• erin

    Dumplings with my family
    A recent graduate of The Culinary Institute of America, I found myself with no money, no kitchen equipment, and an exceptionally huge appetite. Ideas, improvisations, and yummy meal solutions were discovered in the kitchen of my very first apartment.
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    I've been getting a lot of requests and suggestions for the apartment kitchen. I LOVE these suggestions, keep them coming!

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    em570039@mycia.net

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Ragada (Potato Cakes with Spicy Chickpea Sauce)

I used to be a slave to my favorite restaurants. Sure, I love to try new things, but I am the queen of cravings. This meant that if I went to one of my favorite eateries, I would stumble to the counter or to the table and beg for that must-have dish. I couldn’t NOT order it. Since I’ve started cooking at home, I’ve attempted to create several of my favorites (which sometimes end up even better because I can cook them how I want them).

Ragada is a dish Matt and I disocvered by accident. I was doing a restaurant review for a local newspaper, and was sent to a nearby Indian restaurant. Matt and I are Indian food junkies, but I made him promise to order new things so that I could do an accurate review. We chose Ragada (a dish with a cryptic description as “A Calcutta Favorite”). The dish was simple: pan fried spiced potato cakes with a super spicy chickpea sauce. We went back again and again for the ragada – it was so delicious.

Finally, I decided to make it at home. I feared this one wouldn’t live up to the Ragada we’d become addicted to. But, I was able to tweak it so that I even fixed my one criticism of the dish (I think it suffers from a lack of texture without panfrying the cakes until they are quite crisp and using raw garnish). I could see it on Matt’s face: I’d hit the nail on the head. Now we can be Ragada addicts from the comfort of our own home.

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Crispy, Salty Plantains

Plantains are a virtually perfect food in my book. They can be crisp or soft, sweet or salty, fried or grilled – and make an amazing and overall crowd pleasing side dish. Anytime Matt and I see them at our favorite market (which isn’t too often), we grab up an armful and cook them. But with plantains, as with many of my favorite foods, it’s best to keep it simple. I almost feel silly writing a recipe for it…but I figured it could be a guideline for those who’ve never cooked them at home! A little bit of oil, a pinch of salt, and a few minutes is all you need for a delicious snack.

Corned Beef with Potatoes and Braised Brussels Sprouts

Tonight, Matt made dinner. Not to say that he isn’t usually involved…but tonight he did the whole thing from start to finish. It was amazing…simple but so full of flavor. It simmered all day while we lounged and relaxed. We ate in a pouring rain storm. Leftovers are in the fridge and we’re feeling warm and comforted on this chilly, rainy night.

Lemon-Ginger Cocktail

One of my favorite things about summer is chilled, creative cocktails. But even in colder weather, there’s always an excuse for a drink or two. That’s why I loved this mixture Matt and I concocted this afternoon: with lemon and ginger flavors. Domaine Canton (ginger liquor), Absolut Citron, a squeeze of lemon, and a splash of ginger beer. Crisp, cool, but with a hint of spicy warmth from the ginger that tasted just right. If you’re feeling fancy schmancy, rub the rim of your glasses in lemon-sugar (zested lemon with superfine sugar).

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Brown Sugar Apple Upside Down Cake with Apple Cider Caramel and Spiced Walnuts

The other weekly challenge over at Food52 was for Apple Cake. Living in the Hudson Valley means some of the best selection and variety of apples I have ever seen. I love the orchards this time of year, and the farm stands, and the smell of cinnamon, spices, and sweet appley goodness coming out in all it’s best forms, including cider (cider doughnuts – a love of mine that will have to be addressed another day). Anyway, I feel like cider is a great way to amp up the flavor of an apple cake, so I smothered my apple upside down cake with apple cider caramel and served it warm. Yum yum.

Individual Sweet Potato Gratins with Creme Fraiche, Onions, and Bacon

One of my co-workers sent me an email about a fantastic new website, called Food52. Food 52 is the ultimate food fight, where cooks all around are battling it out in weekly recipe contests. Two contests a week for a full year, and 52 weeks later the website will produce a cookbook with the winning recipes.

I had to give it a try, because I love being inspired by challenges. The best part about Food52, is that they are sending out really generic titles in the hopes of stirring up the best ideas out there. And boy, have there been some amazing ideas. I love this savory plum tart which won for “Best Fruit Tart”.

This week’s challenges: Best Potato Gratin and Best Apple Cake. Since Matt is a general carbophobe (meaning he just doesn’t usually eat too many of them. I know, I didn’t know that existed, either), I stuck with his favorite: sweet potatoes. Combined with bacon, onions, a creamy bechamel, and a touch of creme fraiche, it won best gratin to date in our household. A great dish for fall, to boot.

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Mushroom Stuffed Sausage Burgers with Peppadew Peppers

**(What’s that? Another dish with sausage and peppadew peppers? Well, yes. I made my cooking “to-do” list at the beginning of the week. I had been craving sausage, but I was cooking for one until tonight when Matt came over. Rather than get stuck with a whole pot of leftovers, I cooked my white beans with sausage on Tuesday night and saved the remaining ingredients for a completely different dish a few days later. So you hardly recognized it, right?)**

Matt loves burgers. I like them too, because I enjoy warm sandwiches. Burgers are easy (and easy to make healthy if you like with lean meats like turkey and chicken and meat substitutions like grated veggies, beans, or portobello mushrooms). I’ve made quite a few types of burgers, but this is one of my all time favorites. Instead of turning to any of my go-to meats or meatless standbys, I used another of Matt’s favorites: sausage. I removed the casings, seasoned the meat, and stuffed the patties with mushrooms and herbs. We finished it off with leftover peppadew peppers for an all-around tasty and Italian-esque burger. It would be great with other toppings, too: sauteed peppers and onions, spinach, mozzarella cheese – get creative! This is a good basic canvas to work with.