Monday, April 27, 2009

udon and vegetable salad

  • udon noodles
  • snap peas
  • broccoli florets
  • baby corn
  • shredded cabbage
  • 1 large yellow pepper, cut into matchsticks
  • 1 large orange pepper, cut into matchsticks
  • green onion, chopped fine
  • 2 tablespoons rice vinegar
  • 3 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon sesame oil
  • 2 tablespoon mirin
  • 1/2 lemon

Combine juice of lemon, with mirin, soy sauce, vinegar and sesame oil. Mix well, set aside. Cook udon noodles (available in the Asian section of the supermarket) according to package. Drain cooked noodles and rinse with cool water and combine with vegetables and dressing. Serve cool.

The dish: Successful cooking begins with keen shopping and a well stocked pantry. If you want to cook your own Asian dishes you first have to build your Asian pantry. I suggest starting with keeping these basics on hand:

  • a good quality light soy sauce
  • sesame oil (if adding to anything hot, put it in at the last minute as it's a very delicate oil)
  • wok oil (flavorless oil with a high smoke point)
  • rice vinegar

Don't be afraid to keep these on hand as they will keep forever and your Asian dishes will improve so much that you'll use them often. If you'd like to branch out from there, I suggest:

  • mirin (sweetened sake- use sparingly as it's 8% alcohol)
  • Chinese 5 spice (never use more than a tiny pinch)
  • black sesame seeds

Keeping this stuff on hand will open you up to a whole new selection of dishes that you can easily prepare. I've had great luck with the sushi chef and house of Tsang brands, and both are available in most supermarkets.

matzo crusted chicken tenders

  • boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into tenders
  • buttermilk
  • matzo, crushed into a fine meal
  • cayenne pepper
  • adobo
  • dried oregano
  • fresh apricot preserves
  • fresh lemon juice

Combine apricot preserves and lemon, set aside. Add cayenne, adobo and oregano to matzo. Soak chicken in buttermilk, then dredge in matzo meal to coat. Bake at 450 degrees for about 10 minutes or until chicken is fully cooked. Serve with apricot dipping sauce and any other topping you wish, we used bbq sauce.

The dish: While it's true that Passover is almost two weeks in the rear view mirror, I made these chicken tenders now on purpose. As a Catholic boy I have no idea what's Kosher and what is not, let alone Kosher for Passover. I suspect soaking the chicken in buttermilk would make even the liberalist of Rabbis cringe, so I figured I'd post this well ex post facto so no one actually mistakes me for someone who knows what he's talking about and copies it trying to keep Kosher. Faithful redroom reader Mike from Brooklyn can be thanked for the matzo, as he and his better half had a surplus and were kind enough to pass some along to the gentiles up the walkway. This dish was a neat way to showcase matzo, but truthfully I think I prefer mine plain with peanut butter, it's great if you haven't tried it.


  • gin
  • dry vermouth
  • good quality olives

Fill martini glass with ice and water, set aside. In shaker, combine gin with a little vermouth to taste and shake well (don't believe the hype- you can't bruise gin) for 30 seconds. Dump ice water out of glass, strain drink into glass and garnish with olives.

The dish: Having spent a fair enough of time on both sides of the bar I've learned a few things about mixing drinks. It seems these days that any drink you strain into a martini glass deserves the fabled title, even if gin, vermouth or olives are nowhere near it. This of course is wrong and if a bartender immediately asks "gin or vodka" after you say "martini", my advice is to turn and run as the gentleman clearly doesn't know a cape cod from a vodka cranberry. There is only one martini and this is it. Make it with vodka and it's a vodkatini, with Scotch it's a rob roy, with bourbon a Manhattan. Even if you make it with gin and vermouth but then throw an onion in it, it becomes a gibson. This was made with Bombay Sapphire White, but any good quality gin will work.

Monday, April 20, 2009

spaghetti with a creamy dill salmon sauce

  • 1 lb spaghetti
  • 1 lb salmon (unseasoned frozen would work), cut into bite sized pieces
  • low fat sour cream
  • fresh dill

Cook spaghetti according to package in lightly salted water. Cook salmon in a little olive oil over a medium flame for about 10 minutes, or until desired doneness is reached. Turn burner under the salmon off. Add the sour cream and stir until creamy. Add dill, toss with the pasta and serve.

