Cremini Marscapone Spaghetti (PPN18!)

Sometimes it’s just too much. Finding recipes, cooking, eating, and taking pictures? And all after a hard day’s work? (Okay, I work from home with no commute and in my PJs most of the day, but I’m really trying to make excuses for not having great pictures here so cut me some slack!)

While cooking up some pasta to celebrate Presto Pasta Night and my working out for a whole hour on Monday and Tuesday, I became so hungry that I gobbled dinner up before snapping a decent shot. Wrenching myself out of a carb-induced frenzy, I realized before my last few bites were gone that I needed a shot and I photographed my mostly empty plate. I almost decided to throw this post out, but I really wanted to participate in Ruth’s event, so I’m writing it anyway! I did get a nice shot of the mushrooms before the grumbling in my stomach took over my brain.

This dish is light and perfect for summer nights. Arugula contrasts with the creamy marscapone cheese and woodsy mushrooms. I’ve made this before, adding some chopped bacon to give it more oomph, but on hot summer nights, I enjoy this light, vegetarian version.

Cremini Marscapone Spaghetti (partially pictured)

  • One bunch arugula (about 4 cups) coarsely chopped
  • 2-3 Tbsp. marscapone cheese
  • 1 ¼ cremini mushrooms, slices
  • 4 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 1 lb. spaghetti
  • Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese for sprinkling
  • Good olive oil
  • ½ tsp. salt
  1. Heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add mushrooms and salt and cook, stirring frequently, until mushrooms are soft. Add garlic and cook until most of the liquid has evaporated.
  2. After pasta is cooked, add back into pot and toss pasta with some added olive oil, mushrooms, arugula, and cheese. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Enjoy!

Celebration: Kitchen, or, Parmigiano-Reggiano Baskets with Herbed Goat Cheese

Last Saturday Jim’s parents threw a party to celebrate their beautiful one-of-a-kind kitchen tiling, painted by friend and artist Erica Barton Haba. The stories behind the tiles were hand picked by Jim’s parents and represent their interest in alchemy. The tiles are gorgeous and vibrant. Deep reds and bright blues create an interesting scheme. I remember the first time I visited I couldn’t take my eyes off the tiles and later went home and researched the different scenes, learning about the mythology behind them. I’m still captivated by the beautiful, visual stories.

So, there was much to celebrate.

I was asked, a few weeks ago, to act as a caterer with Jim at the party. All that his mother had in mind was for me to thaw some frozen appetizers and serve them to guests with champagne. I, however, dived right in at the offering and decided to cook, from scratch, all of the food.

We planned for 50 people. We planned for 3 or 4 appetizers per dish per person. Why I didn’t plan to start cooking before Friday night at 7PM is beyond me. Jim and I were up until 3 AM Friday night, making smoked salmon and tilapia salad, phyllo-wrapped asparagus, Parmigiano-Reggiano crisps with goat cheese, and my special Bacon-Deviled eggs. The asparagus were the most time consuming—you have to take a thin sheet of phyllo, spread melted butter on top, sprinkle some Parmesan cheese, place in a single asparagus spear, roll up, spread a bit more butter and sprinkle a bit more cheese on the outside, and place into the pile, ready to be baked. We did this for over 100 asparagus spears. Luckily, we found out at the party, they were totally worth it. Buttery, golden brown, and with the distinct bite of in-season asparagus, this recipe was my personal party favorite.

The Parmigiano-Reggiano crisps with goat cheese were a hit. On Friday night, I was bummed out, thinking they weren’t very tasty, but I happily found out that the guests loved them on Saturday. All the goat-cheese taste testing I was doing to make sure it was exactly right put me in a dairy-tizzy and I couldn’t taste reliably on Friday night. They were also incredibly hard to make, which I should have guessed since the recipe came from Daniel Boulud (from a book given to me by Daniel Boulud, hehe!), but in the end, I greatly enjoyed learning and succeeding at this challenging recipe.

The deviled eggs were delicious. We made 8 dozen, so it was also very time consuming to shell all those eggs! Then again, I think it was worth the work.

