Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Spice Destination - Huntington Station

Pardon my rhyming.


What is important is that down on Route 110 in a tiny plaza with an Arthur Murray and some other less interesting places there is a Penzeys Spice Store.

And yes it does have pretty much every spice and blend you can think of.

Go check it out!


Penzeys Spice Store

326 Walt Whitman Rd
Huntington Station, NY
(631) 271-7707

Mon.-Sat.: 10:00AM - 6:00PM
Sun.: 11:00AM - 5:00PM

Thursday, December 11, 2008

A Different Kind of Pasta Sauce

I'm sure by now you're all pretty clear on the Vixen is lazy principle. I know I am.

I don't really like cooking for myself. It's a togetherness thing. Food is love and the point of love is that you share it. If I'm the only person sharing, the major effort isn't worth it.

So when I'm trying to feed myself, I go for quick and easy.

Today I'm making one of my favorites. See, we keep our freezer stocked with frozen things and that includes things like ravioli (The Fiance's favorite) and pelmeni (a filled pasta dish that I love). So I often dig out a bag of pelmeni and boil it up.

But I'm sure just as much as you know I'm lazy, you probably by now realize I'm not a fan of bland, boring food.

Now traditionally, pelmeni are served with butter fried onions. But I like to take things a step further. So I am making a sauce, that by the way would do fine with any kind of pasta, and it already smells good.

Earthy Veggie Pasta Sauce
-one onion, sliced thinly
-half a package of button mushrooms, sliced thinly
-half a zucchini, grated (but yes you can also slice it thinly)
-fresh, chopped parsley
-white wine (I swear I'm not addicted to using wine in recipes... really I'm not.)

Heat up a pan with some oil (olive if you're going Italian, veggie otherwise). Toss in the onions and mushrooms and let them brown for a few minutes before turning down the heat to med-low. Add zucchini, garlic and seasonings. Let it all meld together into that delicious caramelly-earthy palate of scents and flavors.

When all the veggies are soft but not mushy, add wine, as much as you like, and stir through. Let the alcohol cook off and, poof, you have an amazing and easy sauce that works well with any kind of pasta you like.

Now if you'll excuse me, I'm going to go eat my lunch. Mmmm.


Sunday, December 7, 2008

Boring Leftover Pasta? No Problem!

Imagine for a moment that you are a twenty-five year old law student. Imagine that you are visiting your parents with The Fiance. Imagine that you are hungry.

Now imagine that you get horribly outvoted by your non-foodie parents and your suddenly-taken-leave-of-his-senses Fiance and have to go to Olive Garden.

Take a moment to mourn now. I'm sure you need it.

So you go. (Grudgingly of course.) And you eat. (But you don't enjoy it.)

And then you bring home the leftover linguine which is supposedly richly flavored with a garlic-butter-wine sauce. (But is of course completely flavorless, if creamy.)

Now since you are that twenty-five year old law student... you have tight funds and thus cannot afford to just waste food.

But... you don't really want to eat... whatever you want to call that pasta dish.

So what do you do?

Don't worry. I'll tell you. =)

OG Pasta Make-Over
-leftover boring/flavorless/tasteless pasta in the form of linguine
-1-2 chicken breasts
-olive oil
-white wine

Now I'm not a big fan of chicken breast so I like to dice it into bite sized pieces before cooking but I suppose if you like it better than I do then you can leave it in one chunk or slice it into strips. Either way. Dump it in a bowl and coat it in olive oil, basil and garlic. Then get out a frying pan - any kind but non-stick. If you get out the non-stick, do not pass go and do not make this recipe.

I'm not being elitist here. I swear. It's just that you really need the properties of those sticky pans for this to work.

Okay so heat up your good ole sticky pan with some more olive oil. Then when it's nice and sizzley (Yes it is a word! I'm a law student and I get to make up terminology!) , you want to get your chicken in there and then... leave it alone.

Yes I said it.

Don't touch the chicken! Leave that spatula be! For the love of all that is delicious, let the meat brown!