The dish: Now seems like a great time to let you know that I'm having a lot of fun doing this blog and it's been a great influence on us. We've definitely cut back on our eating out and my I'm feeling pretty good about my camera skills improving. Almost everything we've been eating has been swayed by the blog; we never go this long without repeats and we've been scouring for different plates to show in the pictures. I've done this dish before, but as a salmon fillet with a creamy sauce. At some point I'll post it as such, but I thought you might be getting bored of seeing slabs of salmon covered in something saucy. If I didn't have the blog we would have had it as we always have (or more likely wound up at Denny's) and we both thought it was really cool that since we knew you'd be reading we tried something new. I've been shocked at how many people have been following the red room rambles (more than have been posting I assure you) and I just want to say "thanks" for the motivation you provide. I'm looking forward to many more enjoyable meals together.

egg salad

  • 8 eggs, hard-boiled
  • 3 tablespoons low fat ricotta cheese
  • 3 tablespoons mayonnaise
  • 2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
  • fresh parsley, chopped
  • 4 slices bacon (optional- or for ease you can just rock bacon bits)

Cook the bacon until just barely crispy. Blot with paper towels, chop into small pieces. Peel and chop the eggs. Combine all ingredients in large bowl. We enjoyed it on 12 grain bread (Hannaford makes a great one) with some spinach.

The dish: Making a great egg salad is highly dependent upon properly hard-boiled eggs. Eggs peel easier when boiled in salted water, so always add a pinch. Place eggs in water that covers them and cook over a high flame. When water reaches a roaring boil, turn off the burner and let eggs sit in water until cooled. The result will be perfectly cooked eggs that retain distinctive yolk and white texture as opposed to just becoming one big yellow mushy mess.

brownie with mango compote

  • 2 fresh mangoes
  • vanilla
  • boxed brownies
  • whip cream (we love dream whip)
  • cocoa powder

Cut mangoes into bite sized cubes, drizzle with vanilla and set aside for 1-5 hours. Prepare brownies according to package. Top warm brownie with mango compote and whip cream, garnish with sprinkles of cocoa powder.

The dish: The red room has followed in the footsteps of corporate America: we've outsourced our brownie manufacturing and only do final assembly on site. Brownies are a peculiar thing in that the boxed version is far superior to anything homemade. Instant has that gooey texture that just screams "brownie", while the from scratch variety always is a little too much like cake. As you can clearly see in the above photo, Kim is great at presenting a dessert and the final mix of flavors tasted even better than it looked.

rosemary roasted rack of lamb with mint pesto

  • rack of lamb
  • fresh rosemary sprigs
  • fresh mint, chopped fine
  • fresh basil, chopped fine
  • whole garlic cloves
  • 1/2 lemon

Combine mint, basil, juice of half the lemon and a swirl of good quality olive oil in a large bowl, set aside. In large skillet over a high flame heat a couple of swirls of olive oil, brown each side of lamb for 2 minutes, transfer to oven safe dish. Cover lamb with fresh rosemary and garlic cloves and bake in oven at 325 degrees for 15 minutes or until cooked to desired doneness. Once cooked, discard rosemary and garlic, spoon pesto over lamb immediately as it comes out of the oven.

The dish: Okay, I lied. Not even a month ago I told you that I only eat lamb once a year, and here we have yet another preparation of it coming out of the red room. I promise that if it had not been Easter, this never would have happened. True to form, mint was in this recipe as well and it played quite nicely off the basil. This was the first time I ever tried cooking a rack of lamb and everyone thought it was great, so that was a relief. One glaring thing wrong with the dish is the absence of those little paper chef hat looking things they put on the lamb at fancy restaurants. If anyone has any idea of where to buy those things (or what they're called for that matter) please let me know. Just do me a favor and wait a while before telling me, because if I had them in my hands the temptation to do another rack of lamb would be too great and I can't bring it upon myself to lie so frequently.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

shiitake and white truffle risotto

  • 2 cups arborio rice
  • 1 cup white wine
  • 2 cups vegetable stock
  • 2 cups chicken stock
  • shiitake mushrooms, chopped
  • butter
  • fresh parsley, chopped
  • white truffle oil (highly optional, I just got some on sale and had to use it)

Combine chicken and vegetable stock in large pot, heat on back burner over a medium high flame, stirring occasionally. In large pot on front burner, brown the mushrooms in a little butter over a medium flame for about 3 minutes. Add rice and more butter, occasionally turning rice, for another 3-5 minutes. Add wine, cook for 3-5 minutes, or until wine is fully dissolved. Reduce flame on rice pot down to medium low and stir in a ladle of stock, cook until fully dissolved. Continue adding stock, one ladle at a time waiting for each to dissolve before adding more. Make sure to keep the pot with the stock warm and be watchful of the rice, making sure to add enough stock so that the rice doesn't burn, but not so much that the rice appears mushy. The whole process will take longer than you'd expect, about 40+/- minutes. Once all stock has been ladled in check rice for doneness. If not fully cooked add more stock or water until done, if it's good then add parsley and truffle oil.

