As I was typing the title to this post all I could think about was that damn catchy Gwen Stefani song, “this sh*t is bananas, b-a-n-a-n-a-s” and now it’s going to stick with me all day long. Kind of like this AWESOME Banana Bread with Chocolate Glaze from Cooking Light.
I’m amazed that I’ve never made this as it’s been a heavy reader and staff favorite for 17 years. 17 years ago it made its debut and is still going strong. Most marriages don’t last that long! All I know is that I will be making it for 17+ years myself because not only was it about the quickest bread I’ve ever put together, it’s insanely delicious and moist…hold on, I’m grabbing another slice…my goodness, this is so good. If you have ripe bananas, I highly recommend making this right now. I think this is one dish I will always have in my house for the entire fall season! Happy first day of fall!
So, I know some of you readers out there really don’t like Gwyneth Paltrow. If you are one of them, might I suggest the next post below? If you are on the fence about her, like me, you should keep reading. While I do think she can be a bit shallow in her approach (what, you DON’T have an outside pizza oven?), I do like her simple and healthy methodology about cooking, and come on guys, she can be gentle? I do think however, if her and Ina Garten got together in one place the world would spontaneously combust with their “holier than thouness” of it all (if you don’t have ground unicorn horn fresh from your own personal unicorn collection in your back yard in the Hamptons…table salt, I guess, will do…). For more laughs, check out Eater.com’s favorite lines from the Gwyneth’s new cookbook, It’s All Good; I’ll admit, I stifled a giggle while reading.
But seriously, this is about the It’s All Good cookbook and testing and tasting the dishes. I have to say, it really is good! The recipes are simple and direct. A few of the ingredients had me scratching my head and scouring Whole Foods and Central Market – such as xylitol, what? But overall, it’s a great little cookbook. The dishes are flavorful, healthy and David and I agree that you don’t feel like you are “missing” anything by eating this way.
The book has received a bit of flack about her non-recipe recipes such as boiling an egg or her Avocado Toast, which is merely spreading Veganaise, ripe avocado and salt on a piece of toast. I’ve got to defend her here. When I think of my Mom’s delicious Southern cooking, the one thing I’ve noticed is it’s pretty simple ingredients but done with a very specific technique, or three simple little things put together that maybe you hadn’t thought of. Don’t knock technique or simple combinations y’all, otherwise, my mom’s calling of frozen okra, corn meal and salt wouldn’t turn into the most amazing fried okra you’ve ever had (the secret is getting it just golden enough and pulling it off the heat at the right time, I think I’ve mastered it these days but it took me YEARS to get it down).
I can’t share the recipes here, so go out and grab a copy, and check out a sneak peek here at Self.com. A few of my favorites so far are: Salmon with Lee’s Sriracha and Lime (yes, you make your own sriracha…yes, you will kick butt at it); New York Street Vendor Salad with Yogurt-Tahini Dressing; Crazy Good Fish Tacos (the sauce on this one is, well, all good and then some); Chinese Chicken Salad; Power Chopped Salad with Parsley Dressing (I served this at a dinner party and got rave reviews); Lee’s Chopped Vietnamese Salad; Grilled Duck with Lee’s Hoisin Sauce (see sriracha note above…easy breezy…you will kick butt!).
There are times in the Cooking Inside the Lines kitchen (and more than I would like to admit) that some recipes are just missing the certain something; that, you just can’t put your finger on it “thing” that would make it really sing. The je ne sais quoi if you will? Oui, oui! This circumstance happened last night when a friend brought over a red wine sauce and we were both turning our heads in thought as to what the heck it needed.
When I’m making dinner, I’ll stop and ask David to try a sauce or a dressing and we always equate it to having a “hole” in the middle. The brightness might be there in the beginning and the nice spice kick might be there at the end, but there’s nothing really in the middle to make it totally palatable. Through all of these years – yes, years! – of doing this, I noticed I turn to a few things to help save a sauce or dressing. Like a culinary ER doctor, I try to find out what’s causing the damage and then, save the dish. Here are my go-tos when something is amiss in the kitchen. You can try one or a combo of them to see if they might work for you:
Low-sodium chicken broth: this is usually for sauces with a wine base. Sometimes, after you burn off the alcohol, the flavor just isn’t there. I usually add a cup of broth, let it simmer and then bam, you have a low-fat and low-sodium but flavorful sauce.
Tomato paste: If chicken broth hasn’t saved your sauce above, or, that marinara just doesn’t have the oomph you are looking for, it probably needs more acidity. Try adding tomato paste and see if it gives it the kick you are looking for.
Honey or sugar: I know sugar is no-no to some of you, but sometimes, you have to have a little bit of sweet to balance out the flavors. I’m not talking about a cup, I’m saying a 1/2 teaspoon. I use honey or agave or sometimes sugar to save sauces of all kinds and add roundness to dressings.
Salt: Now go in reverse from the point above. when you are doing something sweet and it just seems to be missing something, trying adding an 1/8 of a teaspoon of sea salt or kosher salt. I promise it will make a huge difference.