Phew. Okay. So once it's brown on one side, flip or otherwise move it around so it browns the other side.

Repeat until perfect browning has been achieved. Then remove the chicken to a bowl - I'd recommend a clean one. Salmonella is not your friend.

This might be a good time to get those leftover pasta thingies out of the fridge. It's best to get them to room temperature.

Anyhow, that's where that wine comes in. Pour it into the pan until it covers the bottom and using a nice wooden spoon scrape up all those glorious brown bits of awesome. Stir some more and let the wine cook off a little. Here I'd add some butter, just a tablespoon or two, to thicken the sauce. But if you're really against that sort of thing, I suppose you can leave it out. If you must.

Then add the chicken back into the pan along with the pasta. I like to add a little more garlic too. Stir that about, salt and pepper it, stir some more. And then... well this would be the eating part.

Mmm. Chickeny-pastay-garlicky goodness.

(Now if only Olive Garden would learn how to do that!)


Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Leftover Turkey Pot Pie

I'm sure I'm not the only person whose Turkey Day dinner produces a ridiculous number of leftovers. And I'm sure I'm not the only person who wants to transform those leftovers into... something different.

This is my favorite way to do it.

Leftover Turkey Pot Pie
-a couple of Tbs of leftover garlic-sage butter (or plain butter... or even oil of some sort)
-2-3 tsp of leftover minced garlic
-handful or so each of leftover diced onion, celery and carrot
-a tsp or so of minced ginger
-several Tbs of flour
-a couple of cups diced turkey meat
-some of that awesome turkey stock you made out of the carcass (or, ya know, some canned broth)
-summer savory/thyme/sage
-frozen peas
-sherry or a white wine
-canned biscuits

Get a big pot started with some of that yummy butter until it melts and starts to sizzle a little. Then dump in the garlic, ginger, diced veggies and some salt and pepper. Let them wallow in the butter until they soften a bit and get a bit translucent. Then dump in the flour and stir the mess quickly so it all mixes together.

This is a good time to add a mix of stock and water. I use a mix cause my stock is kind of intense - I like to cook it down a lot. Then add some milk (or if you, like me, discover that you're magically out of that delicious, creamy liquid, you can sub in heavy cream). And let that simmer up for 10-20 minutes.

And now in goes the turkey, the herbs, the peas and a glug of your choice of alcohol. Let it simmer for a little bit then taste.

Soup is a highly taste as you go sort of thing. At this point, you should definitely taste and adjust seasonings but I tend to taste at pretty much all stages. Find your happy medium.

Anyhow, now that it's all simmered together and you tasted and seasoned and whatnot, it's ready for the oven. (Which you totally should have preheated to whatever the biscuit can says! Like... I didn't.) Or you can stick it in the fridge or even the freezer and take it out when you need it.

Anyway, where was I? Oh yes. Oven. So my favorite way of doing this is getting a bunch of oven safe mugs but you can use what you like as long as it's oven safe. Fill your containers with soup goo and then pop some biscuits on top.

Bake until the biscuits puff up and turn golden brown. Then eat. Well.... wait for it to cool off so you don't burn your tongue and then eat. No, I totally have never burned my tongue that way... Why do you ask?

Happy leftovers!


P.S. The fiance likes me to add parboiled potatoes into the soup but we have a ton of mashed taters left so I'm going to serve the soup with potato cakes. I looove potato cakes.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Final Turkey Vengeance

Thanksgiving is the only day of the year that I make turkey. Truth be told, even though I make roast turkey amazingly well (or so The Fiance says), I don't really like it all that much. So I only put myself through my insane three-day turkey making process annually. Never more (cause I like me) and never less (cause The Fiance would cry).

So I make the darn bird. Fine and dandy. But what to do with the leftovers?

I've had a bad habit of removing all the meat off the carcass and freezing it separately from the bones with the future intent of... using it somehow. And of course the future never comes.

So this year, buoyed by the existence of our wondrous dishwasher (oh dishwasher how I love thee!), I've decided to pre-empt myself.

