Chimichurri obsession

I have a confession. I am obsessed with chimichurri sauce. Even more embarrassing than divulging this information to you is that I have eaten the same sandwich with chimichurri sauce for lunch three days in a row. Chimichurri and I first locked star-crossed eyes at Goodwin's restaurant as I innocently stepped up to the counter to order my normal, boring turkey sandwich. Alas, I had seen someone devouring a pretzel roll and scanned the menu quickly to narrow down options. No pretzel roll was anywhere to be seen!

It was then that I glanced at the specials board, only to be met by the San Clemente. Here is where our love affair began. Turkey, avocado, tomato, lettuce and oh my, chimichurri sauce! All on a toasted pretzel roll?? Yes!!

After guiltily eating the same sandwich three days in a row at my desk and professing my love for it to all of my colleagues, no matter what kind of "you're a crazy person" stares I received, I decided it was time to make this at home.

Let me just say that many of my creations are met with positive feedback from my husband, but this time, I really nailed it. You can, of course, use this chimichurri sauce as Argentina intended it: on a lovely grilled steak. Some grilled fish or chicken would also be fantastic, but don't miss out on this sandwich.

I noticed at Goodwin's that their sauce was extremely garlicky (only a good thing in my book) and it had flecks of red onions in it. In my version, I included shallots and it added more garlic than the recipe I was working from called for. It was perfection.

If you can't find freshly made pretzel rolls, you could use some french bread as a substitute. I realize that a sandwich isn't really a recipe, but I wouldn't want you to mess it up.

San Clemente Sandwich
Makes 2 sandwiches

2 store-bought pretzel rolls, freshly made and cut lengthwise in half
thinly sliced turkey
1 tomato, sliced
lettuce leaves of your choice
1 avocado, sliced
chimichurri sauce (see below)

Toast your pretzel rolls. To assemble, generously spoon chimichurri sauce on the bottom part of the bun. You want all the garlicky oils to be dripping down your hands, so don't get skimpy. Layer turkey, then avocados, tomatoes and lettuce. Salt and pepper if you'd like and top with the pretzel roll. Enjoy! You can serve it with chips n' salsa like they do at Goodwin's if you'd like.

Chimichurri Sauce
Adapted from Bon Appetit

1 cup (packed) fresh Italian parsley
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/3 cup red wine vinegar
3 garlic cloves, peeled
1 shallot, peeled
1/4 cup (packed) fresh cilantro
3/4 tsp dried crushed red pepper flakes
1/2 tsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp salt

Puree all ingredients in processor. Transfer to a bowl. Cover and let stand at room temperature. This will keep in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to a week.


Sweet spaghetti pie

This spaghetti pie recipe is from one of my Mother's closest friends, Linda Priddy. I am lucky to have a few of her recipes in my repertoire, and this is one of them. It's full of flavor, easier to make than a lasagna and completely moreish. You think that just one slice is going to be enough, but before you know it, you've polished off an entire pan of this pie.

I also feel blessed to have had a family that we were able to spend so much time with growing up. My sister and I spent summers with Linda and Steve's two boys, Joel and Matt. We played golf together, swam together for the local swim team, and spent fantastic weekends at their lake house in southern Indiana. Joel and Matt were constantly building or creating something, like an entire paint ball business in the woods behind their house, and we were always invited to join. Unfortunately, I remember shooting Matt at point blank range with a paint ball gun, and that was the end of my invitations. I also have fond memories of our families skiing together in the eighties, and we still have embarrassing photographic evidence of our neon jackets and bad hair.

As fate would have it, all four of us attended Indiana University, and although Joel and I were the only two the same age, we all loved getting together. Sadly, Joel passed away after I had been in London for just a year or so. Linda has always been a great inspiration for me in the kitchen. She hosted Christmas Eve parties every year and her mini-wieners were my favorite. She was constantly catering for her boys, and I admired that greatly.

I can't remember the last time I cooked this spaghetti pie, but my sister mentioned this week that she had made it again and I ran straight out to get the ingredients. It reminds me a little of my Grandmother's lasagna that uses cottage cheese as a layer. I'm not sure how authentic adding cottage cheese to Italian dishes is, but I am all for it.

After a few tests, both my sister and I agreed that spicy Italian sausage was the way to go, but you can use sweet or ground beef if you prefer. I added red pepper flakes and it really made it sing, although you can make it as hot as you'd like. I also used a good Whole Foods store-bought marinara and was able to whip this together in no time. You can make it up in advance and then pop it in the oven for 30 minutes until all of the asiago cheese is bubbly and gorgeously brown.

