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, June 30, 2011

Spring Bow Tie Pasta

This week I went to see "Through a Glass Darkly" at the New York Theatre Workshop featuring Carey Mulligan. As I was standing in line for the bathroom after the show a random stranger started talking to me about Mulligan's performance. "She's very good, isn't she? And very young. Hopefully someone will find her down here." I didn't have the energy to explain to this woman that Ms. Mulligan has already been "found", being nominated for an Oscar for her stunning performance in "An Education" and for a Drama Desk for "The Seagull". She's definitely insanely talented for someone her age, giving a haunting, honest and brutal portrayal of a woman losing her grip with reality in this show. But she is far from being an unknown.

The woman went on to tell me about this girl she once saw years ago in "Frankie and Jonny in the Clair de Lune" in another small theatre downtown. She told her husband at the time, "it's too bad this girl won't ever go anywhere." That girl was Kathy Bates. D'oh.

There is something so invigorating about seeing someone so young with such a burgeoning talent. It's a thrill to know you will get to watch this person's career grow and to have high expectations (if you aren't the crazy bathroom stranger) of what they will bring to the table in the future.

Discovering a new chef or a young restaurant is quite the same feeling. How exciting to walk into a place that you've stumbled upon where you haven't read review after review of, or seen multiple blog posts extolling its virtues. It's a rare thing to find such a place in this city, as there are more food blogs and reviewers than actual restaurants (and that's saying something).

Just as there are a few young performers whose name will draw me into anything they do, there are a few chefs I've found that will keep me coming back for more, despite not having a household name (yet, at least). Before hitting up the play the other night, Joe and I came upon one of these places in The Redhead, with chef Meg Grace. It's not brand new, and has been reviewed by the Times, among many others, but it was new to us (and I didn't see those reviews until after we dined there, so there was no clouding of my judgement). The cuisine is inspired by Louisiana and sourced seasonally from the farmer's market, making a truly comforting yet creative meal. I look forward to going back again and following Meg Grace's career.

These brushes with greatness bring about the spark of personal inspiration as well. How thrilling to experience their talent and then allow that to work within you and see what comes out. It is wonderful to learn and grow from those around you, regardless of age and fame.

This meal was made before the evening in discussion, so was not influenced by that night, but was brought about by a trip to the Union Square Greenmarket and the inspiration found in its bounty. It is simple but layered with delicious seasonal flavors, and perhaps will make you want to follow my own career to come... ;-)

Spring Bow Tie Pasta
4-5 servings

10 oz. bow tie pasta
8 oz. chopped oyster mushrooms
1/2 c. shelled and cleaned fava beans
1/4 c. finely chopped garlic scapes
3 TB olive oil
6 TB butter
5 anchovies
juice of 1 lemon
salt and pepper
1/2-3/4 c. grated Parmesan cheese

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil and cook the bow tie pasta as directed. Make sure to reserve a little of the pasta cooking water before draining.

Heat a skillet with 2 TB olive oil over medium high heat. Once hot add the oyster mushrooms. Cook until browned and slightly crispy around the edges, stirring occasionally, about 4-5 minutes. Remove the mushrooms to a plate, reserving the oil in the pan.
Add 1 TB more olive oil to the skillet if necessary (if there isn't a lot left over after cooking the mushrooms). Add the garlic scapes and cook until they begin to be slightly tender, about 3 minutes. Then add in the fava beans and cook for about 1-2 minutes more. Then add in the butter and the anchovies. Cook until the butter has melted and the anchovies have broken up and dissolved (using a spoon and crushing the anchovies to help this process along). Add the mushrooms back to the pan and turn off the heat.

Add the lemon juice and a little salt and pepper to the mushroom/fava bean mixture. Then add in the pasta, with a tablespoon or two of the pasta cooking water. Toss together until the pasta is well coated. Then toss in the Parmesan cheese and serve.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Oven Baked Spare Ribs

I know some people hate the heat of summer, but I have to disagree. It's not always comfortable being hot, but I would much rather walk down the street in a sundress and flip-flops than be bundled up and barely able to move in a huge coat, scarf, hat, gloves and boots. Summer means enjoying the stroll to the markets, lounging on a park bench with a good book, ice cream, trips to the beach. It means not having to have an excuse for a backyard barbecue, and farmer's stands overflowing with the treasure of their harvest. To me the summer means unlimited possibilities, in the kitchen and in the everyday.

