I was born and raised in Kansas and learned to cook alongside my mother. Now, along with my wonderful husband, I have taken the plunge into the city life in New York. These are my food adventures: in my own tiny kitchen, and in the many restaurants of the city.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Endive Pesto

A quick note before the post: I want to give a shout out to Bret Palmer who designed the new header for this blog. Bret is a good friend and a jack of all trades (he also took the photo of me to the right, married my husband and I, and is a kick-ass director). Check out his current projects at Element35.


Finally, finally the weather has turned. We may still be getting loads of rain, but there is actually the scent of spring in the air and the touch of warmth through the showers. Winter has passed on (for good, we hope). The time is ripe for fresh produce at the markets (I even snagged some ramps last weekend!) and simple preparations to allow the bright spring flavors to shine.

Since I will soon be wanting to restock my freezer with the bounty of the coming summer I am also taking this time to try to go through the final products I packed away last year. Of which I have a vast quantity of pesto. This "not-quite-a-recipe" is an excellent, simple way to serve up a variety of the harvest about to arrive.

Step 1: Take the vegetable you would like to serve up (say endive, radicchio, asparagus, eggplant, zucchini, etc) and clean. If the vegetable is very large, cut into pieces that will fit onto your grill or griddle pan.

Step 2: Place the vegetable directly onto a dry grill or griddle pan that has been heated to a medium-high heat. Cook on all sides until just slightly charred (with the lettuces this will be very fast--about 30 seconds-1 minute per side) and cooked through.

Step 3: Allow the vegetables to cool slightly and then chop into bite-sized pieces. Toss into a bowl. Add a couple of tablespoons of pesto and some extra virgin olive oil to help thin it out and coat all of the veggies. Toss together and serve. Excellent served with grilled meats or barbecue.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Dough

I feel like there is little better than a freshly made yeast donut in the morning. Fluffy, sweet--like a pillow for your tongue. Perhaps such a sugar rush isn't the breakfast of champions and won't fuel you for a tough day, but the joy they bring will carry you along long after you are finished eating and the sugar crash passes.

I have felt for a long time that New York City is lacking in its donut quality. Growing up in Kansas I had many opportunities for fresh baked/fried doughy goodness. I lived one town over from a Daylight Donuts where I specifically remember once having a rather enjoyable time with friends after-after-prom noshing on some perfect glazed with a cup of coffee. I still smile seeing the old building, unchanged, when I go home to visit today. In high school and college I also happened to work for a large chain supermarket and would always stop by the bakery department before starting my early morning shifts. The dough in these donuts was never as good as that at Daylight Donuts, but they were always extra fresh that early in the morning, making up for their density. I probably had donuts for breakfast at least twice a week thanks to their proximity.

After moving to New York, the only donuts I remember seeing for the longest time where those in the street vendor carts in the mornings. They never looked very appealing. Then there was the Doughnut Plant, which was a revelation, but was never very convenient for me to get to. Now, however? There is Dough in Clinton Hill, Brooklyn. Close enough to walk to (perhaps it is a bit of a walk, but when you are eating sugar for breakfast is this a bad thing?). And these may just be some of my favorite donuts ever.

Everyone, including the NY Times, is talking about the glazes that Dough offers: hibiscus, blood orange, toasted coconut, chocolate chipotle, dulce de leche. The glaze flavors are creative and well-executed. Deep in flavor, decadent, they truly make for an exciting wake-up call for your taste buds. I especially am fond of the toasted coconut (simply covered in mounds of the stuff) and the hibiscus, which was a flavor unlike any that I have had before. The chocolate glaze is rich and so lovely, but I feel like the amount of it could be cut down because it slightly drowns out the dough of the donut--which is honestly the best part about this place. An apt name for their establishment, their "Dough" is completely light and airy, not too sweet, and soft. Which makes the glazed donut here my absolute favorite and the one I will return for over and over again, despite the array of creative flavors at hand.*

*Although, I'll probably have the glazed right alongside of a couple of those flavored donuts each time--because who can only eat one donut?? Not this girl.
Clockwise, from top-left: glazed; hibiscus, chocolate with cocoa nibs, cafe au lait.
Dough
305 Franklin Ave. (at Lafayette)
Brooklyn, NY 11205
347-533-7544

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Equity The Movie

I am very excited to announce that this summer I will be acting as the on-set caterer for Equity the Movie. This is a project put together by a group of my very talented college friends. "A suspenseful drama, Equity is a timely and relevant short film that explores the endless sacrifices parents are forced to make in times of economic turmoil."