Linda's Spaghetti Pie

8 oz spaghetti, broken in half
2 tbsp olive oil
1/2 cup grated pecorino or parmesan
1 cup grated asiago
2 free range eggs, beaten
1 lb sausage or ground beef (I use spicy Italian)
12 oz cottage cheese
24 oz jar marinara or spaghetti sauce
small handful of chopped parsley and basil
1 sprig of thyme, leaves removed
2 crushed garlic cloves
1/2 tsp dried chilli or red pepper flakes
salt and pepper

Preheat your oven to 350F. Grease an 8x12 baking dish with a little olive oil. Cook the spaghetti according to the package instructions and then add the olive oil and let it cool slightly.

While you're cooking the pasta, brown your meat in a skillet and drain the fat. Add the crushed thyme, garlic and chilli flakes. Let it cook for about a minute and then add the marinara sauce. Season at this point and add the parsley and basil. Bring to simmer and let it cook for about 5 minutes. Take it off the heat and let it cool slightly.

Beat the eggs in a bowl and add the 1/2 cup of parmesan to it. Season with 1/2 tsp of salt and pepper. Mix into the spaghetti and layer the bottom of your dish with the pasta.

Spread the cottage cheese over the pasta and season it with a little pepper. Top the cottage cheese with the meat and marinara mixture. Sprinkle the asiago cheese on top.

Bake for 30-35 minutes until golden brown and bubbly. Serve with a good Italian salad and bread.


Happy first birthday

I cannot believe it. It has been one year from today that I began blogging and I have to say I've enjoyed every minute of it. Even if I never wrote another word, it's been amazing to look back over twelve months of food, photos and memories. I couldn't even consider stopping, though. I find new inspiration everywhere and I can't wait to be celebrate birthday number two.

As a little birthday present, hungerhabit received a little face lift a few weeks ago, and a few glasses of wine might have clinked with celebration. I think of this first year as an experiment. At first, I was just hoping that I could pull it off and I wouldn't be too embarrassed of my photographs. As time went on, I know now what this blog represents to me. It's a place for me to express my passion for cooking that is tangent and although it's not something I can touch and feel, like paper, I know it will be something I can look back on with pride in the future.

It also just so happens to be St. Patrick's day. Although my husband is more Irish than most of the folks staggering from bar to bar in green t-shirts around my neighborhood, I have to admit that we don't go all out for this holiday. Corned beef and cabbage aside, I am partial to soda bread and a good Irish breakfast. I'll let you find recipes elsewhere for these dishes and fill you in on what we cooked tonight instead: stuffed peppers.

Before spring has officially sprung, a supper of stuffed peppers was definitely in order. It's a dish that screams comfort food and served with mashed potato, it has some serious rib-sticking qualities.

I am lucky enough to have a cookbook that my Mother hand wrote for me and presented to me one year for Christmas when I was in my early twenties. It was at the time that I was really getting into cooking, but living so very far away . It is filled with family recipes and ones from her regular repertoire that we ate growing up in Indiana. I know I've said it before, but it means a great deal to me to see her writing, particularly in recipe form, now that she is no longer around for me to question her lack of seasoning.

Needless to say, I have added a little oomph to this recipe in the form of Bhutanese red rice and of course, some extra seasoning and herbs. This does takes a while to cook on the stovetop, but these stuffed peppers are as easy to put together as meatloaf.

You can blanch the peppers first to reduce harshness if you'd like, but I tend to go for red or orange peppers as they seem to be a bit sweeter than green.

May I also warn you that there is nothing hotter than tomato sauce and to be careful not to let it bubble too furiously and burn you. I tell you this from experience, albeit several years ago, as the sauce once bubbled and burnt my wrist badly enough to warrant a trip to the ER. My husband also called me "Captain Burnside" for months.

Stuffed Peppers
Serves 4-6

4-6 peppers
2 lbs ground beef
1 medium onion, chopped
2 free range eggs
3/4 cup of rice (your choice- I used Bhutanese red rice)
2 28oz cans of diced tomatoes
1 tsp fresh thyme leaves
1/2 tsp cumin
1 tsp salt
1 tsp freshly ground pepper
1/4 tsp red pepper flakes or crushed dried chilli

Cut the tops off of the peppers and de-seed. Mix the rest of the ingredients together and stuff into the peppers. place each pepper into a large pan and pour the tomatoes in and around them. Bring to a pleasant low bubble and cook with the lid on for about 1 1/2 hours until the peppers are soft, but not falling apart, and the beef has cooked all the way through. Check from time to time that the bottom of the sauce is not burning and continue to stir the sauce and pour over the peppers.

Serve with whipped mashed potatoes.


Breakfast for gypsies

I continually sing the praises of baked eggs, probably because you can achieve a soft cooked egg without messing around trying to poach them. This dish goes several steps further and would be ideal on a Sunday morning after one too many pints the night before.