Despite the sun beating down today, I had a wonderful walk over to Bklyn Larder, Fermented Grapes, and the grocery store for ingredients for tonight's dinner. I love knowing the neighborhood so well that I know where to stop for which particular products, and love knowing that many of the shop workers recognize me as well. The sense of community is strong and it feels great to belong to that. Between the gorgeous weather, the friendly neighbors, and the sense of opportunity on the horizon, it is a damn fine day (plus I get to finally have dinner with the husband again after a couple of crazy busy weeks).

These ribs are an excellent way to pass a perfect summer evening--lots of flavor from the soy and fish sauces, wonderfully tender with just enough bite, and the low oven temps help keep your home cool. Enjoy them with friends to make the experience complete.

Oven Baked Spare Ribs
2-3 servings
2.5 lbs. rack of pork spare ribs
1/4 c. honey
1/4 c. soy sauce
1 TB fish sauce
1 TB white wine vinegar
1 t. sesame oil
1 t. liquid smoke
1 t. season salt
1 t. dried onion flakes
1/4 t. dried garlic powder
1/2 t. smoked pepper
1/2 t. salt

In a small bowl mix together the honey, soy sauce, fish sauce, white wine vinegar, sesame oil and liquid smoke. Pour this all over the spare ribs.
In another small bowl mix together the season salt, onion flakes, garlic powder, smoked pepper and salt. Sprinkle this all over the ribs. Cover the ribs with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 2 hours, but preferably overnight.
Pull the ribs out of the fridge and allow to sit at room temperature for about 15-20 minutes as the oven is preheating to 275 degrees. Then place them on a foil lined baking sheet or in a baking dish. Place in the oven and bake until the meat is fork tender (about 2-2 1/2 hours). Remove from the oven and allow to rest for about 10 minutes.
Slice the ribs between each of the bones and serve.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Craft Services, Wrapped

The final few days of shooting for Equity the Movie went by in a whirl of sleepless nights, hours in the kitchen, waiting around, friends, laughs, exhaustion, and good times.

Saturday evening I worked and then headed up to the shoot location in the Bronx to serve up a very late night meal of Wild Rice and Vegetable Soup and Broccoli, Raisin, Lemon Salad (the snacks out also included some snickerdoodles and beer cheese dip). I stuck around for the rest of the night to clean up and send along breakfast for the early morning shoot: muffin cup frittatas and bagels, and some Box 'o' Joes from Dunkin Donuts. Headed towards home at 7:30am.

Got in a couple of hours of sleep before starting all over again--a little bit of shopping and lots of cooking. Then waiting to load everything up into a car to lug off to the second shoot location in Brooklyn. This was definitely the toughest night for me, still feeling like I had so much to do and going on only about 3-4 hours of sleep. I was completely grumpy and no fun to be around, so after setting everything up for the shoot, I headed home for a bit of food, rest, and a glass of wine that was desperately needed. I admit that I had nothing of my own in the kitchen and there was no way I was cooking, so I ordered myself some delivery pizza. Just what I needed to come back to the set at 2am refreshed and ready to serve that night's meal: Spring Risotto with Asparagus and Sugar Snap Peas; and a side of Pesto/Garlic Cannellini Beans. Again it was time for clean-up and prep for the morning breakfast that would be at Battery Park: Tortilla Espanola and bagels, fruit and iced coffee.
Shooting through the door.
We all had Monday night off, which I think was essential to the rest of the shoot. I spent most of the day cooking the meals for Tuesday but then got to spend the evening drinking beers with friends.
The sun rising (I hadn't been to bed yet).
Tuesday dawned--the final day of shooting. All of my prep work was done for the day so all I had to do was lug the food up to the Upper West Side, buy some more water and ice, and set up. Then I got to sit back and watch and enjoy for the rest of the day as we shot in and around Riverside Park. The first meal was in the director and lead actress' home: Focaccia "pizzas" and a Garbanzo Bean/Tomato/Olive Salad. It was a really nice meal as we all got to sit around in the same room, chat, and chill before the long day of shooting began.
Focaccia Bread "Pizzas"

