Archive | January, 2007

From The Back Of My Pantry: Poker Widow Pasta

26 Jan

Editor’s Note: Finally! It’s Friday. Tomorrow we move the rest of the crap out of the old apartment, the new couch will (hopefully) arrive and then on Sunday, the grunt men come in to get the furniture out of Manhattan and moved to the borough of Kings. All of my kitchen stuff has been there since last weekend. We’ve been eating a lot of sandwiches this week.

Naturally all I can think about this week is cooking. And so, since there’s nothing really exciting to share except this wonderful recipe (one of my first!), I figured I’d share some of the recipes I’ve been hoarding in anticipation of a big, shiny new kitchen.

Chicken Bouillabaisse: Sher published this recipe right around the time my parents got back from Spain. My mom brought me back a tin of precious saffron and I immediately pinpointed this recipe as the proper way to use it. It’s at the top of my list for possible first weekend meals.

Celery Root Soup With Top Shelf Beet Relish: I had this way back in balmy November at the incredibly awesome Pickle Party and have been dreaming about making it ever since. The creamy comforting soup garnished with the puckeringly perfect garnish would make awesome leftovers for one of those nights where I won’t get home until 9pm because of my stupid job and my new commute.

Madame Hermé’s Spaetzle: I know there’s a lot of Pierre Hermé fans out there. I’ve never been to Paris and I’ve never tried his pastries, although I do think they’re beautiful and I would love to try them. But I don’t sit up dreaming about them. What do I dream about then? His mother’s spätzle. Though it doesn’t differ that much from my Aunt’s, the addition of semolina is truly intriguing. And there’s so many sausage-makers (sausagiers?) in the new ‘hood that would go so well with a steaming bowl of spätzle.

Savory Haddock Korma: I have no idea if this recipe from Ulla is traditionally Icelandic or traditionally Indian or simply traditionally New Yorkian, but it sounds delicious. I usually don’t go in for fish curries, but this one with its combination of creamy dairy, bright citrus and subtle, comforting cardamom sounds so pleasant.

Azerbaian Pilaf with Pomegranate Meatballs: Pomegranates will start disappearing from the groceries soon, and ever since a quick trip to Ikea last weekend, I’ve been craving meatballs. This recipe from Lindy would make a nice, homemade stand-in for their frozen (but delicious!) Swedish variety.

Green Olive Gnocchi With Green Olive Sauce: God I love making gnocchi, and boy do I love olives too, but I only make gnocchi when I’m in a big kitchen. The mess-factor is way too high for a wee bitty space. So I’m really looking forward to delving back into the world of fluffy pasta-dumplings as soon as possible and this is the one I want to try first!

Risotto Ai Pompelmo: Lydia always knocks my socks off with crazy creative recipes for the goodies in her pantry, and this one was a real shock; Grapefruit Risotto? Get out! So awesome! So perfect for all the gorgeous citrus hanging out at the corner bodega! What a way to bring some sunny summer sunshine into these grey winter days. Fab!

Flo Fab’s Wheat And Cornmeal Cheese Rolls: The only thing that could make these sound more appealing is if there was bacon in this recipe to boot. Let’s see; there’s melty cheese, sage and maple syrup, and since they’re made with whole wheat flour, that means they’re healthy too! And now that I’ve overcome my fear of kneading, I can make these. Yay! Thanks Luisa!

And finally, is it possible to write a recipe wish list without including something from the uber recipe blogger Elise? I think not.

Puréed Roasted Parsnips: We love parsnips. We love roasted vegetables. We love purées. And somehow, neither of us ever thought to roast and then purée. Bloody genius. Seriously, cannot wait to try this!

Of course, I also really want to make my mushroom pasta recipe again as well. It really is a winner. So, check out these recipes, let me know if you’ve tried any, and I’ll “see” you all after the weekend!

Poker Widow Pasta. Originally published February 25th, 2006.


Friday night when I found myself a poker widow I decided, rather than going out, I would stay in and make myself something decadent. I had been waiting all week to try some Porcini mushroom pasta I had found and taking inspiration from Mark Bittman’s foray into puttanesca I created this luscious, silky, tangy and downright sexy pasta dish.

