April 30, 2013

Pad (Pat) Thai

It is starting to warm up nicely here. Over the weekend we went hiking and saw a ton of beautiful spring wildflowers. The park was a new place for us and the ground was covered in a blanket of wildflowers and ramps. The forest smelled slightly like garlic from all the ramps. After a long walk in the warm weather, I crave lighter foods and sometimes spicier foods. Pad (or sometimes called Pat or Phat) Thai definitely fits the bill. I ate Pad Thai once in Thailand. It was good, but it certainly wasn't my favorite dish I had there. But, it remains one of the most popular Thai dishes in the U.S. This was the first time I made this myself and we enjoyed it a lot. I used the recipe from Thai Food as a guide. I love this cookbook, but sometimes I take shortcuts or make substitutions because even with all the Asian markets around me, I can't always find every ingredient. Below is my adapted recipe which will serve two very hungry people.

April 23, 2013

Savory morel and goat cheese custards with wild ramp vinaigrette

Disclosure: I was provided product from Marx Foods for this recipe. As always, all opinions are my own.

I have been becoming increasingly interested in wild/foraged foods, and mushrooms in particular. Recently, I've read two fascinating books that combine natural history, cooking, and culture in regards to mushrooms: Mycophilia: Revelations from the Weird World of Mushrooms and Chanterelle Dreams, Amanita Nightmares: The Love, Lore, and Mystic of Mushrooms. I learned a lot from both of these books as well as my husband, who is an amateur forager. So when I saw that Marx Foods was holding their 5th Annual Morel Recipe Challenge: Baked Edition, I knew I wanted to participate (watch for a vote coming soon)! Morels are one of the most cherished edible mushrooms in North America. They are buttery and earthy, but also have a very fleeting season. 

 Voting is now live! Please visit this link to vote for my recipe! Thank you!

I received a sample package of dried morel mushrooms for the recipe contest. Their aroma was wonderful and they rehydrate easily. I was going back and forth on what to make with the morels, but I knew I wanted to really highlight their earthiness and not overpower them with too many other flavors -- plus the recipe needed to be baked in the oven. I decided on making a custard. While custards are generally thought of as dessert, this one is very savory. This time of year, the ramps are also emerging, so I wanted to incorporate those into my recipe -- their greens made a perfect vinaigrette to cut through all the creaminess of the custard. I used goat cheese and grass-fed cow milk in the custard to really highlight and focus on the earthiness of the mushrooms and spring in general. 

The recipe will serve 2-4 people. I made two custards in 6-oz. ramekins. You can eat one per person, or even share one. They are good as a starter to a meal or as part of a weekend brunch. Serve them with some toasted crusty bread and a salad of spring greens, if desired.  These are a decadent treat full of spring flavors.

April 16, 2013

Stir-fried squid and baby bok choy

Here's yet another Asian inspired recipe and another new protein for me to be cooking at home: squid. While I've certainly eaten fried calamari at restaurants, I've never cooked squid at home and I've rarely eaten it without a breading. I have to admit, I was a little nervous, but I was inspired by the beautiful recipe at one of my favorite blogs, Wild Greens & Sardines. I love her blog with its amazing photography and also her use of less common ingredients. If you haven't visited it before, I highly recommend doing so. 

Squid is something that gets tough very easily, so you have to either stew it for a long time, or cook it super quickly. I was afraid of making little rubber bands my first time around, but the squid turned out great - slightly chewy, yet tender and soft. I liked the idea of using some Thai flavors with the squid. Indeed, the two times I've tried squid without breading were in Thailand and at a Thai restaurant, so it was fitting. I thought the flavors were delicious with the slightly sweet squid and the slightly bitter bok choy. I served this dish over jasmine rice, which was certainly the longest part of this meal. The stir-fry itself is quick and easy - perfect for a weeknight meal. This dish serves two. 

April 11, 2013

Rabbit cacciatore

I had rabbit one time as a kid and was horrified when I found out what I just ate (and thoroughly enjoyed). I didn't eat rabbit again until fairly recently at a local Italian restaurant. We ordered some rabbit crostini and we really loved it. The next time I went there I got a rabbit main dish. Then I found out where I can buy them and it's been love ever since. Rabbit is similar to chicken in texture, but it is leaner and more flavorful. You can read more about rabbit meat at the link to the farm. Bottom line though, it's delicious!

This recipe is an adapted version of Stanley Tucci's recipe in The Tucci Cookbook. I was lucky enough to receive a free copy of this book from Foodie Blogroll. This is my first Italian cookbook and I didn't come from an Italian background. So, my idea of Italian food was the Americanized dishes like spaghetti, stuffed shells, and lasagna - basically pasta, red sauce, cheese, and meat. It's been great to explore this cuisine and I look forward to trying more recipes from this book. I was excited to find a rabbit variation on the usual chicken cacciatore. We really enjoyed this dish a lot - simple, flavorful, and hearty. I modified it slightly and added the herbs. This recipe will serve about 2-3 people, unless you are able to find a larger rabbit. Serve it with some crusty bread to soak up the sauce.

April 8, 2013

Mongolian beef and vegetable stir-fry

I must be in an Asian food mood lately because I have another recipe today that features Asian flavors and rice. I like stir-fries and curries because they are so quick, easy, and really versatile. You can use pretty much any veggies and protein that you want and it will taste good! They are a great way to get a homemade dinner on the table during the week and sometimes even quicker than take-out. I saw this recipe for Mongolian beef and used it as a guide for my version. I wanted to add vegetables to my dish and I also wanted to cut back on the amount of sugar and change out the vegetable oil. The result was a flavorful success! The thin slices of beef stayed tender and the sauce was a combination of salty and sweet with a touch of spice from the ginger and garlic.

This recipe will serve two to three people. Feel free to change the vegetables - broccoli, green peppers, scallions, mushrooms, etc. Serve it with rice and some Asian hot sauce such as Sriracha or chili-garlic sauce.