Saturday, September 25, 2010

Sasha's Kitchen: Lobster Paella

Eric made a delicious looking Spanish paella which he shared in a recent guest post, which inspired me to create my own version of this dish. I must confess that I don't have the guts to prepare live lobster, so I used a fresh lobster tail from Fresh Direct instead. My favorite aspect of this paella dish was the incorporation of the lobster, as well as the saffron, which is my absolute favorite luxury spice. I always keep saffron on hand in small pouches (you only need a little, which is good because it is quite expensive) - the flavor is exquisite and it is absolutely essential in making the sofrito portion of this dish. This time, I used saffron that my mom brought back from her trip to Spain in June. The following recipe was created by me, after analyzing several recipes from the Food Network.  I used a spicy chicken sausage in lieu of chorizo, since I don't eat pork, but feel free to use chorizo instead if you prefer. This recipe makes a large amount of food (probably 6 servings), and I don't suggest cutting it in half since it requires so many different ingredients.

Sasha's Lobster Paella
3/4 lb skinless, boneless chicken cutlets
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
3 chorizo sausages, or spicy chicken sausage variants
1/2 of a large spanish onion, diced
4 cloves of garlic, diced
handfull of fresh parsley, chopped
1 15 oz can whole tomatoes, cut up
3 cups arborio rice (or Spanish rice)
5-6 cups of low sodium chicken stock (I used organic store bought stock, but you could also make your own if you have time)
generous pinch of saffron threads
1/2 lb of shrimp, shelled and deveined
1 8 oz lobster tail
lemon for seasoning
1 T paprika
1 T dried oregano
salt and pepper to taste

First, combine the paprika, oregano and some salt and pepper to taste and rub the chicken on all sides with this spice mix. Cook the chicken in a pan in olive oil and set aside. Using the same pan (you can add more olive oil if you need to), cook the chorizo or chicken sausage and then set aside.

Next, make the sofrito in a deep pan. Saute the spanish onion, garlic and parsley for about 5 minutes on medium heat. Then add the tomatoes and cook for another minute or two.  Add the arborio rice at this point, and mix well to coat the rice. Add the saffron threads and about 4 1/2 cups of the chicken stock. Simmer for about 15 minutes until the stock reduces and the rice cooks, absorbing the liquid. Next, add the chicken (cut up into small pieces first), the shrimp and the chorizo. Stir, as the ingredients will mix and the shrimp will cook. You will likely need to add another cup or so of chicken stock to keep the rice from sticking. Continue cooking until the rice has the right consistency (don't overcook or it will become sticky) and the shrimp are fully cooked. Next, add the meat from the lobster tail and allow that to cook for a few minutes. Remove from the heat and garnish with parsley and a bit of lemon.


Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Sasha's Kitchen: True Blood Vampire Bite Cupcakes

When you stake a vampire on HBO's show True Blood, the vampire explodes and blood and guts go everywhere. When a vampire bites on the neck, it makes a pronged red bite. I decided to take these two images from True Blood, one of my favorite TV shows, and turn it into a cupcake.

These cupcakes are almond cupcakes with an almond-vanilla buttercream. They are filled with vampire guts - a homemade cherry filling. You can see below that I "staked" one of the cupcakes to reveal the cherry inside. The top of the cupcake is simple - a vampire love bite! I really enjoyed the Season Three finale last weekend and am going to miss this show until it returns. But these cupcakes are pretty fangtastic, I'd say.

Sasha's Almond-Vanilla True Blood Vampire Bite Cupcakes (makes 11/12)
1 1/3 cups all purpose flour
1/4 cup almond meal
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp almond extract
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1/3 cup canola oil
1 cup coconut milk
3/4 cups granulated sugar

Cherry "Vampire Guts" Filling
1 cup frozen sweet cherries, thawed, or fresh sweet cherries, pitted
2T granulated sugar
2 T pomegranate juice
1 T water
1 T cornstarch

Almond Buttercream
1 1/2 sticks of butter
3 cups confectioner's sugar
1 tsp almond extract
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
[Note: I used store bought red frosting to make the vampire bites]

To prepare these cupcakes, first combine the dry ingredients for the cupcakes.  Mix the vanilla, canola oil, coconut milk and extracts in a separate bowl. Combine well. Fill cupcake molds 3/4 of the way full. I used silicon cupcake molds with liners.  Bake at 350 for about 25 minutes, until toothpick done. Allow to cool for 20 minutes before filling.

To prepare the filling, combine the cherries, juice, water and sugar in a sauce pan. Bring to a boil and stir for a few minutes. Mix the cornstarch and water and add the mixture. Reduce the heat and stir until thick.  Cool in the fridge for about 10 minutes before using.

