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Archive for February, 2009

bananabuttermilkbread1

People are very particular about their bananas, as ubiquitous as the yellow fruit may be.  Ever watched as people sift through mounds of banana bunches at the market trying to find the ones with the “perfect” ripeness?  My informal poll found strong feelings about the preferred state of bananas for consumption: some only eat green, others wait till just off-green, and others won’t pull back the peel till little brown spots appear.  Anyone only eat brown bananas??  I happen to favor just off-green bananas for the firm, fresh taste.

When my bananas become too ripe for my breakfast cereal, I save them for bread.  The soft flesh is more easily blended into the batter and yields a stronger flavor.  This recipe with buttermilk creates an amazingly light, flaky and buttery bread.

Buttermilk Banana Walnut Bread
1 stick softened butter
1 1/4 cups sugar
2 eggs
4 medium-sized mashed bananas
4 tablespoons buttermilk
1 3/4 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1/4 teaspoon baking soda

(1) Cream butter and sugar together. Add eggs, bananas, buttermilk and vanilla.

(2) In a separate bowl mix dry ingredients. Add dry ingredients to banana mixture. Mix until combined.  Add 1/2 cup of chopped walnuts.

(3) Divide batter into two greased and floured bread pans and bake at 350 degrees for 40-45 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean.

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koreanspread

If you’re in the mood for a culinary adventure, check out Kum Gang San, 49 West 32nd Street, in Manhattan.  One of the best parts of a Korean meal, in my opinion, are the traditional little side dishes — known as banchan. The small plates with assorted marinated vegetables, seaweed, and salted fish are tasty!   My Korean friends inform me that these are often a meal in themselves eaten over a bowl of white rice.

koreanpancake

If you’re new to Korean cuisine, definitely start with a pajeon, a classic scallion pancake.  It is made with flour batter, eggs, and scallions, served with a mixture of soy sauce & vinegar for dipping.

kimche

Pajeon is also sometimes done with kimchi instead of scallion and is also delicious. Kimchi is a trademark element of Korean cuisine and will definitely be among the plates on your table.  The fermented, spicy Napa cabbage has been marinated in ginger, garlic, scallion and chili pepper.

bimipop

Koreans are known for their barbecued beef.  But another popular dish is Bibimbap, Korean for “stirred/mixed rice.” And the stirring/mixing is definitely part of the fun here. A medley of vegetables — cucumber, zucchini, mushrooms, spinach, sprouts, carrots, seaweed — arrive on top of a warm bowl of rice.  You toss them with an egg, barbecued beef, and chili paste. It’s quite the conglomeration of flavors.

koreansign

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germanchocolate

German Chocolate Cake was my grandmother’s signature dessert. Layers of sweet chocolate cake overflowed with rich carmely, coconut-pecan topping. (If it was your birthday, she’d bury a quarter wrapped in foil deep inside; you’d have to keep eating until you found it.)

Good thing it wasn’t my birthday and there wasn’t a lucky coin to find!  This cake is incredibly sweet, decadent – and filling.  The three cake layers are moist and dense without being firm.  Four beaten egg whites folded into the batter give the cake a delicate and fluffy texture. The topping is…spoon-lickingly tasty.  Here’s the recipe.

One aside… ever wonder about the origin of “German Chocolate”?  I always figured it had roots in German cuisine or culture, but apparently it doesn’t at all!  According to Joy of Baking.com, a guy named Samuel German concoted the sweet stuff with a blend of cocoa butter, chocolate liquor, sugar, and other flavorings. He wanted to make a chocolate eaiser for bakers to use than semi-sweet because the sugar would already be added.

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splitpeasoup

If you’re a fan of hearty and healthy soups, here’s one to try. It also happens to be an incredibly easy recipe and perfect for any leftover holiday ham still in the freezer.

I love the tender texture of the peas after they’ve stewed for hours with the smokey, salty bits of ham. The fresh parsley, chopped celery and celery leaves and garlic add complexity to the flavor.

Split Pea and Ham Soup

1 16 oz. package dried green split peas, rinsed

2 cups diced ham

1 1/2 cups diced carrots

1/2 cup chopped onion

1 1/2 cups diced celery with leaves

2 cloves minced garlic

1 bay leaf

1/4 cup chopped fresh parsely

4 cups chicken broth / 2 cups water

(1) Add ingredients to a soup pot in the order above. Do not stir.

(2) Simmer on low heat for 2-3 hours, stirring periodically after 30 minutes.

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tortellini

Everything tastes better with prosciutto. And that’s definitely the case with cheese tortellini tossed with sweet green peas and a garlic cream sauce!

Sautè minced garlic in a little melted butter, add a quarter pound of sliced prosciutto and brown to bring out the flavor. Then add a cup of heavy cream and peas and reduce by half. Throw in some shredded parmesan before tossing with the tortellini.

You can thin the sauce with a little reserved pasta water if it gets too thick.  You’ll love the salty flavor of the prosciutto against the creamy sauce and hint of sweet in the peas. Delic!

peasprosciutsauce

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Look for the chicken meatloaves on wood planks positioned around the charcoal fire. Also, you’ll see some of my favorites from the menu: the Japanese pickles; roasted chicken wings; toro and ama ebi sashimi; peppered, roasted berkshire pork; and the terriyaki chicken meatloaf with poached egg.

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aburiyarestaurant

As soon as you enter this cavernous Japanese restaurant on New York’s east side (23 East 45th St.), you feel the warmth of its signature robata grill. The heat draws you down a long, dark hallway of curtained booths and tables to the brightly-lit grill area in back.

Sit around the counter so you can watch the attentive chefs skewer assorted cuts of meat, fish and vegetables and roast them over the charcoal fire. Little ground chicken “meatloaves” are formed onto wooden planks and propped amid the embers — this is one of their specialties.

aburiyashrimp

The sashimi is consistently high quality and makes a great first course while your selections are grilling. The ama ebi (above) were super sweet and incredibly fresh.

aburiyaapps

The draft Sapporro is ice cold. Pairs well with a start of Japanese pickles, edamame, or seasoned, roasted brussel sprouts.

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