Fresh herbs: When all else fails, there is nothing like fresh herbs to add freshness and zing to a sauce or dressing. It’s unbelievable what fresh herbs can do and it’s virtually zero calories to boot!
Red Pepper Flakes: This is a big go-to dish saver here. Sometimes all a dish needs is a hint of spice to make the sweetness and acidity play nicely together. Just a dash always does it for me.
Cumin: Oddly, I use this in dressings most of the time when I find it’s off balance and I’ve applied honey and herbs to try and make it better. Cumin has a smokey undertone that sometimes is just what the doctored ordered to round out the flavors subtly.
Cinnamon: This is a great little spice that people always ask, “what is that in there that makes it taste so good?” a little bit of spice and a little bit of that “you can’t put your finger on it flavor” is what makes cinnamon so special in my book. This is great in marinaras, cheese sauces and even broth-based sauces. A little goes a long way, so just pinch you guys!
Welcome to a new series of posts that feature recipes I’ve tried in the past but this time, we retest for accuracy and awesomeness but my adorable hubs, David. David likes to claim he doesn’t know his way around the kitchen as well as I do, but let me tell you, he most certainly does. I call him the egg, seafood and sandwich whisperer. He makes absolutely hands-down perfect over-easy eggs, knows exactly when to pull fish off the heat just by looking at it and always makes the most perfectly balanced ratio of meat/lettuce/bread/sauce on a sandwich. He’s definitely got the chops in the kitchen and I know he follows these recipes to letter just like I do. So, let’s see how he did!
Usually while I cook, David and Lila are off climbing Mount Pillow in our bedroom or conquering the downstairs toy chest, but last night, David made this Scallops with Green Tea Cream from Cooking Light while I fed the munchkin. P.S. we just got her a highchair, and the OXO Sprout is an incredible product – we highly recommend it.
David followed this recipe to the letter and once again it turned out perfect (yes, we did the same measurements but just treated it as an entree). That sauce seriously I could smother on anything and it would taste good. Yum, yum, yum. Seeking out green tea powder is worth it for this dish alone. If you haven’t tried this yet, what are you waiting for?
Last week I was craving the oddest thing – a delicious lobster roll. Could I seriously crave anything more costly? Well, I could actually, but wow, lobster rolls are not cheap. Thankfully, David is from the East Coast and when I exclaimed my hankering, he was totally in. We thought we would give Dock & Roll a try having driven by it so many times and promising that one day we would stop. Well we did, and it’s good, damn good.
David got the Maine Event (lobster meat served chilled with Dock & Roll‘s special house mayo, old bay lemon butter, and chive on a freshly baked roll) and I got the Long Island (celery and onion added to the Maine Event – this girl has to have crunch) plus Lobster Mac ‘n’ Cheese (because why wouldn’t you?) and tater tots (once again, why wouldn’t you?). We brought them home and I snarfed mine in about eight minutes and this is a good size lobster roll y’all. Everything was absolutely delicious. That mac ‘n’ cheese was so good I’m glad we didn’t have a bigger serving because we would have just kept eating and eating and eating. Even the tater tots were delicious. The only complaint, and this is coming from my aforementioned East Coast husband, but they didn’t serve it on a split top roll. Now, no one in the city serves lobster rolls on a split top roll, and, you can’t get them anywhere here. When David goes to Central Market or Whole Foods Market, he will ask the bakery if they have split top rolls and every time he gets a no and sad face. David shakes his fist in the air and makes his own sad face. I guess it’s kind of a big deal actually because when he mentions it to other East Coast friends the complaints are strong and loud. Maybe this is the equivalent of not having decent Tex-Mex on the West Coast? I felt that way when I lived in Los Angeles!
One final note was the price. For two lobster rolls, tater tots and the mac ‘n’ cheese it was $37.00. To put that into perspective, there is another lobster roll in the city that is $28.00 and not as big as this one. It’s a good bang for your buck considering you are eating delicious and decadent lobster.
Get thee to Dock & Roll today! http://dockandrolldiner.com/menu
It’s no secret that I loathe ricotta cheese. Seriously, give me a gallon of gasoline and a match and I will torch a batch at a time. So why, oh why, did I choose to make this Tomato Ricotta Tart from Cooking Light that has 3/4 cup of the yucky stuff in it? Because I’m a ricotta martyr? Because I’m a glutton for punishment? Because I like to prove myself wrong? Ding, ding, ding!
I was proved very wrong indeed lambs and I’m grateful that I tried this because we out-of-this world loved this dish. The crust was perfect, a little crumbly but in a good way and the tomatoes with the ricotta filling were so perfectly balanced, we were slap your knee happy. Also, it was so easy to put together and with a simple spinach side salad, dinner was done in no time. As an added bonus, we ate the leftovers for the next two days for breakfast. I told David the next time we hosted a brunch I was going to be make sure this stunner was at the table. Yum!