Cut a whole in the top of the cupcake and fill with the cherry filling. Replace the top. It will look a bit patchwork, but the frosting will cover this up.  To make the frosting, combine the butter, confectioner's sugar and extracts in a mixer on high speed for several minutes. Frost with a frosting bag, and paint on the vampire bites with red icing.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Sasha's Kitchen: Spice-Infused Heirloom Tomato Salad and NYC's Eataly (a review)

Heirloom tomatoes are one of my favorite summer treats. So delicious and the colors and shapes are unique and beautiful. I love the way they look when you slice them, and all the colors and textures. Their imperfections and details is what makes them so perfect and gorgeous. The taste is luscious and fresh - nothing like a regular tomato.

The heirloom tomato season is not very long, but they're still around in New York, so I picked some up at the new Eataly Market, to prepare this dish. Eataly, by the way, is an incredible Italian foodie paradise of grandiose proportions.  I've been quite a few times now, since it is so close to where I work in Manhattan.   I decided to create some Indian spice infused heirloom tomatoes using my produce from the marketplace. It's quite easy. Mix the various spices and herbs below with the balsamic vinegar and olive oil and add the tomatoes and a sliced kirby cucumber. Allow to soak for a minute or two before serving with freshly made mozzarella. I love the way the Indian spices mix with the fresh goodness of the heirloom tomatoes. It's a wonderful way to say goodbye to summer. The kirby cucumber by the way, is from the locally grown produce section of Fresh Direct.

Sasha's Spice-Infused Heirloom Tomato Salad

3 large heirloom tomatoes
1 kirby cucumber
fresh mozzarella
1 1/2 tsp fennel
1 1/2 tsp cumin
pinch of pepper
pinch of cayenne
1/3 cup olive oil
2 T balsamic vinegar (I used fig-infused balsamic vinegar)
1/2 tsp sugar
1/4 cup cilantro
1 tsp diced jalapeno
1 1/2 tsp fresh ginger

And before you thought I forgot - a bit of a review of Eataly Market. I love Eataly - everything there is fresh, gourmet and absolutely screams out Mario Batali. There's quite a few restaurants there, and even though I have been about 5 times already, I have not tried them all. So far, I have tried the panini bar, La Piazza, Verdure, La Pizza and La Pasta. Next I'd like to try the raw bar restaurant (Il Crudo), the fish restaurant (Il Pesce), and the gourmet beef restaurant (Il Manzo). In fairness, I should warn readers, the place is a hot spot right now. It will cool off, but right now the crowds are pretty fierce, even at lunchtime during the week.

 On my first visit, I went to the panini bar and had a brasaole, arugula and pesto panini which was delicious (not pictured).  Then, I went back to the absolutely crazy Saturday night atmosphere with my husband. First, we stopped a the Piazza and enjoyed a sampling of parmesan cheeses with a glass of Italian spumoni. Next, we decided to try the pizza and pasta restaurants. I had one of the fabulous Italian sodas. I've tried a variety of the Italian sodas at Eataly - I've never seen any of them anywhere else in NYC, but the ones I've had so far have been fabulous - rhubarb, lemon, lime - a whole variety of flavors and not overpoweringly sweet like American sodas. My husband had a Moretti beer.

At La Pasta/LaPizza we both started with a fabulous dish of the homemade fresh pasta in a pesto sauce - it was one of the best pesto dishes I've had. Fresh and simple, but oh so good. Then we followed with a basic pizza, which was good, but perhaps a bit too much cheese. But oh that crust - it was irresistible. The cheese was still great though, and of course they make their own mozzarella fresh at Eataly every day.

I have also had the opportunity to try the gelato at Eataly, which despite the long lines, does not dissapoint. I had two favors that would seen not to go well together - Fig and Hazelnut, but they were actually both delicious and went together just fine. I love fresh figs and the fig gelato took me back to that day in Napa a couple years ago where I tasted fresh mission figs from the trees.

Finally, I have tried Verdure (food pictured above),  the vegetable restaurant. There were so many great choices on the menu, including specials. However, I went with a lime flavored Italian soda and vegetables a la piatra, a dish that was composed of a variety of fresh market vegetables, from cauliflower to asparagus to sprouts to radicchio, to zucchini and just about everything else you could imagine. It was an amazing vegetable salad. The brushetta of the day was also amazing - fresh sweet corn with chives and black garlic.  The black garlic was amazing, with an almost balsamic/tamarind like taste - so exotic and delicious. I plan to make my own bruschetta using some later this week, since they sell it at Eataly market.

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