I am thrilled to be part of the crew. My job will be to provide meals and snacks to the cast and crew during the week of filming. The producers want to make the set a healthy one and do more than just order pizzas for the shoots so I will be working hard to provide healthy, organic, local (when possible) meals with a very limited budget. I will also have to work around and with the diets and restrictions of all of those involved. I am looking forward to the challenge! Over the next two months as I plan and prep for the shoot I will be blogging about the experience here, so continue to check in for reports.

Please head over to Equity the Movie to read about the film and to IndieGoGo to help donate to the project!

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Chicken and Wild Rice Soup

I know by far I'm not the first blogger to say this lately, but this weather we've been having is crazy! We'll get a couple of gorgeous days, perfect for long walks or even for a little park lounging, followed by days of rain, cold and grey. Those few moments of sun are just a tease. I long for the days of fresh produce at the farmer's markets and needing only one layer of clothing to be comfortable. Yet the chill lingers on.

For these days in between seasons I offer this chicken and wild rice soup. Comforting and hearty to confront the cool air, with lots of veggies and a hint of lemon to remind you that the warmth (and spring produce) is right around the corner. It's a huge portion for two people because this dreariness makes me feel unmotivated to do much, meaning leftovers are a big plus. This recipe can easily be modified with any extra vegetables or grains or meats (or lack thereof) you would like to add, so play away with it. Tell me how you'd change it up...and then tell me how you are staying sane until spring finally arrives...

Chicken and Wild Rice Soup
6-8 servings
1 c. wild rice
1 TB olive oil
6 c. chicken broth
2 c. water
1 lb. chopped chicken breast
2 carrots, peeled and chopped
2 stalks celery, peeled and chopped
2 cloves garlic, sliced
1/4 lb. crimini mushrooms, sliced
1/2 c. diced tomatoes
1 t. fresh rosemary, chopped
1 c. chopped spinach
1 TB lemon juice
salt and pepper

Add the rice, olive oil, broth and water to a large pot and place over high heat. Bring to a boil, then cover the pan and reduce heat to a simmer. 
After about 30 minutes add the chicken meat, carrots, celery and garlic to the pot. Return to a boil, then cover and simmer again.
About 20 minutes later check to see that the rice is cooked. If so add the crimini mushrooms, tomatoes and rosemary to the pot and again return to a simmer and cover. If not continue to cook until the rice is tender then continue with the recipe.
After 5 minutes add the chopped spinach and lemon juice to the pan. Stir for a minute, then taste to check for seasoning. Add salt and pepper if necessary, stir and serve.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Mushroom, Bacon and Parmesan Salad

Growing up in small-town Kansas, meals for our family always meant a large chunk of meat accompanied by sides. Usually some kind of potato or starch and some veggie, and oftentimes bread, but incredibly rare were the meatless meals. A salad was just filler to the main event.

In college, meat was far too expensive to be consumed in quite the same way, but many a meal were still focused around those affordable cuts: hot dogs and pepperoni.

When I got married I fell back into the habit of centering all of our meals around the protein. Sides were always the afterthought. Many a time the side was only a salad of lettuce and ranch dressing.

Then I began to meet and dine with vegetarian friends and to read books such as Kingsolver's "Animal, Vegetable, Miracle" and Michel Pollan's "Omnivore's Dilemma". I started to understand where most supermarket meat comes from and realized there were better options. I also came to realize that meat did not have to be the focus of every single meal. Through exploring these ideas I've also recognized that a salad can be the star of a meal itself. When well-balanced and well conceived it is a thing of beauty.