Poker Widow Pasta

Poker Widow Pasta

prep: 15 minutes ~ cooking time: 20 minutes

  • Porcini Mushroom Pasta
  • Olive Oil
  • 6 cloves Garlic, sliced (but not too thin)
  • 1 package Crimini Mushrooms, quartered
  • 1 tbsp Capers
  • 2/3 cup Dry Vermouth
  • 1 tbsp Lemon Juice
  • Chile Flakes to taste
  • 10 Cherry Tomatoes, halved
  • Salt & Pepper
  • Very good Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • Hard Cheese (of your choosing)

N.B. ~ The timing on this meal is wholly dependent on how long your pasta needs to cook. The pasta I used only needed 4 minutes, but if yours needs longer, please start it earlier on in the sauce prep than noted here.

Place a large pot with salted water (for your pasta) over a flame and bring to a boil.

Place a small, heavy bottomed dutch oven over a very low flame. Add enough Olive Oil to coat the bottom about 1/4 inch. When the oil is a little warm, add the garlic and cook slowly, about 5 minutes, to infuse the oil with its flavor and aroma.

Add the mushrooms and mix to coat well with the garlic oil mixture. Turn the heat up a little, to about medium, really cook the mushrooms down. When they have reduced in size, taken on a little color and released their liquid, add capers. Turn the heat up again to about medium-high.

Add the Vermouth and the lemon juice and allow to reduce by about half. Season with salt, pepper and chile flakes to taste. Add the tomatoes and stir.

Poker Widow Pasta

When the tomatoes start liquefying into the sauce, add your pasta to the water. Remember to keep stirring the sauce to keep it from burning and sticking to the bottom of your pan. When the pasta is done, turn off the flame under the sauce, it will most likely keep bubbling away for a few minutes.

Drain your pasta. Portion into bowls. Top with a nice glug of your very best extra virgin olive oil and your grated hard cheese of choice. Mix it all together and dig in! This is a truly delicious, earthy, sexy meal!


Glass & Glue

24 Jan

East Village Mosaic

The East Village is covered in mosaics. Most are made by one of the last squatter artists “The Mosaic Man.” He covers light poles and store fronts wherever he can get permission to do so. They’re amazing pieces of art and I’ll try and get a picture of one soon.

Unfortunately, this isn’t one of those (I think). I believe it is the headquarters of this man’s business. Not nearly as gritty, but beautiful nonetheless. The entire stoop is covered in the mosaics, but it’s the peacock feather and sunny little flowers I love the most. I’ll miss these…

From The Back Of My Pantry: Meat And Potatoes

23 Jan

Editor’s Note: Yep, we’re still taking a trip in the time machine and looking back at recipes from the early days of The Granny Cart. Sher wanted to know how the move‘s going. Sher: slowly. Ugh, so tiring, both physically and mentally.

We took a break between trips on Saturday and found an amazing, local Polish restaurant, Polonica, who’s clear borscht always has mushroom uszka, and might possibly be better than either Veselka’s or Polonia’s. I think 2007 is going to be the year The Great De-Beet goes Borough v. Borough, and Blogger v. Blogger!

The other reason to go to Polonica? The salads. Usually at most of these Polish restaurants you have to choose one or two salads to go with your entree. Say, Bigos with Red Cabbage and Beet Salads. Or Suffed Cabbage with Sauerkraut and Carrot Salads. But at Polonica? No choosing. You get ALL of them. Yep, all. And the best part? Every single one of them is fantastic.

So, even though the move continues to be a long slog, we’re eating our way through it. By this time next week, it’ll all be over. I cannot wait for next Tuesday!

Meat And Potatoes. Originally published March 7, 2006.


In Sunday’s New York Times, Julie Powell asks, are Americans ready for Nigel Slater? And I say to her, “Honey, I’ve been ready for him for years!” She calls him “a yuppie hooligan”. Maybe he is, but that’s never how I imagined him.

Nigel Slater Appetite

Who is Nigel Slater then? To me, he’s the thinking woman’s Naked Chef, he’s the slightly more grizzled (and male) Nigella Lawson. He’s the guy constantly sitting on my shoulder while I’m cooking, saying, “calm down, it’s just cooking!”

I’ve never seen his shows, and I really don’t know anything about him that I didn’t learn from the only book of his I own, Appetite, but I love what he says in it.

Nigel Slater Appetite

This is the ultimate first cookbook. He talks about how to build a kitchen, how to stock a pantry, and how to cook for only you, or a party of 50. His recipes are barely recipes; they’re more like guidelines, a list of things to put together, and then yeah, you go ahead and riff on that. It’s an approach I not only appreciate, but also whole heartedly endorse.