I loaded up some snacks (including no-bake cookies and chex marshmallow treats) and the cooler of water and a small folding table to lug around to the different shooting locations for the day. I enjoyed being able to finally watch the filming happening, and actually got to jump in as an extra in one scene (my career will blossom as the "Jogger". Woohoo!). The final meal took place in the shadow of the Soldiers' and Sailors' monument in Riverside Park. What a beautiful part of town!! I was able to heat up the meal back at the apartment before bringing it over to the park: Sweet Potato and Black Bean Tacos and Yellow Rice with Corn. As the sun set, I packed up all my gear and headed home. I was wrapped.
Getting the shot..maybe...
This was such an incredible learning experience for me. I overestimated the amount food on all the meals, but probably could have had more snacks in between. I did, however, get really great use out of a lot of leftover ingredients putting them into salads or onto the focaccia pizzas. I should have had some better options for coffee serving (perhaps buying a large coffee serving pot would be beneficial next time around). Next time I definitely need better transportation options (it's no fun lugging a table and food on the subway or a case of water, coke, and ice blocks without a cart, and it's hard when the timing of the group transport doesn't work out like it was supposed to). BUT I also learned that I am capable of serving 10-16 people 7 meals and lots of snacks over 5 days in multiple locations. I am pretty damn proud of that. And I will carry that with me for a long time to come.
Lovely place for a meal.
(Once some recipes I used are typed up they will make an appearance here. Stay tuned!)

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Follow me on Twitter

I finally am giving in. I will be using Twitter for blog updates, and to talk about food, drinks, eating and all things culinary. Would love for you to follow me here.

Also, we've finally wrapped filming for Equity the Movie, so expect an update on how it went here very soon!

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Craft Services, Step 3: After the First Night

It has been a whirlwind couple of days. At times it's been almost overwhelming, but thankfully I've still had fun (despite the anxiety riddled sleep, waking up multiple times thinking I'm forgetting something). I promise that I have a couple of actual recipe posts to put up here, but looks like they are going to have to wait until after the shoot.

Did a ton of shopping Tuesday and Wednesday, hitting up Trader Joe's, then the greenmarket, then the grocery store. The greenmarket was overflowing with bounty--it was hard to walk away with just what I needed. I was able to pick up a couple of extras though (including a fresh smoked cheese for the focaccia pizzas and some fava beans and garlic scapes for our own dinner). What a beautiful time of year to be at the market! At the grocery store I almost had a meltdown as I loaded up my cart with more and more items--it started to feel like way too much to do (and entirely too much to carry home). I parked my cart in the middle of an aisle, starting to feel the tightness in my chest of an impending panic attack, and texted Joe for some comfort, which was dutifully provided. Then one of the cashiers came to my rescue and told me of the free delivery they offer--thank god!
The state of my kitchen table.
Cooking went off without a hitch. Luckily I had that intricately planned out and was even ahead of schedule. The lasagna was oven-ready, salad greens washed and chopped, mini frittatas made, and soup ingredients cooked off and ready to be assembled on-site.
Lasagna with Rainbow Chard
Mini Frittatas
Friday came and it was time to load up into the car to the Bronx. Of course it started raining as soon as we started loading things out the door. Then it stopped for the (longest car ride of my life through terrible traffic) trip, and started down pouring once again once we were blocks from our unloading point. :::sigh::: With some wonderful help, we were unloaded quickly and I was able to get set up.
The crew at work.
The night passed in a flurry of friends old and new, last minute preparations, and then finally sitting down to the first meal: vegetarian lasagna with layers of rainbow chard and a salad of mixed greens, pomegranate, and sunflower seeds. The snacks were set out to keep the cast and crew going through the rest of the night's shoot, including a homemade hummus, party mix, and peanut butter cookies. Fed and (I'm pretty sure) happy, the crew set to work on the first shots of the film.
Snacks (despite my cooking efforts the Doritos were the most popular thing there)

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Craft Services, Step 2

Shooting begins in less than a week for Equity the Movie, in which I will be the on-set caterer. What's the next step in my preparations? Freaking out.

Just kidding. Kind of.