The dish: Loosely translated, "risotto" is Italian for "rice that's a pain in the ass to cook". However, the end result is well worth the effort. I'm not sure if it's the browning of the rice or the incremental addition of the liquids that makes it taste so distinctive, but whatever the trick is you certainly won't mistake risotto for Uncle Ben's boil in the bag. I had the truffle oil and decided to play on it with the mushroom theme, but risotto is a blank canvas that you can do any number of things with. I usually add cheese at the very end, but figured it might be a little too much with the oil. Use any white wine, but I have a box of Digit's likeness in the fridge that I use primarily for cooking.

broccoli rabe with garlic

  • broccoli rabe (I use about a bunch per person figuring on having leftovers)
  • fresh garlic, chopped roughly
  • olive oil

In a large skillet over a medium flame cook the garlic for 3-5 minutes or until just done. Add chopped broccoli rabe and a little more olive oil, continue cooking for about 5 minutes. Season to taste with Kosher salt (or any coarse salt- I just like Kosher the best because it's the cheapest) and fresh ground pepper.

The dish: If you've been reading this blog, then you've seen this dish before. This is an easy side dish that shows well and tastes great. If you happen to have some fresh lemons lying around, feel free to give this dish a squeeze, but don't sweat it if you don't. Sauteing with garlic is a pretty easy method that works for pretty much any vegetable you can think of, feel free to get funky and experiment, I'm sure you'll love the results.

spinach salad with warm bacon vinaigrette

  • fresh baby spinach, washed and dried
  • 4 slices bacon
  • sherry vinegar (or any red wine vinegar)
  • Dijon mustard
  • sugar
  • olive oil

In large skillet (I used my cast iron) cook bacon over medium high heat until just crispy, remove. Blot bacon with a paper towel and then chop into small pieces, set aside. Discard all but about 2 tablespoons of the bacon grease from the pan. Over a medium high flame, whisk together the grease, 3 tablespoons of vinegar, 2 tablespoons of mustard and 2 tablespoons of sugar. Assemble spinach on plates, adding bacon pieces and a drizzle of high quality olive oil. Spoon warm vinegar over salad, serve immediately (unless of course you have to stage a photo for your blog, then your guests can wait a few minutes as you line up the perfect shot).

The dish: I have a good friend that feeds her son oatmeal every morning figuring that it acts as "nutritional absolution" for whatever else may happen in the day. I believe bacon acts in the exact opposite way: no matter how healthy what you're putting it on may be, it instantly becomes a decadent treat. There's not much that's healthier than straight raw spinach, but you wouldn't know it when you take a bite of this salad. Serving the dressing warm wilts the leaves just a touch and gives it a distinctive flavor and texture. Just be sure to eat your oatmeal every morning so that you can begin throwing bacon around without any guilt knowing that you've already been nutritionally absolved for the day.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

baked ziti

  • 3+ cups of meat sauce
  • 1lb ziti noodles
  • 1 large container of part skim ricotta cheese
  • 1 lb part skim mozzarella cheese, cubed
  • 1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese

Cook ziti in slightly salted water until just done, drain and rinse with cold water. Combine all ingredients in large casserole dish, adjusting the amount of sauce until desired consistency is reached. Baked covered in the oven for 40 minutes (or until done) at 350 degrees.