If you were able to sludge through the last few posts you may recognize this salad as the one we ate at Cuines de Santa Caterina and quite possibly the best salad I've ever had. The main components were obvious, although certain ingredients vary from what we can find here (I've never had such a light, almost sweet mushroom as on that salad--even though it looked like a plain button variety; and the "bacon" was similar to pancetta but had a definite richer flavor). The dressing I had to guess at and create all on my own--it was creamy, sweet and the ideal compliment to the other flavors. My version isn't quite the same, but it's close enough that we will be enjoying it over and over again this spring and summer--all on its own.

Mushroom, Bacon and Parmesan Salad
serves 3
4 cups mixed salad greens
4 pieces cooked and chopped bacon
1/4 lb crimini mushrooms, cleaned and sliced
1/2 c. shaved Parmesan*

*Use your vegetable grater to shave off large, thin slices of Parmesan.
In a large bowl mix together the salad greens, bacon and crimini mushrooms. Pour the salad dressing over top and toss it all together. Top with the shaved Parmesan and serve immediately.

Creamy Sherry-Honey Dressing
1/4 c. honey
1/8 c. sherry vinegar
1/3 c. mayonnaise
1/2 t. mustard powder
1/3 c. olive oil

Whisk together all the ingredients into a small bowl until well combined. Taste for flavor and add a bit of salt and pepper if you would like. 

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Barcelona, Part 4: The Markets

To finish off (finally!) my posts from Barcelona, I just wanted to share photos from two of the markets we visited, La Boqueria (Mercat de Sant Josep) and Mercat de Santa Caterina. 'Cause who doesn't love some market food porn? (as a side note, we visited La Boqueria on Monday, the first day we were in town, and many of the stalls were closed. If you can visit close to or on the weekend more will be open and the market will truly be hopping)

Mercat de Santa Caterina

Boqueria
It does look like I'm presenting this woman instead of the market...
Gummy candy abounds.
Biggest shrimp ever.
Mushroom medley at one of the tapas bars.
How beautiful does that tripe look?
Dried salt cod of all kinds.
Chocolate
Chocolate hedgehogs. 
Cured meat kabobs.
Nothing gets wasted.
We had these sandwiches later on top of Tibidabo. Perfection.
Buying fruit for a picnic.
Most awesome knife. Ever.
Incredible variety of seafood.
Joe wants you to know that the peppers are as big as his head.
This little piggy went to market...

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Barcelona, Part 3: Days 3.5-6

As the last post was epic, I'm going to try to keep this one to a more manageable size. We'll see if I succeed...
Paco Meralgo (Carrer Muntaner 171, Eixample, http://www.pacomeralgo.com/ing/home.html)
We made the trip up to the Eixample (getting slightly turned around on the way) for this restaurant as it was recommended by almost every food blog, travel guide, discussion that I came across. It didn't end up being my favorite meal of the trip, however the food was solid and the seafood was impeccably fresh. The pa amb tomaquet here was probably the best we had and the lightly crispy bunyols de bacalla (salt cod fritters) were incredible. We were also fans of the spicy bomba peca (essentially a large potato and meat croquette with spicy sauce) and the completely unique pop de roca amb cebollas (local octopus served in an onion marmalade). The standout dish was definitely the navalles de finiste (grilled razor clams). Usually razor clams are gritty, but these had none of that and were perfectly tender.

La Torna (Located in Mercat de Santa Caterina)
We stopped here for a simple breakfast of cafe con leche, bocados de jamon, and the best chocolate croissant that I have ever eaten after a quick tour of one of Barcelona's other food markets. The food being prepped for later in the day caught my eye and next time I am back in Barcelona this will be one of the first places on my list to eat for lunch. There is also a bakery counter behind the tapas bar where the wares looked fabulous, and another location on the street right behind the market.