The seafood salad, which was a recipe adapted from Scrumptious Street’s, was very good, and went perfectly with sesame-ginger rice crackers.

I loved hearing that people enjoyed the food, and seeing people reach for seconds, and thirds was amazing. It made me realize how badly I want food to be my life and work—a great motivation!

Next time, though, I’ll start cooking earlier!

Parmigiano-Reggiano (or Parmesan) Baskets with Herbed Goat Cheese

Time: Depending on how many you make, trust me, it could take forever, but as this recipe will make 40, it should take you about an hour or so. Also, the bigger the cooking sheet (or the more cooking sheets that you can fit in your oven) will reduce the time it takes to make these, only 6 crisps fit on my one baking sheet, so I had to repeat the baking process many times.

Details: Unless you are coordinated, be prepared to have burnt fingertips by the end of this recipe. I think I may have even burnt my elbow.

  • 1 ½ cups finely grated Parmigianno cheese (or use Parmesan if you like)
  • 6 oz. fresh goat cheese, softened
  • 1/4 cup of milk
  • mixed fresh herbs, such as chives, flat-leaf parsley, cilantro , and tarragon
  • 1 Tbs. olive oil
  • 1 tsp. sherry vinegar
  • Salt & Pepper
  1. Center a rack in oven at 350º. Have at least two empty eggs cartons on hand (be like me and make deviled eggs to go with these!)
  2. Sprinkle Parm cheese to make circles about 2 inches around (no more than 1/8 inch thick). Space 1 inch apart and fit as many as you can on your baking sheet (I fit 6).
  3. Bake for 5-10 minutes, watching to make sure they don’t burn. Make sure they do brown, however, as this makes them crisper and tastier.
  4. Here’s the hard part—take sheet out of oven and use a good spatula to loosen and lift each cheese round (before it cools and hardens) and then flip onto egg carton and lightly push down the center of round to push it into the egg mold and form a basket-like shape. I used the bake of my spatula to push the cheese into formation—don’t use your finger, they are HOT! Let harden.
  5. Mix together goat cheese with all other ingredients, depending on your goat cheese, you may have to tweak ingredients. Taste-test as you go.
  6. Transfer goat cheese to piping bag. Pipe into baskets and garnish with parsley to look oh-so-pretty. Nurse your burning fingertips and enjoy!

Asian Style Beef Tenderloin Salad

A big difference lies between a healthy and an unhealthy salad. A big, fatty difference. I realized this when researching the fat contents of those “healthy option” lunch salads you can order at places like Panera Bread and Applebee’s. I’d been tricking myself into feeling responsible and healthy, ignoring the fried chicken, grated cheese, and gobs of honey mustard dressing on my over-sized plate, focusing on the word “salad.”

Even though I no longer fool myself with salads from these joints, I still enjoy the unhealthy salad (still emphasizing the word “salad”). A recent favorite was the Hot Bacon Salad, where the dressing was made from rendered bacon fat. It was delicious, and I gobbled it up, telling myself it’s a salad, why not go for fourths.

The salad I made early this week, however, falls between the categories of a healthy, balsamic vinegary salad and an unhealthy bacon fat salad. It was a perfect dinner-sized salad that didn’t leave us hungry or wanting something more substantial (I think the 2 large beef tenderloin steaks helped in that regard.)

I put in more chili paste than the recipe called for, thinking that such a benign looking red paste just couldn’t be spicy enough, so my salad was scorching. I’ve typed up the original dressing recipe below, so unless you are a spicy-dare-devil, stick with the 1 ½ teaspoons. If you don’t like spicy at all, decrease to 1 teaspoon and add an extra ¼ teaspoon sesame oil.