The dish: Baked ziti is the classic dish to bring to a potluck dinner or to share with friends. This batch was sectioned into individual portions and frozen (using our cool vacuum sealer), then given to my sister-in-law who has had a tough week; her father passed away after a long period of illness. As if that wasn't enough to deal with she's also helping her recently widowed mother and tending to my brother who has a leg that is broken in two places. Oh yeah, and she works for an accountant and it's the final stretch of tax season. She's been artfully dealing with her overflowing plate with an amazing amount of poise and my brother has been more involved and mobile than someone who has a recently implanted titanium rod probably should be. If any two people need a rest and some comfort it's them, and there is probably no greater comfort food than baked ziti. Our thoughts, prayers and baked pasta dishes go out to both of you.

meat sauce

  • 1/2 pound of ground beef
  • 1/2 pound of ground sausage
  • 4 garlic cloves, peeled and chopped
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 2 cans of crushed tomatoes
  • 2 cans of diced tomatoes
  • 2 cans of tomato paste
  • fresh (or dried) oregano, chopped fine
  • fresh basil

In large skillet brown meats until done, drain. In large sauce pot over a medium flame, saute garlic and onion in a little olive oil for 3-5 minutes, or until just translucent. Add tomato paste and cook for an additional 3 minutes. Add remainder of tomatoes and browned meat and bring to a simmer. Reduce heat and cook for 2+ hours. Add oregano 1 hour before serving, add basil right as served.

The dish: The above recipe is the advanced version of this classic meat sauce. For total ease you can just throw all the ingredients in your crock pot and cook for 8 hours on low. I actually did a mix of the two- I cooked the sauce as described above and then transferred the mix to my crock pot to cook for a couple of hours. Unless if you're really pinched for time, I'd recommend always browning the meat and the garlic and onion as they have a distinct flavor when sauteed as opposed to slow cooking.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Grand Marnier salmon

  • 4 fresh salmon fillets, bones and skin removed
  • Grand Marnier
  • orange juice

Marinate salmon in the Grand Marnier for 3-24 hours. Preheat a small amount of olive oil in a large skillet over a medium high flame. Add salmon, cook about 3 minute per side depending on thickness of fillet and desired doneness. Remove fish from the pan and add another generous splash of the liqueur (stand back, it's gonna sizzle) and a pour of the oj. Continuously whisk sauce over a high flame for 3-5 minutes. Turn heat off and continue to whisk for another 2 minutes or until slightly thickened. Pour a generous amount of sauce over fish and serve with wild rice made with 1/4 of the water substituted for oj.

The dish: Two recipes does not a kick make, but I'm loving salmon and you can expect to see more of it in the future. We much prefer salmon fillets to steaks, but I'm pretty sure you could use either. I keep a pair of tweezers that I use for nothing else than removing bones that they missed at the store. I'm down with keeping the skin on (I'll even rock out the salmon skin roll every now and again) but Kim is not really a fan so we go naked. For real ease, you can even use unseasoned frozen salmon for these recipes. This recipe is not only easy, but it only uses one pan and absolutely no salt. The prohibitionists can sleep easy because all the alcohol is cooked off.


  • 2 ripe avocados
  • 1/4 of a lemon
  • adobo
  • fresh cilantro, chopped fine

Cut avocado in half lengthwise, taking care not to cut large pit in center. Remove pit and use spoon to remove green stuff (pulp?), then chop it finely. Place chopped green in bowl, add cilantro, juice of the lemon and a few shakes of adobo, stir until mixture is creamy with a few chunks. If you're not eating it immediately (moot point- who can pass up fresh guacamole?), store covered in the refrigerator with pit placed on top- this will help to keep it from browning.

The dish: There are few problems in life that are as pleasant to happen upon as finding a ripe avocado on your counter that needs to be used right away. We had some leftover cilantro in the fridge so the choice of what to do with our ripe friend was obvious. I'm a bit of a traditionalist when it comes to guacamole, only a few fresh ingredients are really necessary. I've enjoyed it made by other people with everything from tomatoes to jalapeno peppers in it, but I really love the simplicity of the basic recipe. Be careful not to add too much adobo as corn chips are already as salty as Lot's wife and you don't want to instantly redline your blood pressure.

Monday, April 6, 2009

mango, pork and avocado wraps

  • 1 cup cooked pork, cubed (I used some boneless pork chops that were on special)
  • 2 large mangos, peeled and cubed
  • 1 avocado, cubed
  • your favorite sandwich wraps
  • mayonnaise
  • adobo (I've been rocking the light variety)
  • fresh cilantro, chopped fine
  • half of a lime

In a small bowl combine about 1/4 cup of mayonnaise with cilantro, a few shakes of adobo, and juice of half the lime. Stir together until fully combined. Assemble wrap by spreading mayo mixture on 1 side and placing equal amounts of avocado, mango and pork in center. Wrap it up and enjoy!

