Archive | September, 2007

All Sole Day

27 Sep

Tell me something…

Manhattan Bridge

Have you ever made Sole à la Meunière? You know, the über-classic French dish of sole cooked in butter and then served covered in foamy beurre noisette?

No? Well, you should. Today.

Go on. I’ll wait while you skip down to the fish monger to pick up a sole fillet for each of you, a bunch of parsley and a lemon.

Tap, tap, tap. Back? Okay, good, let’s get started!

Manhattan Bridge

You’ve got a small sautée pan, right? Good, put 2 tablespoons of butter into it and heat it over a low flame. There should be a white film at the bottom and foam on the surface. When the foam dissipates (or nearly so) and the butter is clear pour it into a larger sautée pan and add a glug of olive oil. My butter went beyond pale yellow to a nutty brown and it was just fine, so don’t panic. Heat the fats in the larger sautée pan over medium heat.

Rinse your sole (heh), season with salt and pepper and dredge lightly in flour and place immediately in the pan. Do not crowd the pan or you’ll never be able to flip them. Turn the heat down to lowish and allow to cook for 5 minutes or so. I flipped my sole when it began to feel firmer and I could see the edges becoming opaque.

Manhattan Bridge

Now the fun part. It might help to have an extra set of hands around for this one. If you’ve got a fish spatula, use it. If not, use your biggest, yet thinnest, spatula and a fork or something to try and flip your fish. Be delicate. The fish is incredibly flaky and there’s a large quantity of very hot fat in front of you. My sole broke. I know, tragic, right? But I survived and you will too!

Allow the fish to cook on this side until it loosens from the bottom and feels firm when you poke it. Move your sole to the plates you’re going to eat off of and cover with a smattering of washed, picked parsley and if you’re feeling sassy, a few capers. Drain the cooking fats from the pan and return it to the heat. Add 2 tablespoons of your very best butter and heat slowly. Don’t take your eyes, or your nose, off it for a second.

This is the time to use the good stuff lurking in your fridge, you know, that fancy pants French beurre you paid an arm and a leg for? Yeah, this is the time. You’re making beurre noisette mon amie! The word noisette here doesn’t refer to actual hazelnuts, instead it refers to the aroma the butter will release when it is heated to a certain temperature. It will turn a light golden brown and smell of roasted filberts. I kid you not.

Manhattan Bridge

This will happen in a few minutes time. When it does, immediately turn the heat off and remove the pan from the flame and pour directly over the fish. It will hiss and pop and make all sorts of wonderful noises and release delicious aromas. Take the plates to the table, squeeze some lemon over your sole and dig in. This is seriously good stuff and I hope you enjoy it as much as we did!

I awoke to this adventure on Saturday morning after a late night of playing poker with friends. I was neither bright eyed and most certainly not bushy tailed when the Boy returned from the gym, much to my dismay, perky, enthusiastic and babbling on about how the fish guys have soul.

Manhattan Bridge

Now, I’ve seen these guys and they most likely do not have rhythm and probably cannot sing the blues so I had to assume that he meant sole, not soul. I was skeptical. I’m not a huge fish person (aside from clams), but he looked so excited. I agreed to play along.

I had no idea what to do with sole so I turned to The Madame. That recipe above, that I distilled for you into about 400 words, runs on for 2 1/2 pages in La Bonne Cuisine, but, as with my Sauce Périgueux, it turned out perfectly.

Sole a la Meuniere

To accompany I braised some fresh lima beans with prosciutto and dried porcini mushrooms. I’m kind of sad that this recipe played the Miranda to the sole’s Carrie, because it was so good. The mushrooms and their soaking liquid along with the cured meat add so much heft and depth and profundity to this lowly, unloved bean.

Luckily though, there were limas left over, and we had them for dinner last night, heated through and tossed with farro pasta and a little cheese. Boy was that a vavavooom dinner!

Luscious Lima Beans

So I hope this has encouraged you and heartened you to try making this bistro classic in your own home. Don’t be afraid of the smells (if your fish is fresh and you have good ventilation, no problem), or the flipping or the butter browning.

It’s all doable and will impress that pants off your hubby or wife or mother-in-law, or hell, even the Pope. But he’s German, so he’d probably hate it (you know, because it’s French).

Head below the jump for the recipes for The Madame’s Sole and Luscious Limas.

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The Veal Deal

24 Sep

Vegetarians, look away.


I made veal for dinner a few weeks ago, and it was easy and delicious.

Veal has a bad rap in this country. People avoid it like the plague, or as if PETA’s going to barge through their front door if they dare serve it to their family. But the truth is that you can get cruelty free veal, especially if you shop at European groceries or buy from small farmers.

Brooklyn Heights Mansion

My mother accompanied me on a trip to Italy in 10th grade. It was supposed to be a group of about 30 students, but the first Iraq war started 4 days before we were scheduled to leave and all but about 10 students canceled. The tour operator required more than 10 kids to continue the tour, so my high school opened the trip up to parents, teachers and, well, anyone who would pay for it, so my mom came along.