I have spent so much time prepping, planning, organizing, going over details again and again in my head. I'm almost positive that I'm ready. It's just the thought of actually executing all those details that starts to get to me. I've prepared many meals for larger groups and once even catered an event for 90 with just one other person--but I've never had to cook for 10-12+ (up to 20 on one day!) multiple days in a row for multiple meals in multiple locations. But, I think I'm as ready as I'll ever be.

Tomorrow I am meeting with the producers, director, and assistant director to nail down some final details and hopefully get the rest of my questions out of the way. The biggest things for me are making sure to know what time food should be ready (so they don't have to miss important filming time) and figuring out how to transport loads of food around the city. Then the week will be spent shopping and preparing any of the snacks I can make beforehand (trail mix and cookies, for instance). I will be double checking that I have all of the extras at hand (plates, flatware, loads and loads of coffee). I will be checking and double checking with my expenses, making sure to stay within budget. Then Friday I will be heading to the first set, food in hand, ready to serve it up for the first night of shooting! For all the fear, there's also a lot of excitement.

Wish me luck!

Friday, June 3, 2011

Duck Breast with Strawberry Gastrique; Asparagus and Radish Salad

May was a crazy busy month. We had many, many friends visiting, which was so lovely and so much fun, but it did mean we were eating out a lot. I'd love to just invite all of the guests over to our house to enjoy dinner in, but usually people don't feel like making the trek into Brooklyn. Their loss, I say. :)

This week we finally got the chance for a quiet dinner at home with just the two of us. Thankfully the greenmarket was overflowing with goodness and inspiration and this meal came together in a snap. The thin, crisp asparagus, radishes, and gorgeous strawberries for the jam (did a little canning during the day as well!) all came from the same farm from Jersey. The meal had elegant flavors, but was so simple to put together and was the perfect way to enjoy an evening in.

Duck Breast with Strawberry Gastrique
serves 2
2 duck breasts
1/2 t. salt
1/4 t. pepper

1/4 c. maple syrup
1/2 c. sherry vinegar*
2 TB strawberry jam
salt and pepper

(* if you are using a particularly sweet strawberry jam I recommend using 3/4 c. sherry vinegar instead to help balance out the sweetness).

Remove the duck breasts from the refrigerator and score the skin on top in a diamond pattern (make diagonal cuts about 1-1 1/2 inch apart and then rotate 90 degrees and repeat). Sprinkle all over with salt and pepper and allow the meat to sit out on the counter about 20 minutes to come closer to room temperature before cooking.

While the duck is resting start the gastrique. Place the maple syrup and sherry vinegar into a small saucepan and heat over high heat until boiling. Reduce the heat to medium/medium-low to allow for a slow boil. Cook until the sauce has reduced and thickened considerably, about 10 minutes or so. Add the strawberry jam, stir, and continue to cook down to reduce for another 2-3 minutes (keep in mind the sauce will thicken slightly as it cools). Season to taste with salt and pepper.

To prepare the duck, place skin side down in a cold skillet. Turn on the heat to medium-high. Cook until the skin is crispy and pulls easily away from the pan (about 4-8 minutes depending on thickness of breast). Flip over and cook until medium-rare (130 degrees), about 2-4 minutes. Remove from pan and allow to rest for 10 minutes before slicing. Serve with the strawberry gastrique.

Asparagus and Radish Salad
serves 4
1 bundle of asparagus
1 bundle of radishes

Juice from 2 lemons (about 1/3 c.)
1/8 c. white wine vinegar
1/8 c. honey
1/4 t. mustard powder
1/4 t. garlic powder
1/2 t. salt
1/4 t. pepper
1/2-3/4 c. olive oil

Clean and trim the asparagus. Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat. Working in batches, add the asparagus to the skillet and cook until slightly charred yet still firm, tossing often, about 3 minutes per batch. Remove the charred asparagus to a platter and place in the refrigerator while cooking the rest.
Clean the radishes and slice very thinly using a mandolin. Scatter on top of the charred (and cooled) asparagus. 
In a small mixing bowl add the lemon juice, white wine vinegar, honey, mustard powder, garlic powder, salt and pepper. Mix together well and then add the olive oil in a slow, steady stream while constantly whisking. Add enough oil that the dressing has almost a creamy look and has blended together well. Toss the dressing with the asparagus and radishes and serve.