Or something.

I woke up this morning and dumped the carcass along with the roasted onions and a couple of bay leaves into the biggest pot in the house. Then I carelessly added too much water.

And effectively chained myself to the kitchen for the rest of the day.

I boiled, I skimmed the goo, I stirred. Then I eyed the pot balefully.

To tell some more truth, making turkey stock, especially when there's more water than necessary, is a looooong endeavor. A long, tedious endeavor.

My theory is that it's the way turkey gets back at me for not loving it enough.

Either way, when the stock is done and I strain out the bones and bits... it will be worth it.

Try it, you won't regret it. I promise.


Friday, October 31, 2008

It's back! - LI Restaurant Week

Yes, the one event I wait for all year - Long Island Restaurant Week is starting tomorrow!!!

I urge everyone to take advantage of it.

You know you wanna...

Check it out.


Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Breakfast Experiment: Baked French... Canned Biscuits?

It was a lovely, lazy morning.

The Fiance and I ignored the sunlight stubbornly invading our bedroom, dug deeper into the covers and had a glorious sleep-in.

We don't get too many of those.

In the spirit of enjoying the day, we decided to forgo our usual breakfast (eggs over easy, bacon, toast) and do something different.

The Fiance decided he wanted toast. And who am I to argue when a loving male creature is offering me tasty treats?

So off he went. He dug out the eggs and milk, mixed those well, added sugar and cinnamon, mixed again.

Then he went to the closet to get the bread.

...and there was none.

So there we were.

The Fiance.


And a bowl of forlorn egg mixture.

Then, we were generously joined by inspiration.

I tend to buy canned biscuits whenever they're on sale without any regard for whether or not we need any. I stockpile them if you will. Because you just never know when they might come in handy.

And this, this was their day to shine. Or try to, anyway.

I got out a reasonably deep pan, buttered in and then filled it with buttermilk biscuits. Then I poured the egg mix over them and added more brown sugar. And baked the whole shebang at 400.

I admit it. It was eh. All the liquid evaporated. The biscuits didn't absorb any goodness in the middle. Overall a middling success.

So I moved the remains of the cooked biscuits into a smaller pan, made a new egg mixture with a ton of milk, added vanilla, and used a spatula to break up the biscuits into bits. This time I baked it at 350 (or maybe 375?).

It took much longer this time but reports say it all worthwhile.

Next time I plan to do this:

Baked French Biscuits
-2-3 eggs
-good splash or three of milk
-vanilla extract
-orange flower water
-brown sugar
-2 cans of buttermilk biscuits

Make the egg mixture with all the ingredients (I didn't give amounts cause really it's all about what YOU want) except the biscuits. The orange flower water is sort of a secret ingredient that will make give that "Hm, what's that?" sort of hint to the dish but you can omit it or use orange extract just as easily. Do what moves you.

Preheat the oven to 350. Butter the pan and dust with brown sugar. Trust me, don't skip this step. Then carefully chop up the biscuits. Use a light hand when you do it so as not to deflate them too much. Drop them into the pan and pour the mixture over them. Add some more brown sugar for fun. Then bake till it looks done.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Leftovers in a Pan

The Fiance has been in the mood for Outback a lot lately. I don't know what it is - it's not the steak since he always gets pasta. It makes no sense really but I've come to accept that he's just full of adorable, incomprehensible quirks. And I've come to terms with his Outback obsession, aided by the way they do their sides - any restaurant that can manage to keep their asparagus and green beans tender-crunchy gets a gold star in my book.



Unlike the very odd Fiance I get steak. The problem is after the salad and the sides and the baked potato, I almost never manage to finish the steak itself. But I do always take it home.

A few days ago, we were in a conundrum. The Fiance wanted dinner, he didn't want to cook and I wanted to use up leftovers.