Bodega Jane (Pla de Jaume Giralt)
Stumbled across this while waiting for the dinner hour one night and decided to stop in for a quick drink. It appears to be a wine store during the day, and a small bar at night. I saw the lone bartender cutting up meat for a small charcuterie plate in between pouring drinks, so they have one or two things to nibble on here as well. I want to go back because along the wall there were barrels and barrels of different types of sherry for sale (with spigots to pour directly from the barrel).

Xocoa Petritxol  (Carrer Petritxol, 11 --off Las Ramblas)
Right off the Rambla, this is an adorable cafe with an array of scrumptious looking chocolates and pastries, which also serves churros con chocolat. Churros were delivered by hand as we were walking in the door, so I believe they may get them fresh throughout the day. The chocolat here is extra-thick and milk-chocolaty--very pudding like. I found myself feeling like I was sitting in Madame Puddifoot's (a la Harry Potter) while enjoying our sweet breakfast here.

Taverna del Born (Passeig de Born 27-29)
Touristy and nothing fancy, but if you are looking for the "Irish pub fare" of tapas, this is the place to go. Solid pulpo a feira (octopus with potatoes and paprika), pimientos de padron, and lovely, garlicky champignones de alliol (mushrooms in garlic sauce). I think our server loved the fact that we ordered Orujo at the end of the meal and poured us another 2 glasses when presenting the check. Needless to say, we had to stumble back to the hotel.

Brunells (Princessa, 22)
We died and went to pastry heaven. Piles and piles of baked goods, an adorable older couple behind the counter, and a cafe attached to the shop. Not much more you could ask for. In the cafe there were many, many pictures of famous people with the Brunells staff. Felt a little like I was back in NYC, perhaps at John's pizza or Katz's deli...felt truly like a Barcelona "classic".

Candela (Placa de Sant Pere)
Probably my favorite place we ate on our trip, and we didn't even get a full meal here because we were there before the dinner hour. I'd never heard of the place but we found it during our wanderings. Located in a lovely, quiet Plaza, this tiny space had creative, interesting and decadent food. The vibe, however, is a little gritty and raw. It was perfect. There's seating outside, a small bar seating area, and then more tables in back once the full menu is being offered. We enjoyed piel de patas (crispy potato skins with "tartar sauce" and marmalade), arepas topped with tomato, basil, jamon and Parmesan; and the best thing we ate on the whole entire trip: bombitas de morcilla--crispy fried meatballs of blood sausage served with 2 sweet marmalades/sauces. I don't even know exactly what was in these or what the sauces were, but they were heavenly. Unfortunately they were a daily special, so they may not always have them around but I can guarantee the rest of the food is worth a visit.

En Petit Comite (Placa de Sant Pere)
Located in the same plaza as Candela, this is an excellent cafe/wine bar. They have a great selection of wines by the glass and a small menu, mostly made up of cheese and meat plates, salads and sandwiches. A lovely place to sip a glass and write in your journal during the afternoon hours.

Xurreria (approx. 10 Banyuls Nou, Gothic quarter)
Granja (approx. 4 Banyuls Nou)
For wonderfully fresh churros, stop first by the Xurreria and pick up a bag (I recommend the large one if you are sharing), then head back down the street to Granja for a cup of rich, deep, dark chocolat. We ended up sharing one cup and it was sufficient for our two small bags of churros along with two cafe con leches. Granja also offers sandwiches and pastries, and while we were there played a lot of Bob Dylan. Awesome.

La Cervesatera Barcelona (the end of Carer d'en Gignas, near the post office? towards Via Laietana)
I'm actually not certain about the name of this place, and cannot find the name of the cross street to save my soul. But if you are in need of a damn good beer in Barcelona, this is a great place to go. Beer store by day and bar by night, with about 8 beers on tap and an endless plethora of bottled beer on the surrounding walls. A couple of meat plates and olives are available if you need a small bite. One of the coolest bars we found.