Archive | July, 2006

To The North!

29 Jul

Up to the ‘dacks we go! I’m off for a week of lakeside lounging with the family, and of course the dogs…

They’re not these dogs.

The strawberry blonde is Mimi from the goregous Laguna Lozna on the Island of Hvar in Croatia, and the piebald fella was just lookin’ out the window on a street in Dubrovnik.

I kinda wish I was going back to see these guys, but Wally and Ida Mae are perfectly amusing in their own ways!


Not that you can tell from these photos however…

Wally’s the spotty one, and Nay (nee Ida Mae) is the fluffy one.

heirloom·modern: Snow Almonds

25 Jul

After making Cold Almond soup, we had a lot of almonds left over. Most people see them as the perfect snack food. I am not one of those people (whereas the boy most certainly is). In fact, I don’t like nuts all that much at all.

I’ll eat the odd filbert. (Excuse me, hazelnut. But isn’t it just so much more fun to say filbert?) I’ll eat peanuts, but never peanut butter. (Yes, I know peanuts are legumes). Every now and then, I’ll nibble on a flavored pistachio, but never, ever will I eat brazil nuts, or walnuts, or ugh, cashews. Seriously, I just don’t like nuts.

But these nuts, yes, these I like. In fact, I’ve come to crave them. They’re silky and salty and cold, the perfect snack after a long, hot walk around the city.

The recipe comes from Bert Greene’s Kitchen Bouquets, the same place I got the idea for making Basil scented bevandas. This is one helluva cookbook. Bert, who is my new cooking companion (sorry Nigel) says, “These almonds are most salubrious to the palate even with the frostiest martini a host can provide.” Amen!

Mr. Greene borrowed this recipe from The Art of Turkish Cooking by Neset Eren and so now I’m borrowing it from him and giving it to you as my third installment of heirloom·modern. Bert says, “Although I amended Ms. Eren’s original dictum with a grain or two of salt, the dish is otherwise traditionally Ottoman.” In Turkey, these nuts were served on ice with no additional garnish. Bert, it seems, liked a dusting of fine salt on these, I’m assuming, to help whet the appetite for a second martini. Amen!

It seemed only right to adapt Mr. Greene’s recipe a bit, since he adapted Ms. Eren’s. Since I’m not serving these all at once at a fancy cocktail party on a bed of ice, I have deleted his step of soaking the nuts in unsalted water for one day before serving. Instead they remain happily in my fridge in a nice salty brine which I change every couple of days. They keep getting plumper and plumper and just ever so slightly more salty. But they are constantly delicious! I hope you try them and enjoy them as much as we are.

Head below the jump for the recipe for Bert Greene’s delectable Snow Almonds.
Continue reading

Oh Give Me A Home…

24 Jul

Where the buffalo roam. And the carrots are all gilded and sweeeeeet!

Okay, sorry, no more singing. I realize this is my entry for the monthly wine and food pairing event Combinations and not a spaghetti western. But seriously folks, I have a new addiction. Bison.

Since finally jumping in and trying some of the goods from Elk Trail Bison Farm (Saturday’s at the Union Square Green Market), it’s basically all I can think about. The buffalo are, as they should be, free to roam. They’re raised down in Pennsylvania on a purely grass-fed diet. Check out the site, they’re really cute (unless you don’t like knowing that the meat you eat was cute at one time, if that’s the case, don’t check out the site).

Grass-fed bison, and even beef, is much much better for you. It’s leaner, has less cholesterol, more trace minerals and lots of omega fatty acids. Plus, it cooks faster (which is great in this heat) and tastes better.

I wanted a steak that would cook really quickly, so the nice guy at the stand sold me a “butcher steak”. He said it was part of the shoulder, but a little research shows me that it was probably actually a hanger steak or in French, onglet. The two steaks cost about $8 and didn’t shrink up at all. So go on, give bison a try!

