


Chocolate Cookie Madness

Clearly, this is a chocoholic's heaven. A double dose of chocolate, nestled in a chocolaty shell, with chocolate chunks...who thinks of these things? TasteFood...that's who! A fellow contributor to a food/recipe site (Food52.com), created this indulgent, which I couldn't resist. I altered it just a tad, by adding cocoa nibs, sea salt, and hazelnuts. The results are amazing (makes ~30 cookies):
14 oz dark chocolate
1/4 cup + 1 T unsalted butter
1.5 cups sugar
4 large eggs
2 t vanilla extract
1/2 cup AP flour
1.5 t baking powder
1/2 t salt
1/4 cup cocoa nibs
8 oz coarsely chopped dark chocolate
1/3 cup toasted hazelnuts
1/4 cup sea salt
1.  Melt 14 oz. chocolate and butter in top of double broiler, stirring until smooth.
2. Remove from heat.
3. Beat sugar and eggs in bowl of electric mixer until thick and very pale in color, 4 minutes.
4. Add chocolate and vanilla to eggs and mix well to combine.
5. Sift flour, baking powder, salt, and cocoa nibs together in a small bowl.
6. Stir into chocolate batter.
7. Add chopped chocolate and hazelnuts and stir to combine.
8. Refrigerate batter 30 minutes to allow to thicken. (Do not refrigerate longer, or the batter will begin to harden.)
9. Line baking sheet with parchment paper.
10. Drop heaping tablespoons of batter onto parchment; top each cookie with a sprinkle of sea salt.
11. Bake in pre-heated 350 F oven until tops crack, about 10-12 minutes.
12. Remove from oven and cool completely.

Thank you Lynda Balslev!!