So, in honor of Nigel’s shout-out in the Gray Lady, I cobbled together an entrèe from one of his recipes entitled “A Pork Roast”. The recipe is supposed to be made with fresh pork belly with the skin on. Now, I know I live in one of the most foodie friendly cities in the world, and I consider myself a pretty savvy food shopper, but I had A) no idea where to get pork belly, and B) truly no desire to tackle this cut of meat myself. This is why god invented Alias and Uovo.

Pork Loin

I also chose to “follow” his advice and use his garlic and rosemary variation. Oh, and I decided to braise the pork, rather than roast it, and to use a loin instead of a belly, and to braise in verjus rather than white wine, but hey, this is a Nigel recipe, which means, as long as it tastes good in the end, then all is well!

Pork And Ugly Peas

I served the pork with what can only be fairly called Chartreuse Mash. It was a goaty riff on Smashed Potatoes And Peas from this months Gourmet. I couldn’t figure out why there was no picture of this slightly flawed recipe, and now that you’ve see mine you’ll understand why… this is one ugly dish, but oh. my. god. is it GOOD. Make it, now. You’ll thank me for it!

Head below the break for the detailed recipes.

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From The Back Of My Pantry: Sausages And Sparrows

20 Jan

Editor’s Note: Greetings all! The big move is underway, and the eating hasn’t been pretty (meaning, there’s no way I’m going to share some of the bizarre food we’ve been eating in an effort to clean up fridge and pantry), so I’ve decided to dig way, waaay into the back of The Granny Cart pantry and resurrect some old, seasonal posts from the early days.

Here, we have my attempt at recreating my Aunt’s amazing spätzle. A take-home container of these delicious German dumplings was hands down my favorite Christmas gift this year. I hope you enjoy them as much as I do.

Sausages And Sparrows. Originally posted March 27, 2006.


My aunt will be so proud. She will also be relieved… I taught myself how to make spätzle yesterday.


My aunt, the daughter of German immigrants, has been making her brand of spätzle for family gatherings for longer than I can remember. In the weeks leading up to, say, Easter, I’ll call my mother, “Are we going to Syracuse? Is Aunt L going to be making spätzle??” over, and over and over, even now that I’m old enough that I really should know better.

Aunt L’s spätzle are different than any other I’ve tried at any German or Austrian restaurant anywhere in the world. Hers are much thicker, closer to a dumpling and less a little sparrow (and no, I don’t mean this kind of sparrow) and more like a gorgeous, fat goose. Also, as a bow to my family’s obsession with garlic, she browns them off in oil and garlic until they’re golden and crispy. To me, they are the picture of culinary perfection. I truly believe I could eat her spätzle every day for the rest of my life.

Sausages & Sauerkraut

For my first attempt, I think my spätzle turned out pretty well. Mine were smaller, but they had the same chewy, toothsome feeling as my aunts. When I make them again (and I will make them again!) I will use fewer eggs, maybe 2 whole eggs and 2 yolks, plus more milk and even a little more flour. Then again, maybe I’ll hold off until Easter, when I’ll badger Aunt L into making hers for me again, you know, as research…


I served my spätzle with kielbasa (we’re a melting pot of Eastern European culinary traditions my family is…) and sauerkraut all braised with caramelized onions and dry vermouth. The kielbasa was much different than what I’m used to. I was inspired to try some local sausage from the East Village institution, Kurowycky Meat Market, which was unfortunate, because well, to be frank (heh), I didn’t like their kovbasa at all. It was nicely spiced and full of large chunks of meat but had a strange, gamey smell/flavor that I just couldn’t get past. I’m a little sad really. I thought maybe, finally, I’d find a more convenient local source for my kielbasa fix, but alas, I’ll have to keep making that trip to Eagle Provisions in Brooklyn. It’s a sacrifice I’m willing to make.

Recipes for both dishes below the break.

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New York City Real Estate Soup

16 Jan

On Saturday, we made soup.


It was a typical New York soup, made of ingredients gathered from the groceries of various ethnicities. It was faintly Asian in theme, but would not be immediately recognizable as Chinese, Japanese, Vietnamese or Filipino. It was, like the City, a melting pot soup.

I know that some of you out there are New Yorkers, but I also know that many of you are not, so I’m going to offer three pieces of unsolicited advice, in case any of you ever find yourselves roaming our fair streets. There is a point to this, so please, bear with me.