To serve, I was thinking traditional steak house fare. Mushrooms. Potatoes. Green beans. But then we saw these baby carrots. Tri-colore no less! And I knew by the look in the boy’s eyes that we had a winner. He also spotted some rocambole (or hard-neck) garlic at a random stand I’ve never seen before, and I can honestly say… Best. Garlic. EVER!

And just because I’ve been on a roll with doing things a little over the top, I threw in some squash blossoms. You know, just because I could…

I steamed the carrots ever so briefly in water and olive oil with garlic and sage. While they were getting a wee bit soft I made a glaze of sherry vinegar, honey and lavender flowers (just a few). While the carrots were glazing, I cooked the bison.

The guy says that since buffalo meat is so very lean, the only way to cook it is lower and slower. I grilled these (sadly inside and on a pan) over medium-low first on one side until the blood rose to the top, then flipped and cooked until just medium rare by touch. I let them sit and rest until the carrots were done and then served the whole thing up!

The dinner was absolutely delicious, healthy and light. And since it was slightly cooler and red meat was involved, I just HAD to have a red wine…. I am getting kinda tired of whites and roses. I miss my reds…

So I broke down and pulled out a bottle I’ve been saving for eons, a 2004 Domaine Rimbert Les Travers de Marceau from Langeudoc. In my house, this is affectionately called “bunny wine” for the odd angly rabbit on the label holding a bunch of grapes. The 2003 Le Mas au Schiste is actually my favorite wine in the entire world, but the Travers is lovely too. It has more fruit, especially dried red fruit than that 2003 which is all about green chilies and roses. If you see anything from this vineyard ever, grab it. Truly delightful!

Head below the jump for the recipe for Gilded Glazed Carrots.

Continue reading

Who Put Basil In My Bevanda?

18 Jul

I got a new cookbook on Sunday, Bert Greene‘s Kitchen Bouquets. I don’t read a lot about cookbooks, even though I collect them voraciously. In fact, it is usually after purchasing a tome that I find out how important its existence has been to modern cooking.

Take the time I bought a copy of Clementine Paddleford‘s How America Eats. I remember balking at the $30 price tag, most of the cookbooks I find barely cross the $5 barrier. I hemmed. I hawed. I flipped and perused. Finally, I decided that this was an important book for me to own. It was only once I read this article, written by the estimable R.W. Apple Jr. that I even remembered I had this book. I had completely forgotten, and I certainly had no idea that this was literally the book on American regional cuisine. I was gobsmacked.

When I started rooting about for information on Roy Andries de Groot the experience was similarly humbling. I thought I had just picked up a cool cookbook about cooking with the seasons. I had no idea that this guy was a culinary lion in his time.

And now I’m learning about Bert Greene. This cookbook is organized by flavor/aroma. It starts with Almond (more on that soon) and ends with Yeast. It is a seriously engaging read, in fact, almost bloglike in its tone and rhythm. Each chapter opens with a story or reminiscence and each recipe is preceeded by an anecdote. I find it very comfortable, cozy and familiar.

On Sunday night I was pouring over the chapter on basil looking for wonderful things to do with the beautiful plants growing on my window sill. Mr. Greene lolls about in exotic herbal lore in this chapter, emphasizing that in many culture basil is so highly esteemed that it’s never eaten.

In ancient Greece… basil was held to be the only antidote to the venom of the basilisk… In Iran… basil is said to be the only preventative against malaria and the houses of the rich are filled with its green leaves… In other Middle Eastern countries… basil [is] hung over a connubial bed… to bring fertility to a marriage.

But my favorite use mentioned by Mr. Greene has nothing to do with giant serpents, mosquitoes or sex, it is about wine.

In the wine country of Provence they slip twigs of basil into casks of certain dry wines “to calm them.” As a variation on that theme, you might want to consider floating a basil leaf on a spritzer of white wine and soda sometime.