Thus was born:

Leftovers in a Pan
-the second to last bacon slice
-two leftover steaks of medium size (maybe 12 oz?)
-half a zucchini
-the last carrot
-a scrounged up onion
-the last tablespoon of diced garlic (I peel and food processor several heads of garlic at a time. It's a weird nervous habit.)
-a can of broth - I used chicken but you can probably use anything you like
-2 tablespoons flour
-a dash of brown gravy mix
-dried thyme
-salt and pepper

First up. I heated a stainless steel (do not use a non-stick for this - if you do, you will regret it) pan with olive oil. That's my default fat but you can easily use butter or regular oil. Whatever you like. (See how democratic I am?) Then all those veggies got a very small dice (my baby doesn't like veggies, he thinks they're icky), but you can dice them larger if you prefer. They went into the pan with the garlic and were left to play on their own. If you discount me occasionally stirring them that is.

Now, I know my baby loves bacon. It's his first love. Before women and gaming, there was bacon. So when I'm trying to sneak veggies into his tummy, bacon is a good way to go. So I chopped up the bacon slice. Then I sliced up the steak.

The veggies were more or less where I wanted them - softened, kinda translucent. I took them out of pan and let them sit in a nice, comfy bowl. Then the pan got the bacon treatment. I have to admit, one slice of bacon isn't very much and even diced up it looked kind of lonely. But I stayed strong. Bacon is delicious but not so good for you. One's enough in this dish.

When the bacon was semi browned up, I add the steak slices. There, now the bacon had friends.

When all the meat was nicely browned and the pan had all those bits in it, I removed the steak and bacon to another plate. Then pan was sad for a moment, but I made it happier by adding more olive oil and making a quick roux with the flour.

There's no trick to roux really. Just mix a lot or it will clump.

Then add a liquid. I poured in probably 3/4 of a can of broth but it's really all in how much sauce you want. Don't forget to go slow and stir a lot though.

Then I dumped in some brown gravy mix and a bunch of thyme and stirred again. It looked quite saucy at this point so I took the veggies and meat and put them back in. I gave the mess another stir, set the heat to simmer and wandered off to... do something else.

After a little simmering, the sauce was nicely thickened, the veggies were cleverly masked and dinner looked very tempting.

I served it in a bowl over bite sized, roasted potatoes.

So good.


Scrambled Eggs, Kinda Italian

Before we go any further, I will admit that I am not the breakfast maker in our household. See, I have this undying obsession with eggs over easy and The Fiance is much, much, much better at making them. So he usually makes breakfast. And believe me, I don't complain.

Unfortunately there are some times when he is too busy to do his time honored duty. (Damn those college essays!) So then I have to trudge to the kitchen and figure out what looks quick and easy.

Another thing I have to admit: I can't make omelettes. I don't have the patience to let the eggs set. I start poking at them with the spatula and before you know it I have a pan full of lovely yellow chunks. Delicious, but definitely not an omelette.

So anyway, back to my foray into breakfast.

I discovered a number of leftover stuff in my fridge and set up putting it together. The result left no complainers. (As if The Fiance would survive complaining about my cooking!)

Scrambled Eggs, Kinda Italian
-6 eggs
-liberal splash of milk
-half handful of fresh parsley, rough chopped
-teaspoon or so of minced garlic
-salt & pepper to taste
-two slices of pancetta, diced
-2-3 scallions, diced
-handful of fresh baby spinach
-hunk of fresh mozzarella, ripped into small chunks

Break six eggs into any bowl large enough to hold them. Fish out any bits that insisted on breaking from the shell. Use a fork or whisk to quickly break the yolks and mix them into the whites. Add as much milk as your heart desires, I'd recommend about 1/3 cup but that's just me. Throw in the parsley, the garlic and salt and pepper the whole thing. And stir again. Get the mixture kind of frothy - you want to add some air to the eggs so they cook up fluffy.

In a nice, warm pan on medium heat, add a splash of olive oil and dump in the pancetta. Spread it out nicely and let it brown up. Then stir around and add in the scallions and baby spinach. When the spinach looks mostly done, pour the egg mixture on top. I'm kind of obsessive (have you noticed that?) so I tend to grab a plastic splatula and scrape out every last drop.