It was the most regimented tour I’ve ever been on. We were told when to sleep, where to walk and of course, what to eat. At the time I had just decided to become a vegetarian, and so what did they serve at every meal? Veal, naturally.

If it had been any other meat I would have eaten it, if only to survive. The meals were meager and bleak. I lived on gelato and grappa, until one day I nearly passed out. My mother forced me to eat the veal. I was shocked, it was good, and it was different.

Shy House

Years later I found out that the vogue for keeping veal calves under tortuous conditions was largely an American invention. The veal served across Europe is allowed to gallivant and gambol, thus giving the meat a meatier texture and darker color.

I’ve never cooked veal. I’ll order it from time to time in restaurants, but it’s never even crossed my mind to buy it when contemplating the meat counter. That’s changed now, and I’ve got RayRay to thank.

Lebanese Church Door, Brooklyn Heights

The same day that Dandy Sandy made something that looked edible, Ms. Ray said something that made me go, “Duh.” “Why don’t more people cook with veal?” she asked. “It’s so easy and delicious and cooks up in a flash.” I’d never thought of it like that, and so I was determined to give it a go. And you know what? She’s right.

I marinated the meat in vinegar for an hour, a recipe I found in the Silver Spoon, and then gave it a light fry in butter, a few minutes on each side. The meat was tender and delicious, a little gamey and just ever so sour, like a sauerbraten, but better and more subtle.

Slightly Sour Veal with Pappardelle con Broccoletti

To accompany I whipped up a half-recipe of the Silver Spoon‘s fresh pasta recipe, cut it into papparadelle and and made a quick sauce of broccoli rabe. It was delicious and satisfying, and the leftover veal was possibly even better a few days later heated through in a pan with a little water and served over a bed of arugula dressed simply with lemon juice and olive oil.

Yummo indeed!

Head below the jump for the recipes for Slightly Sour Veal and Pappardelle con Broccoletti.

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Blue & Gold

17 Sep

Do you feel that?

Brooklyn Heights Mint Warehouse

It’s perfection. It’s September in New York.

Days are sparkling blue, shimmering gold, fluffy white clouds, incandescent air. Nights are snappy, chilly, perfect for curling up on the couch in my favorite fuzzy pants and sinking into the glory that is end of season baseball.

The games finally mean something. Each at bat counts. Fans (and the squirrel) stay until the final pitch. And if I’m a very lucky girl, by the end, I’ll be happy enough to sing along with Frank. God, I love September!

Urban Sailing

But, no matter how sustaining baseball may be, you can’t eat it. Which brings us to the other very best thing about September in New York. It’s finally cool enough to add a little heat to all the glorious produce still bursting forth from the Upstate farms. It’s a best of all worlds scenario. The summer produce is at it’s peak, but “putting up” vegetables are beginning to appear and can actually be a welcome change from all the tomatoes and squashes of the last few months.

Brooklyn Bridge

Last week the Boy went to the greenmarket over by the UN. It’s a good excuse for him to take a walk and get in on the produce procuring fun. He brought home some wonderful lettuces and two slightly mangy looking, but tiny, cute orange cauliflower. The greens went fast, but the chou were sent to malinger in the damp, disgusting pits that masquerade as our refrigerator’s produce bins.

Manhattan Bridge

Sunday, we settled on taking a long walk (I know, you’re all shocked) and using the cauliflower in a curry. We took the subway to downtown Brooklyn, wandered over to the Heights, had brunch at Jack The Horse Tavern (highly recommended), saw someone famous (I really wish I’d had this book in my pocket) and then headed to the Brooklyn Book Festival.


The festival was a total wash. It was full of cranky jostling people and I was really hoping someone from St. Martin’s Press would be there so I could excoriate them for publishing an absolutely awful piece of fiction. Alas, they were not. Seriously though. If you ever see this book in a store, walk away. Do not be seduced by the cover, or the nice blurbs on the back. Don’t listen to them when they tell you it’s the heir to The Alienist‘s throne. Just put the book down, even if it’s only $1, and walk away. There’s a reason it’s so cheap. The reason? It’s unreadable. The writing is awful, but the editing (or lack thereof) is even worse. It’s embarrassing. There, I feel better now.

Manhattan Bridge

We then carried on with an amble through Dumbo, a jaunt over the Manhattan Bridge, and a dash for the Lower East Side and nirvana, the annual Pickle Festival. But alas, as the Boy put it, “You sure know how to find the crowds today don’t you?” I could smell the brine, I could see the cornucopia of pickled delights, but no, it was not to be. Not one pickle passed my lips. And so we wandered up to d.b.a. so I could drown my sorrows in a pint of cask-conditioned ale.

Mmm... Beer

And then it was home to make this very complicated but oh-so-worth-it curry while listening to the Yankees play the Red Sox on the radio (the only way baseball should be enjoyed, honestly).


There’s quite a few steps to this meal, but if you’ve got some homemade yogurt sitting in you fridge begging for a noble end, this is it. The depth of flavor and aroma are spectacular. The recipe is supposed to be made with potatoes, but I’m here to say it works perfectly with cauliflower. It’s one of those, “I can’t believe I made this!” meals that would seem more at home at Tabla than in a humble kitchen in Bay Ridge.