I sat there thinking, “Why Bert, thank you so much kind sir! How is that you knew at just this moment 27 years in the future I would be sitting here drinking what you call a spritzer but I call a bevanda, contemplating uses for the gorgeous basil about two feet to the left of my head?” I turned to the boy, “Hey, whaddaya say to putting a crown of basil in your bevanda?” “Huh?” So I read the passage to him, and he enthusiastically agreed that it sounded delightful.

And it was. We were drinking a beautiful, crisp, minerally, rocky, schisty white that closely approximated the distinctive whites of the Dalmatian coast. I decided that the lime basil would be the best complement (over the Genovese or purple opal). It added an earthy, citrusy, herbal note to the nose and just the tiniest hint of a flavor to the wine.

It felt so glamorous to be sitting at home, relaxing and drinking something so cosmopolitan. I guess good food writing always shines through, and never goes out of style. Thanks Mr. Greene!

Cold Almond Soup, Gilded

17 Jul

It’s hot in New York City. As I write this now, it’s 87°F (dele, now it’s 92°), the same temperature it was when I went to bed last night. It’s so hot I just might (and this is a big deal) overcome a mortal fear and take the bus to work. Yes, that’s hot!

So, how do you beat this kind of heat? Walk very slowly in the shade, drink lots of water, watch old movies, read a book, put a bag of frozen peas on your neck, try to leave work by 5pm (since they turn the AC off at that time, but I never get to leave work before 5pm, so then I sit and boil), eat lots of salads and cold soups.

On Saturday I talked the boy into going over to Boerum Hill in Brooklyn to watch the Bastille Day petanque tournament on Smith Street. I promised him lunch at our favorite restaurant, sweaty Frenchmen and cheap wine. Yeah, none of that happened. Our favorite restaurant was closed for renovations and the petanque tournament was on Sunday. Doh!

On the subway ride home we decided that the best way to salvage the day was with a fabulous dinner, Cold Almond Soup. I was SO excited to make this because it meant that I could finally squirt almonds! I never thought I’d get to indulge in this activity because to be quite honest, I don’t really like nuts of any stripe. Luckily with enough olive oil and garlic applied in the proper way, I do like nuts.

We stopped off at the best new place in the Lower East Side; Formaggio Kitchen (actually, is’s a tie for b.n.p.i.t.l.e.s. between Formaggio Kitchen and Saxelby Cheesemongers). Max, the seriously knowledgeable manager hooked us up with some delicious cheese for snacks and a bottle of gorgeous sherry vinegar from Andalucia (they have huge vats of vinegar and olive oil that you can decant into your own pretty bottle for $1 off!)

Next we bopped over to Economy Candy for some almonds. I couldn’t remember what kind of almonds this recipe took so we got some plain and some roasted. Turns out we only needed plain. (The boy had this soup once about a year ago at the lovely Uovo. We looked up recipes at that time so I was working from memory on this soup).

I think it was the memory of that meal at Uovo that inspired one of the garnishes for this soup which is traditionally served with halved red grapes (or maybe I just wanted to play with fruit some more). The chef at Uovo is a wizard with pickles. One time, he sent my fish out garnished with pickled summer squash, another time we went for the deep fried pickle (I loved, boy hated).

In crafting this soup, I was afraid to make the vinegar taste too intense, so I figured the pickled melon would be a good way of controlling that. And then well, who can say no to garlicky fried bread crumbs, and well, why not just gild the lily and season them with the saffron salt lurking in my pantry? Saffron’s just as Spanish as Ajo blanco, even if one is a peasant food and the other a treat of the bourgeoisie, who says they can’t get along?

And get along they did. Let me just say that this soup was just as beautiful in the mouth as it is in pictures. This is a wonderful, impressive dish for a swanky summertime dinner party, and it’s pretty darn cheap to make too!

Head below the jump for the recipes for this delicious soup and its gilding garnishes.

Continue reading