Cinnamon Rolls

My god, it’s been a while, hasn’t it? It seems so cliché to say how fast time flies but it really is true when you look at the last time an update was posted on here: October 2014!

It’s been brutally cold here in New York City so there’s been a lot of cooking to save myself from running outside to pick up lunch during the week. For a while there, I was in no mood to cook. In fact, my new year’s resolution was to take more naps during the weekend. I’m not getting any younger and I’m trying to change the way I while away my free time. I don’t want to feel like I always have to accomplish something. It’s taking a lot for me to say to myself that it’s okay not to do anything. Instead of being unproductive, I now think of it as getting more me time.

Part of that is honing my baking skills. I’m not there yet but I’m trying. Lisa and I were talking about Louis CK’s Cinnabon shameless bit one day and it made me want to eat cinnamon rolls the next. I found a vegan recipe that I changed up because I only have the regular kind of butter in my fridge. This turned out not to be too sweet which I liked. It was excellent with hot tea.

1 packet instant yeast
1 cup almond milk
1/2 cup butter, divided
1/4 tsp salt
3 cups flour
canola oil
1/2 tbsp cinnamon
1/4 cup + 1 tbsp sugar, divided

1. In a large sauce pan, heat the almond milk and 3 tbsp of the butter until warm and melted, but without boiling. Remove from heat and let it sit until it’s warm. It should not be too hot or it will kill the yeast.
2. Transfer mixture to a large mixing bowl and sprinkle on yeast. Let activate for 10 minutes, then add 1 tbsp sugar and the salt and stir.
3. Add in flour 1/2 cup at a time, stirring as you go. The dough will be sticky. When it is too thick to stir, transfer to a lightly floured surface and knead for a minute or so until it forms a loose ball. Rinse your mixing bowl out, coat it with canola oil, and add your dough ball back in. Cover with plastic wrap and set in a warm place to rise for about 1 hour, or until doubled in size.
4. On a lightly floured surface, roll out the dough into a thin rectangle. Brush with 3 tbsp melted butter and top with 1/4 cup sugar and the cinnamon.
5. Starting at one end, tightly roll up the dough seam side down. Cut the dough into 1.5 to 2-inch sections and place in a well-buttered round pan. You should have about 10 rolls. Brush with remaining 2 tbsp melted butter and cover with plastic wrap. Set on top of the oven to let rise again while you preheat oven to 350º.
6. Once the oven is hot, bake rolls for 25-30 minutes or until slightly golden brown. Let cool for a few minutes and then serve immediately.

Black Tagliatelle with Hot Sausage and Littleneck Clams

I wanted to take on making pasta again at home so I stopped by Buon Italia’s joint in Chelsea Market to buy cuttlefish ink to make black pasta. My heart broke when my dough refused to form so I ended up throwing everything including the 10 egg yolks required. It’s a very expensive hobby, pasta-making; I don’t know why I can’t seem to do it myself. I was fine while I was taking the class at Rustico Cooking; perhaps it’s time to retake the class just to get the feel of the dough again.

The good thing is that I bought black tagliatelle as well for backup. I didn’t want to spend more money buying Nduja sausages so I just picked up regular hot sausages. The clam shells were heavy but were a great addition to this dish. It was very pretty at the end and I highly recommend making this when you have a night to tuck it in with a nice glass of red wine.

olive oil
4 cloves garlic, crushed
1/2 sweet onion, roughly chopped
2 bay leaves
20 littleneck clams, rinsed and scrubbed
1/4 cup dry white wine
3 hot Italian sausages, removed from casing
1 tbsp tomato paste
black tagliatelle pasta
fresh lemon juice
2 tbsps butter
a handful of parsley, finely chopped
2 scallions, sliced thinly

1. Heat the oil in a large pot over medium heat. Sauté the garlic until light golden brown. Add the onions and sweat until soft and translucent, about 10 minutes. Add the bay leaves, clams and half of the wine. Cover the pot and steam for 5 to 7 minutes, removing the clams as they open. Strain the cooking liquid and set aside in a bowl. Remove and reserve the meat from the clams and roughly chop; discard shells.
2. In a skillet, cook the sausage pieces and render the fat. Crush the sausages into smaller pieces with the back of your spatula while cooking. Deglaze the pan with the remaining wine and reduce by half by simmering in low fire. Add tomato paste and reserved clam juice and bring to a simmer.
3. Meanwhile, cook the pasta in another pot of boiling water until al dente. Drain the pasta, reserving some of the cooking water. Add the pasta to the sausage. Add the reserved clams and butter and toss over medium-high heat until the pasta is well coated, about 2 minutes. Stir in the pasta water a little bit at a time so it has a nice consistency. To finish, toss with the lemon juice and parsley and garnish with the breadcrumbs and scallions.