Asian Style Beef Tenderloin Salad

Adapted from Cooking Light: June 2007

Serves 2 for dinner, 4 for side or first course

Dressing:

  • 1 tbsp fresh lime juice
  • 1 tbsp rice vinegar
  • 1 tbsp raw sugar
  • 1 ½ teaspoons hot chile sauce, such as Huy Fong
  • 1 teaspoon fish sauce
  • ¼ teaspoon sesame oil

Salad:

  • 2 (6 oz) beef tenderloin steaks
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • Pepper to taste
  • cooking spray
  • 2 tomatoes, cut up
  • ¼ cup cilantro, torn
  • ¼ cup shallots, sliced
  • 6 cups Spring Salad mix
  • ¼ cup fresh basil, torn
  1. Make dressing by combining all dressing ingredients in a bowl and whisking well.
  2. Coat grill pan with cooking spray
  3. Sprinkle steaks with salt and pepper to taste. Grill for 4 minutes on each side or until desired degree of doneness. (I love that word, doneness.)
  4. Cut steak across the grain into slices.
  • Combine all salad ingredients in a big bowl and add dressing. Mix & Eat!
  • Blog or Bust #1

    OCTOBER 4th UPDATE: Click Here for BLOG OR BUST #3 Details:
    I’ve felt a bit, how do I put it, pudgy ’round the middle lately. After reading Kristen’s post about weight loss on Dine and Dish I took a deep breath and stepped on the scale. Fortunately not as bad as I feared but a few added pounds made me realize that food-blogging leads to a bit of over-indulgence (who could blame us—we read about food all day!) and sometimes weight-gain.

    Henceforth Blog or Bust. I’ve only food blogged for a few months, but I’m so into it I guess I’ll give event hosting a go.

    This blogging event will feature healthyish foods that won’t bust the measurement tape. There are no rules about low-carb or low-fat (though I’d love some recipes), but all entries should have good health in mind—be it the inclusion of whole grains, nutrient rich ingredients, etc. A dish that you won’t regret cleaning your plate for! You don’t have to include a calorie count, but you can if you want, and the calorie count doesn’t have to be low as long as the recipe is nutritious. Feel free to add any weight loss tips or tidbits in your post! If you have any concerns about whether your recipe is nutritious, send it anyway! I’ll post and we can all discuss what we think.

    I’ll post a theme for each month’s event.

    The first Blog or Bust event theme is “Party food.” Since it’s summer, and everyone loves a get together in the backyard, beach, or park, this month’s theme can feature the food you’d like to eat there. No rules really—other than creating something “good for you” (we need to get into those bathing suits ya know!) Your dish can feed a party of 30 or 1, so no need to focus on potato salads and fruit punch (though those would be great too!) Simply create a dish you’d like to share with family and friends.

    Here’s the details:

    • Post a healthy recipe on your blog between today and July 18th. Don’t worry if it’s not the healthiest thing ever—the most important aspect is that you won’t feel you’ll bust the scale when you eat it! We’re talking guilt-free deliciousness here!
    • Mention Blog or Bust in the post and add a link back here.
    • Email me the link to your post at clumsycook@gmail.com
    • Check back at July 18th to see your post!!

    Hope you can join! 🙂

    Little Miss Muffins

    I wrote down a savory muffin recipe at my parents’ house on Sunday. It came from the 1982 Butler PTA cookbook, a collection of homemade recipes from women throughout the town of Butler, NJ—a wonderful product for the PTA and the community! The recipe I copied was “Little Miss Muffins”, created by a Ms. Hoeflinger.

    By the time I got around to making some, however, I’d lost the recipe. Luckily, I already shopped for it, so I knew the main ingredients: zucchini, provolone cheese, and onion. The other ingredients were things I already had so I didn’t need to buy them, and since I couldn’t remember what those ingredients were, I went with whatever seemed right. The results were quite tasty, but very similar to my zucchini cakes. They are much easier than zucchini cakes, with all the standing around and frying, so what the hell, I’ll post them anyway!