The dish: My wife is known for many things; her ravishing beauty, her sharp wit, her ivy league education, her irreproachable selection of husbands. One of her lesser known attributes is her ability to roll a wrap like nobody's business. This no doubt stems from her brief stint in the budding moments of the 1990s as a Taco Bell employee. She's a quick learner with great retention and here, many sunsets later, she can construct a wrap that is the envy of all. I am truly covetous of this, as I, someone who has some serious deli cred, can wrap about as well as I can play the accordion (read: not so hot). Working together is the foundation of any solid relationship and I'm proud to say that we get along as well as mango and pork (and avocado and cilantro lime mayo). The personalized plate was a Christmas gift from my mother-in-law and I find it fitting that it is showcased in this recipe which parades one of her daughter's greatest talents.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

salmon with lentils

  • 3 fresh salmon fillets, skin and bones removed (the ones I used were a little better than 1/3 of a pound each
  • 3 carrots, peeled and cubed into small pieces
  • 2 shallots, chopped finely
  • 3 cups of vegetable stock
  • fresh thyme, chopped
  • 2 cups of brown lentils (or any kind- I think they all cook up about the same)
  • good quality mustard (I used an even mix of Grey Poupon Dijon and spicy brown)
  • unsalted butter

Saute carrot and shallots in large pot with a little olive oil over a medium high flame for about 5 minutes. Add lentils, a few sprigs of thyme, vegetable stock and about 1.5 cups of water, bring to boil and then reduce heat and simmer, adding more water as needed, for about 35 minutes or until lentils are cooked (they should be firm but tender). Meanwhile, in a large skillet over medium heat melt about two tablespoons butter and cook salmon for about 5 minutes (or longer, I like mine done on the rare side of medium) turning once. Remove fillet from pan and place on warm plate under tin foil. In same skillet, melt just a little more butter (maybe a tablespoon depending on how much is left in the pan) and whisk in about 4 heaping tablespoons of mustard and some chopped thyme. Turn flame off and continue to whisk until sauce is thick and creamy. Serve salmon over a mound of lentils with sauce spooned over both. We had it with broccoli rabe sauteed with garlic- it basically rocked.

The dish: I think I'm about to go on a salmon kick. It is hands down my favorite cooked fish (tuna winning the raw award) and I've got about 4 or 5 really good, really easy (this is by and large the hardest) recipes that I'll be posting soon. If you haven't tried preparing it at home, I highly recommend it as it tastes great, is easy and versatile and doesn't leave your house smelling like the Fulton Fish Market. It's also packed with Vitamin D and more Omega 3 than just about any other food, just be careful not to make yourself mad as a hatter.

penne with spinach and cannellini beans

  • 1 lb penne
  • 2 bags of fresh baby spinach
  • 2 cans of cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
  • crushed red pepper ( I prefer Simply Organic)
  • ground nutmeg
  • shredded Italian cheese (I had leftover Asiago)

In large pot of lightly salted water, cook pasta according to instructions on box, checking for doneness once a minute beginning 3 minutes before suggested cooking time. While that action is going on the left burner, warm a few swirls of olive oil over a medium high heat on the right burner (really, it doesn't matter what burner you use). Add spinach to oil a handful at a time, tossing every so often, allowing each batch to wilt. When about 3/4 of the way through the spinach, add beans and a little more olive oil to mixture. Season mixture with Kosher salt and fresh pepper and a healthy shake of nutmeg. Spinach mixture will be fully cooked by the time the pasta is al dente. Drain pasta and place serving on plate, drizzle with a little good quality olive oil, add mixture to top and sprinkle asiago cheese and red pepper flakes on top.

The dish: Popeye was right, spinach is something you should eat pretty regularly whether or not you'll be sparring with a brutish sailor thug over your emaciated beau. I can't imagine that I'd want to eat too much right out of the can, but when the fresh stuff is wilted you can eat more than you'd imagine. For a dish like this I count on one full bag per person, when just wilted as a side dish I use about one and a half. Just a point of reference there's about a bags worth on the pasta in the picture. The nutmeg trick is lifted straight from the one and only Rachael Ray; she advises to add a pinch to cooked spinach, and it really does work. The end result is nothing that tastes like Christmas, but rather it gives the spinach a seasoned flavor that plays well off its natural earthiness.