In fact, this recipe comes from a London gastropub, The Eagle. Arguably the first gastropub (because they apparently invented the word), The Eagle is located in Clerkenwell, a neighborhood right next to Islington and Stoke Newington, where I lived for 10 years. This area is now teeming with gastropubs where great food can be had in a relaxed setting, and of course with a good pint of beer.

Mediterranean food dominates at The Eagle, and these gypsy eggs are earthy and spicy from the chorizo and smoked paprika. You can make them in individual earthenware dishes or in one larger baking dish as I did. When purchasing the chorizo, make sure you buy the kind that needs to be cooked, not the cured type. Serve with big mugs of steaming hot coffee and some country bread.

Gypsy Eggs
Adapted from The Gastropub Cookbook by Diana Henry
Serves 4

1/2 cup Serrano ham (if you can't find it, choose another type of ham or bacon that is readily available) finely sliced and roughly chopped
1/2 cup cooking chorizo, roughly chopped
olive oil for frying
1 medium onion, finely chopped
2 cloves of garlic, finely sliced
1 tsp smoked paprika
1/2 cup peas, fresh or frozen
2 cans chopped tomatoes in thick juice
1 cup chicken stock
8 medium free range eggs
extra virgin olive oil
black pepper
coarse country bread to serve

Preheat your oven to 400F (200C). Fry the ham and chorizo in a tablespoon of olive oil for about five minutes. Remove the meat and add the onion and garlic, cooking it until soft, not browned.

Add the smoked paprika, peas, tomatoes and the reserved ham back to the pan. Add the chicken stock and cook for 10 minutes until the mixture is sloppy rather than very liquid.

Divide it between your individual 4 inch dishes OR into one large baking dish. Make a small well where you want to place the eggs and crack 2 eggs into each individual dish or dot them around the larger dish.

Bake for 5-10 minutes, depending on how you like your eggs.

Serve with country bread for scooping.


Posh pot pie

When I asked my husband if he wanted to go out for dinner on his birthday, he scrunched up his nose at me. Granted, we already celebrate over dinner at Le Bouchon with our friends Alethea and Philippe, but I like to offer. Here is where I start to over analyze the dynamics between husband and wife. Stay with me here. If I were asked if I wanted to go out to dinner on my birthday, I would jump at the chance. Most possibly because if I don't accept the offer, my birthday meal would consist of a take-out meal, Heinz beans or something I cooked for myself. None particularly appeal for a celebration.

When I suggested that I make Claridge's chicken pie, a grin appeared. Is it wrong to have a dish in your repertoire that people beg for and you very rarely make? If so, this is my ace in the hole dish. It's a card I wait to play only during very special occasions. I have made this so-called pie a few times before, only in London, but to great sighs of satisfaction coming from those I have fed it to. It's really just a posh pot pie and yet, it holds true power over my husband and one of his close friends, Toby.

I have bet Toby, on at least one Ryder Cup, that if the US were to lose to Europe, I would make him this pie. Unfortunately, the US have lost several times to the Europeans. I love golf, but I am not very good at following through when bets are lost. That said, I have actually moved back to the US without ever having made Toby the pie, for which I feel terribly guilty about. He still reminds me of it today and I believe we have a scheduled date for "pie cooking" in September when I next visit London.

As soon as that sweet grin appeared on my husband's face at the mention of chicken pie, I couldn't resist. This is how he gets me every single time. I know how much he enjoys my cooking and he plies me with compliments until I have an entire menu planned just for his delight. So here it is gals, the menu to win over an Englishman: Claridge's chicken pie (no salad or greenery at all thank you very much) and Golden Syrup pudding with homemade custard. Seriously, it's that easy. Throw in a nice bottle of wine you brought back from Napa and he'll be putty in your hands.

As usual, I have a few notes for anyone attempting this at home. Firstly, I must confess that I bought frozen puff pastry- the good stuff from Whole Foods, but frozen nonetheless. I do not have time in my life for puff pastry and pudding making. Secondly, please buy frozen pearl onions. I followed Gordon's recipe that called for blanching the skins off of pearl onions and I wanted to kill him after about three.

Please don't be put off by the idea of a steamed pudding. Yes, they were traditionally very stodgy British fare, but I swear they rank among my favorite desserts anywhere. Truth be told, anything with proper custard gets my vote. The cake batter comes out deliciously moist and spongey. Given the addition of lemon juice to this recipe, it is not at all sickly or too sweet.

Lastly, you will need a plastic pudding basin with a tight fitting lid. (Do not put it in the dishwasher or the lid will not fit.) Mine is a 2 pint size and my Mother in-law brought me one over from the UK for Christmas, but I'm sure you can order one on-line. You could order at the same time you order yourself some Golden Syrup. It's worth it!