    Little Miss Muffins

    Oven: 350º for 30 minutes, Broil for 5 minutes

    Details: You need a grater, a big bowl, and a (12 cup) muffin tin

    • 2 large zucchini, grated
    • 5 to 6 oz. provolone cheese, grated
    • 1 small onion, grated
    • 2 eggs, at room temp
    • 1 cup bread-crumbs (with Italian seasoning)
    • olive oil
    1. Put a splash of olive oil in each muffin cup. Use your hands to grease sides of each cup.
    2. Grate all gratables and transfer to a big bowl. Grate the provolone before the zucchini or onion because the water from the vegetables will make your cheese soggy.
    3. Add eggs and breadcrumbs to big bowl, season with salt and pepper and dive in! Use your hands to thoroughly mix (this is a messy recipe!)
    4. Fill each muffin cup, using all the mixture to form mounded muffins.
    5. Bake for 30 minutes, then switch the oven to broil (or place in the broiler) for 3 to 7 minutes, depending on how browned you want the tops. 🙂

    These “muffins” are more like mini-quiches and they make a great breakfast, lunch, or snack. I imagine they’d also be fabulous alongside of fish.

    WBB#12 (Spiced and Fruity) Cereal Bars!

    My younger sister, Kathy, gave me a wonderful present for my birthday—a huge baking cookbook! She either wants me to bake for her or to bake better for her, and I couldn’t be more grateful. This book has bare minimum basics, like explaining what “knead” means—I’ve been trying to bake for a while without ever learning these basics. When we were kids and my mom (a great baker who reminded me just how great with a delicious birthday carrot cake) began teaching us, I always opted out. The measurements frustrated me and there were so many rules. Most of the time I would go play outside and wait for the food to be ready. My sisters were much defter than I, though I wouldn’t learn it until I attempted to start baking in my early twenties, and they learned in their childhoods the cakes and cookies, brownies, pastries, and crepes that I’m now struggling to figure out. All I really remember (vaguely) is zucchini bread—probably because of my fondness for green vegetables.

    Since I keep a decently healthy or, at least, health-conscious diet now, I’m always on the look-out for nutritious baked goods. The cookbook has some gems: date bars, fig newtons, energy bites, and cereal bars. This weekend, I ate my last bran muffin, and decided to give the cereal bars a try for breakfast. My recipe ended up significantly different from the cookbook’s, but I value the base recipe given, which included mashed bananas and light corn syrup—things I wouldn’t have known to include.

    I’m entering the bars into WBB#12, hosted by The Spice Who Loved Me. The theme this time is a breakfast food made with spice(s). The only spice in these bars is cinnamon but all the other flavors pack such a punch on their own, that many spices weren’t needed. I guess due to an American childhood of cinnamon toast and the occasional doughnut, I always like cinnamon in my breakfast baked-goods!

    Cereal Bars

    Oven Temp: 350°

    Details: 11 x 7 x 1½ baking sheet. Prep 25 minutes, baking 30 minutes.

    • 2 mashed bananas
    • 1/2 dried, chopped apricots*
    • 1/2 cup raisins
    • 1/2 pumpkin seed granola
    • 4 tbsp. flax seed
    • 1/2 whole wheat flour
    • 1 cup oats
    • 1/2 tsp. cinnamon (plus more for sprinkling)
    • 1/4 light corn syrup
    • 1/3 cup butter

    *The fruits, granola, and flax seed are subject to taste, and my measurements can be used as approximates. Next time, I think I’ll put in more flax seed, and maybe some chocolate chips!

    1. Grease baking sheet.
    2. Melt butter in a saucepan and stir in corn syrup.
    3. Add first 8 ingredients to saucepan and mix well. Spoon into tin.
    4. Bake for about 30 minutes or until golden brown. Sprinkle with cinnamon and, if you prefer, sugar.
    5. Slice into about 14 bars. The bars will keep in the fridge for a few days, or you can individually wrap (and then put in an airtight container) and freeze for about 2 months.

    Bronx Zoo & Gotham Bar and Grill

    Saturday was my birthday—the big 2-3. Jim, my sister Janel, and her husband Rob took me to the Bronx Zoo. We got to witness the gorillas at their feeding time, where they were both entertaining and eerily too-human. I had a fantastic and memorable time.