Stewed Cranberry Beans with Bacon

Miriam and I drove up to the Catskills for her bachelorette party two weekends ago. Yep, a bachelorette party with just the two of us. I’ve known her for the last 12 years and even though we’re always miles away from each other, we just always pick up where we left off the next time we’re together. She was coming from Singapore and was jet-lagged so our Phoenecia weekend was pretty chill and quiet. Besides eating and drinking around town, we stopped by Migliorelli Farm to pick up some fresh produce. I ended up taking home their fresh cranberry beans which I shelled several days later and soaked before making this dish.

olive oil
4 slices bacon, chopped
2 shallots, finely chopped
salt, pepper
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup shelled cranberry beans, soaked for 24 hours, drained
chicken broth
2 sprigs rosemary, roughly chopped
2 tsps lemon zest
2 tbsps lemon juice
a dash chile pepper flakes
1 tsp sambal oelek
a handful of spinach leaves

1. Cook and stir olive oil and bacon in a large skillet over medium heat until bacon is fully cooked and begins to crisp, 8 to 10 minutes. Stir in shallots and season with salt and pepper and cook and stir for 2 to 3 minutes over medium heat. Add garlic and cook for 1 minute.
2. Add the beans and chicken broth. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to low, cover and simmer until the beans begin to swell, about 25 minutes.
3. Uncover and continue cooking bean and bacon mixture until the liquid reduces and beans are tender, 5 to 10 more minutes. Add rosemary, lemon zest, lemon juice, and chile pepper flakes. Stir in sambal oelek to incorporate and to adjust the taste. Remove from heat, stir in spinach until wilted.

Halibut with Ground Veal and Cilantro Sauce

I was watching a Top Chefs Duel episode with Stephanie Izard and was intrigued by the halibut dish that she prepared the judges all fawned over. I’m always looking for seafood recipes outside of roasting them whole so I was glad to buy a nice halibut piece from Chelsea Market’s Lobster Place to try it.

I found the recipe on Food & Wine but made changes when, surprisingly, my neighborhood grocery store did not have ground pork the day I stopped by. I also didn’t want to walk an avenue away to pick up tamarind from the Mexican store (I’ve seen them there before outside of Chinatown), so I ended up buying the smallest bottle of pomegranate juice I can find to substitute. I would have cooked the Pom juice down for a thicker consistency, but the recipe needed a scant amount so I just threw it in for its tartiness.

1 bunch of cilantro, roughly chopped
1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
2 tbsps white balsamic vinegar
2 tsps Dijon mustard
a dollop of honey
salt, pepper
peanut oil
1 medium shallot, minced
3 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 pound ground veal
1 1/2 tbsps sugar
1 tbsp white miso paste
1 tsp pomegranate juice
1/4 cup salted roasted peanuts, grounded
fresh lime juice
a nice piece of halibut fillet

1. Make the cilantro sauce. In a food processor, purée the cilantro, olive oil, vinegar, mustard and honey. Season with salt and pepper. Set aside.
2. Cook the veal. Heat some peanut oil in a saucepan. Add the shallot and garlic and cook until softened. Add the veal and cook over moderately high heat, breaking up the meat, until browned. Add the sugar, miso, pomegranate, peanuts and 1/2 cup of water to the pork. Simmer over moderately low heat until thickened, 2 minutes. Season with salt and pepper; stir in the lime juice and keep warm.
3. Cook the fish. In a nonstick skillet, heat the remaining 2 tablespoons of peanut oil. Season the halibut with salt and pepper. Cook over moderately high heat until browned and just cooked through, about 4 minutes per side. Set the fish on a plate and top with the veal and cilantro sauce.

Penne with Squash Blossoms

Summer came in late for us here in New York City. It’s already September and I’m only starting to see summer produce at the farmers’ markets. It was with some shock that I bought squash blossoms when I saw them at my Harlem’s produce stand one Tuesday morning while walking my dog Atticus.

olive oil
1 tbsp unsalted butter
1 red onion, finely chopped
3 stalks of celery, finely chopped
1 medium carrot, finely chopped
a handful of parsley, finely chopped
12 zucchini blossoms, halved; stems removed if hardy
6 saffron threads
2 cups chicken or vegetable broth
1 egg yolk
penne pasta
Pecorino Romano, shaved

1. Put a large pot of salted water over high heat; this will be your pasta pot.
2. In the meantime, heat a splash of olive oil and the butter in a large skillet over medium heat. Sauté the red onion, celery, carrot, and parsley, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables are translucent. Add the zucchini blossoms, a pinch or two of salt, and the saffron, and stir gently to mix.
3. Add about 3/4 cup of broth, and stir to combine. Raise the heat to medium-high and add the rest of the broth a splash or two at a time, taking about 5 minutes to add it all. Stir frequently. Allow the sauce to simmer until most of the liquid has evaporated and only a thin film of thickened broth remains in the pan. Remove from the heat.
4. In a small bowl, whisk the egg yolk slightly with a fork. Meanwhile, cook the pasta until tender but al dente. When the pasta is almost ready, place the zucchini blossom sauce back over medium heat. Use a small measuring cup to scoop up about 3 tbsps of pasta water and, whisking constantly with a fork, gradually add the hot water to the egg yolk: together, they should make a loose, pale yellow liquid. Pour this mixture into the sauce in the skillet, stirring well. Scoop some cooked pasta into a serving bowl, and toss with the sauce. Top with shaved cheese.