Claridge's Chicken Pie
Adapted from Gordon Ramsay's Secrets by Gordon Ramsay
Serves 4 as a main dish

4 skinless, boneless, free-range chicken breasts
1 cup pearl or baby onions, peeled
2 cups chicken stock
1 bay leaf
1 thyme sprig
6 slices pancetta or good smoked bacon, diced into strips
1/2 cup unsalted butter
2 cups baby button mushrooms or any wild mushrooms you can find at the store
1/2 dry sherry or madeira
3/4 double cream or whipping cream
1 tbsp chopped parsley
2 tsp chopped tarragon
1 sheet of frozen puff pastry
1 egg yolk, beaten with 1 tsp water
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

Cut the chicken into bite size chunks. Bring the stock to the boil in a pan and add the onions. Cook for 5 minutes. LIft out with a slotted spoon. Add the chicken, bay leaf and thyme to the stock. Return to a simmer and poach for 5 minutes. then take off the heat and let it cool in the liquid for a minute or two. Strain the stock into a jug, remove the herbs and season the chicken lightly and set it aside.

Heat a quarter of the butter in a pan and fry the pancetta or bacon until crispy. Remove and drain on a paper towel. Wipe the pan out.

Melt the remaining butter in the pan. When it starts to foam, add the mushrooms. Stir fry for about 7 minutes until softened and season to taste.

Pour in the sherry and deglaze the pan of all the delicious bacon or pancetta pieces. Bubble until well reduced. Return the bacon and onions, and then pour the reserved stock in. Bring to a boil and cook until reduced by half. Add the cream and bubble until reduced by a third. Add the chopped herbs and set aside. You can make this the night before up to this point. Just reheat the sauce and add the chicken to warm though.

Meanwhile, preheat your oven to 400F. Roll out your pastry on a lightly floured surface until it's about as thick as a 1 pound coin (3 mm). Cut out four rounds using a small bowl or saucer. Place on a non-stick baking sheet and score the surface in a diamond pattern using the tip of a small sharp knife.

Brush the pastry with the egg glaze and bake for 10 minutes. It will have risen and will be golden. Then bake for a further 2 mintues with the oven door slighly ajar, to help crisp the pastry. Remove and cool on a wire rack.

Heat your sauce until bubbling and add the chicken. As soon as it's warmed through, check the seasoning and then divide between your plates. Top with the pastry round and serve.

Golden Syrup Pudding
Adapted from Just Like Mother Used to Make by Tom Norrington-Davies
Serves 4

4 tbsp unsalted butter, softened, plus extra for greasing
1/2 cup sugar
a pinch of salt
4 tbsp milk
2 large eggs
34 cup self-raising flour
juice 1/2 lemon
3 tbsp golden syrup

If you have a food processor, combine the butter, sugar, salt, milk eggs and flour by blitzing until smooth. You can do this by hand too. Grease a medium size pudding basin (2- 2 1/2 pints) with a little butter. Add the lemon juice to the golden syrup to loosen it up and then pur it into the base of the pudding basin. Pour the batter on top. Cover the basin with a lid.

Boil a kettle full of water. Place the basin in a saucepan that also has a lid. Fill the pan with boiling water to come about 2/3 the way up the sides of the basin. Over medium-low heat, cover the pan and simmer for about 2 hours. Make sure it doesn't boil dry. Check every 30 minutes and top it up with boiling water if necessary.

When it's ready, remove it and allow it to rest for a few minutes. Remove the lid, being careful of the steam and place and upturned dish on top of the basin. Invert both the dish and the pudding and let the sponge plop onto the dish.

Eat it immediately with custard.

A Jug of Custard
Adapted from Just Like Mother Used to Make by Tom Norrington-Davies

6 egg yolks
2 tbsp sugar
1 tsp plain flour
1 pint whole milk

In a large bowl, beat the eggs, sugar and flour until pale and smooth.

Heat the milk gently in a saucepan until it looks like it's about to boil (it will fizz on the side of the pan). Remove from the heat.

Whisk the milk into the egg mixture, a little at a time. In the meantime, select a pan that is large enough to suspend your mixing bowl over, and fill it with water and heat to boiling, creating a bain marie. Put the bowl on the pan and slowly and constantly stir the custard as you heat it up.

This takes a good amount of time, so be patient. The custard is ready when it starts to coat the back of the spoon. It gets thickern the longer you allow it to cook.

Pass it thorugh a sieve and allow it to cool in a bowl or the jug you want to use when serving it.

You can serve it cold, as I did, or hot. You can also add vanilla pods to the milk to infuse a vanilla custard flavor, but I like it plain with the golden syrup steamed pudding.