    After the zoo, we went to the Gotham Bar and Grill on 12th Street. We sat at a bar table before a beautiful room of billowing curtains and gorgeous china. Jim and I dined at Gotham last year and were wowed by their pasta, which changes daily, so all four of us ordered the offering of goat cheese ravioli. The dish was too salty, but it worked with the goat cheese. As long as you didn’t have too much broth in your spoon, the bite of ravioli tasted great. I used my two buttery dinner baguettes to soak up the rest of the broth, offsetting the saltiness.

    For dinner, Janel and I ordered steak with onion rings, Jim the soft-shell crab, and Rob the lobster tail. All of the entrees tasted delicious. Each dish had a flavor set of its own. My steak was tender, sweet, and tangy, with a mustard custard (like very light and creamy mustard butter). Our onion rings were closer to onion doughnuts—fluffy, fried dough with fat onion slithers in the middle. 5 onion rings sat on the plate, though I could only eat 2.

    Jim’s soft-shell crab tasted great, though I am still unaccustomed to eating anything with a shell on it. The creamy, citrusy sauce that went with his crab was a perfect accompaniment. My overall entree favorite, though, was probably Rob’s lobster tails. I mean, seriously, they were good.

    Dessert shined that night—my favorite part of the meal. We had chocolate birthday cake, a brownie “sundae” with almond ice cream and black cherry syrup, a mint chocolate cake with chocolate ice cream, and a dessert that involved raspberry ice cream, peanut butter ganache, chocolate, banana, and pineapple, and reminded me of fancy PB&J.

    One glitch, however, was the thyme and lemon ice cream. The citrus pierced my tongue and the creamy thyme flavor, which dominated the ice cream (it wasn’t vanilla with a hint of thyme) made me want to throw up (just a little bit) in my mouth. We kept telling ourselves that it had to be an acquired taste, that someone out there probably loves it, but on further thinking, I don’t think so. Maybe it was a shock value thing, but I can not believe that anyone could actually enjoy that ice cream. Luckily, the cake that went with it was phenomenal. Rich and creamy, but still light and fluffy (not spongy) we joked that the cake tasted like chocolate clouds, delicious chocolate clouds.

    Another plus of Gotham Bar & Grill is the generous drinks they pour. The single scotch was more like a triple, and the shot of amaretto I had with dessert almost filled the drinking glass. We left very pleased, and quite buzzed.

    Continue reading “Bronx Zoo & Gotham Bar and Grill”

    Bacon & Egg Rice Bowl

    When I lived with college roommates, most weekday dinners were a bowl of leftover Chinese take-out rice with a bacon and frozen vegetable omelet mixed in. We’d pour ketchup all over it, masking the dryness of old rice. It was kind of tasty, but I wouldn’t exactly call it a meal.

    You can imagine my surprise when I came across a bacon, egg, and rice bowl recipe in Gourmet magazine. Although more sophisticated (and edible), the recipe resembled my old college grub, and I nostalgically gave it a try.

    After gobbling up a bowl, I realized I’m not nostalgic or time-sick for my college days anymore, and I’m grateful that my life is so wonderful now. One of the best parts about growing up is getting your own kitchen!

    Bacon & Egg Rice Bowl

    adapted from Gourmet Magazine: May 2007

    This recipe makes a ton of food, and the left-overs are great for breakfast. The sesame oil—which I’m becoming addicted to—gives it an Asian flair, like an Asian Risotto!

    Time: About 30-40 minutes (depending on how long it takes for the rice)

    Details: Cut up the bacon before you cook it–much easier than cutting it cooked! Cook bacon in a large enough skillet to hold all the rice.

    • 2 cups brown rice
    • 4 cups water
    • 8 sliced thick bacon (cut into 1/2″ pieces)
    • 1 onion, chopped
    • 1 bunch scallions, chopped
    • 6 eggs
    • 1 tsp sesame oil
    • salt & pepper
    1. Pour water and rice in a saucepan, bring to a boil and cook until rice is just about done, with some moisture still in the saucepan.
    2. Cook bacon slowly until just crispy. Take out bacon–reserving the fat–and drain on paper towels.
    3. Cook onion in the bacon fat until translucent.
    4. Whisk 6 eggs in a bowl with salt and pepper to taste. Add eggs into onion pan and cook, stirring, until they start to firm.
    5. Add rice and bacon to the eggs and onions. Mix in sesame oil.
    6. Add scallions and cook for another minute or so. Serve it up!