Then step back. I know, I know your fingers must itch to grab that wooden spoon or silicone spatula and ram it right into the poor, defenseless eggs, wiggling them around willy nilly. Mine do.

But resist that urge!

Let the eggs set up a bit. Then begin to push the cooked bits towards the middle and gently tilt the pan so the liquidy goo can distribute at the edges. Repeat until the eggs are almost done, all beautiful curds of green and brown specked golden goodness. Now add the mozzarella chunks, stir a few times and take the pan off the heat so the cheese can melt slowly but the eggs don't overcook.

At this point, I'm going to recommend eating.

Have I mentioned I love eggs?

Happy breakfast!


Wednesday, May 14, 2008

It's not just for diet anymore!

Grapefruit is a misunderstood fruit. It's not sweet like the orange. It's not a jack of all treads like the lemon. It's pungent-tart with a little bitter and takes getting used to. And people tend to associate it with diets - half a grapefruit for breakfast and forget anything decadent.

I have a love hate affair with it personally. Sometimes I can just peel it open and eat one juicy morsel after another as I free them from their bitter pith prison. And sometimes I have to peel it all at once and drown it in sugar to balance that bitter-tart bite.

Today I discovered a mid-way philosophy. I wasn't in the mood for the unadorned grapefruit but I also didn't feel like sugar. My eyes fell on a different ingredient standing unobtrusively between bottles of herbs and spices.


Raw wild-natural honey.

I drizzled it in a dark stream over the chunks of fruit, just enough to temper the more startling qualities of it and just enough to play up its natural sweetness.

It was just perfect. Try it. You won't regret it.


Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Spicy Egg Salad

I love eggs. They have a multitude of uses and as long as you treat them right they are absolutely delicious in every way.

Friend, poached, mix into batter for baked goods... Mmmm...

But today, today we're going to talk about a veritable Anglo-American tradition.

Egg salad.

I firmly believe it's not given enough credit. The most common recipe seems to include chopped up egg and some mayo. Salt and pepper if you're lucky. That is no way to treat the noble egg. No way at all.

On it's own a hard boiled egg is very mild. When you pair it only with mayo, the flavors just don't balance right. It needs more. More... crunch, more spice... more soul if you will.

But let's move on to our story which begins this weekend when I was out of groceries. I did however have three eggs left and some veggies lying around. And of course my spice cabinet. My main goal was to bulk up the salad cause three eggs just didn't seem like much. But as with anything else, inspiration tends to take me where it will. This is where it took me that day.

Spicy Egg Salad
(double, triple or make a mammoth batch at your leisure)
-3 eggs
-1/4 onion (use white or red)
-a couple of leafs of romaine lettuce (I would also recommend arugula if you like it)
-2-3 Tbs of mayo
-2 tsp spicy mustard
-couple of dashes of paprika
-minced fresh dill to taste (you can use dry also but fresh is always better)
-half a handful of pecorino cheese
-salt and pepper

Hard boiling eggs perfectly can be a difficult endeavor. My favorite method is putting them in cold water, bringing them to a boil, then covering them, turning off the heat and letting them sit for at least ten minutes. And I've pretty much forgotten them there for much longer than ten minutes so it's pretty fool proof.

So then. Let the eggs sit in their hot bath and turn your eyes to the rest of the recipe. Mince your onion and drop it in a bowl. Roll up the lettuce and slice it into thin strips and put those in the bowl too.

In another littler bowl, mix together the minced dill, pecorino, paprika, mayo, mustard and salt and pepper. It distributes the spices more evenly than just trying to mix everything together at the same time.

Pull the eggs out, peel and rough chop to a relatively small dice. Put them in the bowl and then pour the mayo mixture on top. Mix until well incorporated.

Now at this point you could chill it but I ate it up warm with some toasted english muffins. So good.


Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Hamptons Restaurant Week!

Exciting news landed in my mailbox... Another restaurant week is heading our way: march 30th to april 6th in the Hamptons.

I'm going to endeavor to make it out there and do a review. Keep an eye out for it!