I’ve been talking to my friend Kari about trying Josephine House and lo and behold the day we decided to go it was touted as one of the best restaurants in America along with its big sister restaurant Jeffrey’s in Bon Appetit magazine. “Great,” I thought in my head, “now it’s going to be swimming with people.”
But alas, when we got there for happy hour it was filled with a few ladies, but wasn’t too bad. Close your eyes however and think for a moment about “ladies who lunch” and that’s exactly type of clientele that was there. If you know me at all, I’m really not that type, so I felt a little bit out of place from the get go. We quickly scurried to a spot outside by the fireplace (that’s got to be THE spot during the fall let me tell you) and asked about the Happy Hour specials. So, don’t get me wrong, I wasn’t expecting huge discounts but still, it was $2 off drinks and 25% off food. I remember giving Kari this look when our very nice waiter mentioned the specials and thinking, “so your $15 glass of overpriced wine is now $12? What a deal!” Trying to not get too snarky, we glanced over the menu and ordered a spinach salad with peaches, these awesome deep fried rice cakes called calas, the Nicoise Salad and Ratatouille Empanadas.
Let me be clear here that I owned a food company so I know it’s painful when someone reviews your food in a negative light, but I’m most certainly not trying to be negative because I did think the food was good, not knock your socks off great, but good. I think the other issue was that I was walking in with high expectations with “the best restaurant in the U.S.” blitz, and the prices for the size of plates you are getting felt, well, a little like a very ritzy, overpriced place in Dallas. Two bright stars were the calas and empanadas. Whoever did that dough for the emapadas needs a medal or award or something as I thought it was perfect.
The other great thing about Josephine House is that place is downright impeccable. Every detail is pitch perfect and no stone is left unturned. From the thick, expensive feeling, personally imprinted napkins in the bathroom, perfectly chilled white wine, awesome and perfectly balanced Paloma, to the unfussy and effortless service – everything about the look and feel was phenomenal. Like I said, the food was good, but I think it just wasn’t up to par with the impeccable surroundings, service and drinks. We will definitely go back in the fall, sit by the amazing fire place and give her another try!
One little egg and it’s yoooolk! Ha, sorry, I was singing this in my head as I was writing the title. You might recall my Delicious Failure post that I had with the Crabless Cakes from Food & Wine magazine. Well, let me tell you, I went back and did it all over again, this time adding one little egg and then placing the formed patties (I hate that word for some reason, ugh and the word moist, bleh) in the fridge and VOILA! perfect little crabless crabcakes. Just one egg and they turned out perfect and still so, so, so delicious. Neat huh?
That’s really it guys. Have a gentle crabless cake day.
Emily: “It’s defnitely the toasted pecans that make this salad awesome, definitely.” Chomp, chomp, chomp.
David: “Oh really? See, I think it’s the eggs and bacon.” Chomp, chomp, chomp.
Emily: “Maybe the pecans with dressing? That dressing is manna from heaven.” Chomp, chomp, chomp.
David: “My favorite dressing you ever made for sure. But I still think it’s the eggs and bacon. And maybe the bleu cheese.” Chomp, chomp, chomp.
Emily: “Don’t even get me started on the sprouts, such a great addition. And I love the tomatoes and corn.” Chomp, chomp, chomp.
David: “Wow, I just figured out why this salad took you so long to make! There’s so much to it! Are you going to check this under ‘lengthy recipe but worth the whisking, sweat and tears?'” Chomp, chomp, chomp.
Emily: “Yes honey…I still say it’s the pecans.” Chomp, chomp, chomp.
Seriously, this salad did take a while since there are so many components but, this was one of the top five favorite salads that I’ve ever made in this house. Definitely give it a try and don’t leave out the pecans. Chomp, chomp, chomp.
It’s rare that I review a dish that doesn’t work out perfectly, since (obviously) I test recipes that work to ensure you have a great experience at home. Alas, last night we had a real conundrum on our hands. I made this Crabless Cakes with Hearts of Palm & Corn from Food & Wine and while they maintained their shape when formed, boy did they fall apart once they hit the pan. It was so bad it looked like I was making a hash instead of crabcakes. I kept reviewing all of the steps and ingredients to make sure I hadn’t missed something glaring, but I didn’t. At first I thought it was my pan, so I moved to another non-stick pan and the same thing happened with the remaining cakes. Oooh, I was not happy lambs. I was about to scrap it but then decided to give it a taste. It was GREAT! So great in fact that I had seconds, which I rarely ever do. Granted, I was eating a veggie/breadcrumb hash instead of crabcakes, but the flavors were outstanding.
I am somewhat comforted that another fellow cooker tried this recipe and had the same outcome. Her idea was to add a bit of mashed sweet potato as binder, and it worked. Or, if you are OK with it, you could use two slightly beaten eggs. I would also suggest placing them in the fridge once formed to let them set up. I’m going to go back and try a few of these steps and report back to you on what works. These were awesome in flavor and pretty easy in assembly, so I definitely want to give them another try to make them perfect. I’ll keep you posted!