    MMMmm-Mm!

    Chunky Banana Bran Muffins

    I don’t eat oatmeal. Cereal takes too much work, with the milk, spills, etc., and when I run out—when there’s not enough milk for the cereal and the morning is ruined—I can’t help thinking cereal is not worth my time. Pancakes? Forgetaboutit—maybe if I were my little sister, who weighes 100 pounds and can eat Big Macs all day long. Eggs are nice, but seem like a weekend thing—I need to sit around for an hour reading the New York Times and slowly sipping coffee when I have eggs.

    I badly needed a quick and easy, dependable breakfast when I stumbled onto the chunky banana bran muffins in Barefoot Contessa at Home. I’d seen this recipe before, passing it by thinking, carbophobically, I can’t eat muffins for breakfast. This time around, though, they looked too delicious (and I worked out 3 days that week), so I pounced.

    Happily, these muffins are hardly the gargantuan mega-muffs of the many breakfast cafes today. Small and subtly sweet, the muffins contain a mere 1/2 cup brown sugar and 3/4 dark molasses between the 24 of ’em. The first bite actually seemed undersweetened—until I took a second taste and realized that these muffins were exactly what I had been searching for. Now my ritual: I have a muffin each morning with a cup of black, unsweetened coffee (oh the simplicity!), and they freeze so well that you can make double batches. I hope to make a few batches this weekend—maybe adding some dried apricots, or maybe some blueberries, hmm, maybe strawberries, mmmm….

    Chunky Banana Bran Muffins

    Time: Prep 30 min, Bake 20-30

    Details: Preheat to 350°

    • 2 cups unprocessed wheat bran
    • 2 cups buttermilk
    • 1 stick unsalted butter
    • 1/2 light brown sugar
    • 4 extra large eggs, at room temp
    • 3/4 cup unsulfured molasses
    • zest of one small orange
    • 1 tsp vanilla extract
    • 3 cups all-purpose flour
    • 1 1/2 tsp baking powder
    • 1/2 tsp baking soda
    • 1 tsp salt
    • 2 cups raisins
    • 2 cups (2 med-large) largely diced bananas
    1. Line muffin tins with paper liners.
    2. Combine bran and buttermilk and set aside for now.
    3. Cream the butter and sugar in a bowl, I don’t have an electric mixer* and I find this recipe works fine if you (mostly) melt the butter in the microwave before adding it to the sugar and then whisk briskly until light. I employed my boyfriend to do this and I suggest you find someone with large arm muscles.
    4. Add eggs one at a time, whisking in between. Scrape the bowl with a rubber spatula and then add the orange zest, molasses and vanilla. mix in the bran-buttermilk mixture and fold a few times.
    5. Sift the flour, salt, baking soda, and powder. I don’t have a sifter either so I used a fine-mesh sieve and shook.
    6. Slowly mix the flour into your batter. Don’t over mix (though you don’t really have to worry much about that when going by hand). Fold in the raisins, bananas, or whatever else you desire to add in!
    7. Fill muffin cups to brim and bake for 20-30 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean. I have an eletric oven, and then were without-a-doubt done at 20 minutes.
    8. Cool on wire rack. If freezing, wrap each individually in saran wrap and then place in tupperware to freezer-proof.

    *If you do have an electric mixer, buy the book for the recipe! : )

    Birthday Slice

    My mom took me out shopping for my birthday (which is on Saturday) and I got a shiny new mandoline. Excitedly, I tried it out on some limes when I got home, reminding myself to watch my fingers and conjuring up the many images of bandaged thumbs on various blogs from mandoline-related accidents. Despite all of that, I cut myself. The moment I was slicing off a bit of my thumb, I laughed, thinking, “but of course, who was I to think that I wouldn’t injure myself on the first try?”

    No matter how much blood is shed, though, the mandoline makes a hell of a lime slice. The drink I poured to ease my (honestly, not very intense) pain was delicious.