Slow-Cooked Cauliflower Curry

I feel really bad that I let the Boy’s cauliflowers get moldy. I had to toss them and send him out for a new, non-greenmarket, flown-in-from-California version, but I think between the excellent feast and Jeter’s heroic efforts in beating Boston, all is forgotten and forgiven. God I love September!

Head below the jump for the recipes for Slow-Cooked Cauliflower Curry and Perfect Masoor Dal.

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Easy Cheese

13 Sep

“Next time, I’d like some herbs in mine.”

Park Slope Roof Deck Insanity

That’s what I think I heard my boss mumble over the symphony of oohing, aahing, lipsmacking and marriage proposals emanating from a group of my co-workers who were huddled around my friend’s cubicle, snacking on a small button of chevre that I’d brought in for them yesterday.

My co-workers love cheese as much, if not more, than the general human population, but they wouldn’t go this gaga over just any goat cheese I’d purchased from the Greenmarket. No, I’d brought in some of the chevre the Boy and I had made last weekend.

It was nice to bask in their praise. My job is pivotal, but oftentimes thankless. If I do it right, no one should ever have to think about me, but when something goes wrong, wham, there I am, directly in the line of fire. So it was nice to bask in their adoration for a few minutes, especially since it was barely warranted.

Park Slope Roof Deck Insanity

How could my well-earned moment of idolatry be unwarranted? Because making chevre is so easy. The hardest part is finding the milk.

I started with my favorite goat cheese lady at the Greenmarket, but alas, the state of New York has a set of prohibitively expensive regulations that forbids her and many other small goat farmers to bottle their milk. I guess that’s why you see so many people selling goat’s cheeses and products at the greenmarkets, but no milk. Sigh.

I finally tracked down some half-gallons at Whole Foods. Each one was about $7, but one jug made more than a pound of cheese. If a 4 oz. Medallion of Coach Farm’s chevre is $6 at Fresh Direct, and there’s 16 ozs. in a pound, that’s $24, subtract the price of the milk and $1 for the culture packet, and… What? Hello! A savings of $16! I’d say that’s a good result!

So, if making your own goat’s cheese is both cost effective and easy, why does no one tell us this when we first earn our foodie stripes? Bah! It’s a conspiracy I tell you! If they let on to how easy it is we’d never pay a premium for it.

So, how easy is it to make your own chevre? Allow me to explain.

Carroll Gardens Rowhouse

Once the milk was procured, it rode the subway home with me, where one half gallon was dumped immediately into a large non-reactive pot and brought up to 86°F. We added a packet of starter culture, stirred well and then poured the inoculated milk into a Tupperwear container that it sat in overnight and got all good and goaty. The next morning we strained the curds, let them drip for a few hours, salted them and packed the cheese into molds. And then we were done.

Et voila, that’s it. That’s all there is to making chevre at home!

With the other half-gallon I made some goat’s milk feta. This was a little more complicated (but not much) and is still brining in the fridge. I did learn one very important lesson while making my feta. If you make your own cheese and use rennet, do not use municipal water supply water to dissolve the rennet. It will kill it. I found this out the hard way. Now you have been warned.

Yep, getting the mail out of the mailbox is more strenuous than making goat cheese!

Homemade Chevre

Sure there’s some more complicated ones in our future, like a fresh French style cheese that needs a starter culture that must be cultivated, much like a poolish. Aside from time and the need to, say, maybe purchase a mini wine fridge in which to age cheeses and a few packets of mold, making cheese at home is silly easy and easy on the wallet.

The preconception that making your own cheese is difficult and expensive must be another one of those myths hoisted upon us by the agribusiness giants. They’ve convinced us that making bread takes too much time and isn’t worth it (wrong), and that beans from cans are easier and better (wrong), and that couscous is supposed to be sticky and gross (wrong), and that biscuits are supposed to pop out of a cardboard tube (so very wrong) and that cheese should be bright orange and individually wrapped. Wrongwrongwrongwrongwrong.

Homemade Chevre

Commodities prices are skyrocketing due to a complicated, global game of Risk that’s inflating the prices of commercially manufactured milk, cereal and bread. Heck, it’s gotten so bad that the Italians have called for a pasta strike. But the price of milk from a cow, sheep or goat that grazes on grass probably hasn’t gone up a dollar.

So get out there my fellow foodies! Do your part to fight global warming, our dependence on Middle Eastern oil and support a local farmer all in one fell swoop. Make your own cheese!

P.S. Sorry the pictures aren’t better, cheese is really hard to photograph.

I ♥ NY

11 Sep

Lower Manhattan From Bay Ridge

A poem compresses much in a small space and adds music, thus heightening its meaning. The city is like poetry: it compresses all life, all races and breeds, into a small island and adds music and the accompaniment of internal engines.

New York is nothing like Paris; it is nothing like London; and it is not Spokane multiplied by sixty, or Detroit multiplied by four. It is the loftiest of cities… It is a miracle that New York works at all.

~E.B. White Here Is New York