First, and possibly the most obvious given the nature of the words you’re reading; New Yorkers love to talk about food. Should you ever find yourself stuck in a boring meeting, snowed in at Laguardia or alone at a bar, ask the nearest group of people who makes the best pizza, burger, banh mi or borscht. You’ll learn about parts of the City you’ve never heard of before, you’ll watch people swear to never talk to their best friends ever again because of their allegiance to Singas rather than L&B Spumoni Gardens (it’s a Queens v. Brooklyn thing), and if you take careful notes you’ll get some very valuable and tasty advice!

Not-So_Posh Park Slope Ride

Second, if ever you’re stuck here, alone for a long time, and lonely, and really want to get to know some people fast, ask them for directions to an obscure location. Say you’re in a bar and haven’t talked to anyone in days but the obnoxious person with whom you’re sharing a cubicle at the home office in the ginormous ugly box smack in the center of Times Square and you’re dying to just have a normal conversation that doesn’t relate to the location of your cube-mate’s red Swingline stapler.

Here’s how to do it.

Wait for a lull in the conversation of a group of people and then gently say to the group in general, “Excuse me, but I’m here for work for a few days, and I’m wondering if you guys could help me get to, Wave Hill.” Everyone will be thrown off, but then one person, having wracked her brains will be able to remember something about it, will then try and explain, will be laughed at by her friends, will have her suspicions confirmed by you that, yes, indeed, Wave Hill is a botanical gardens of a sort way up in the Bronx, and then let the fireworks begin! The Brits have weather, New Yorkers have the MTA.

Park Slope Painted Brownstone

Lastly, and this one is slightly more dangerous, real estate. Some New Yorkers love to compare how many square feet you get for a month’s rent in Denver or Boston or Seattle and some don’t. A nice convivial chat can turn ugly very fast and in the blink of an eye when a New Yorker perceives that you’re arguing a wee bit too vigorously for why Ottoumwa, Iowa is the best place on earth. It’s not, New York is, and it doesn’t matter that you get a 100 acre farm for $1,000/month, you don’t live in Manhattan and that’s that. See how quickly that went pear shaped?

Well, sometimes it can happen between New Yorkers, too, when we’re discussing the merits of Manhattan vs. Brooklyn vs. Queens vs. Staten Island vs. The Bronx. Hackles rise, tempers flare and feelings get hurt.

And so, dear readers (I feel like Molly or Luisa saying that), I’m here to possibly piss some of you off. Before this goes any further, I have an announcement to make, and I hope you’ll still love me in the morning…

The Granny Cart is moving to Brooklyn.

Yep, Brooklyn. And not just any part of Brooklyn, but the setting for Saturday Night Fever, the starting point of the Marathon, the neighborhood previously known as Yellow Hook, Bay Ridge.

After two year of living together in this one teeny apartment, and one year of blogging from here, the boy and I have decided that we need a change. We’re a little bored of the neighborhood, I’m really tired of not being able to invite people over for dinner, and we both agree we need S P A C E, so we agonized and thought and walked and discussed and finally we’ve settled on a magical space in the borough of Kings.

So, I hope you’ll join me for new culinary adventures once we’re finally settled into our new home. We’ll be within walking distance of Brooklyn’s Chinatown and a large Mexican and Latin American enclave, and very close to the most engrossing display of ethnic eats I’ve seen on one street in my life, 3rd Avenue.

In the meantime, we’ll be cooking some pretty zany stuff in an attempt to clean out the fridge, freezer and pantry (Sunday night was scallop and whole wheat gnocchi marinara!). So I hope you’ll all forgive me for losing the crux of my schtick… the tiny kitchen, but I promise, I’ll come up with something new (and I’ll even change my about page accordingly).

And as to that soup? Easier than making apple pie.

Asian Noodle Soup

Infuse some chicken stock with lemongrass, garlic, Chinese Leeks, ginger, chili peppers and thinly sliced onions for an hour or so. Bulk up the flavor with some lemon juice, fish sauce, thick soy sauce, rice vinegar and a healthy splash of vermouth.

Toss in some baby bok choy, enoki mushrooms, firm silken tofu and edamame.

Clamp the lid on and in a seperate pot cook some Curry Japanese Noodles from Trader Joe’s (kinda like curry-flavored somen). When the noodles are cooked portion them into bowls and then spoon the soup on top.

Garnish with more fish sauce if not salty enough, togarashi if not spicy enough and a squeeze of fresh lime if not tart enough.

Slurp and enjoy!