Archive | January, 2010

A Leite Dinner

20 Jan

I’ve been thinking a lot about my colleague‘s recent conversion to what he calls “mostly veganism.”

Now, before we go quibbling about his choice of terminology I should tell you that this gentleman is an older, highly conservative Republican, red meat-eating, god-fearing capitalist and that he came to this state not out of any sense of environmental obligation but rather through sports physiology.

But, no matter the route, the destination is the same: A diet that is better for him and for the world.

I’ve been thinking a lot about vegetables too and how much I miss them and can’t wait to start pulling them out of our garden again.  This is the season that tries my soul.  I want to eat lots of unhealthy things like beef and pork and cheese and Christina’s Mama’s lemon sour cream pie, while I know I should be eating vegetables and grains and fish.  I want to be planting plants and digging around in the dirt but rather I’m stomping through slush and standing by the sink and staring at the fluffy, puffed-up birds while clutching a cup of tea, absorbing every last hint of warmth from it.

It’s a hard season to eat, and despite the insistence by the journalist and author Tom Standage at the AMNH’s recent lecture on curry economics that at some point getting your food from half-way around the world costs less in terms of carbon than raising it locally in a greenhouse, I still find eating at this time of year difficult.

It was all these complex thoughts that were rattling around inside my head as I was thumbing through David Leite‘s excellent cookbook The New Portuguese Table.  It was a Christmas gift from Isaac’s  mom and had sat sadly neglected on the ottoman since its unwrapping.  But on Saturday morning I was finally able to give it a good look.  And boy is it a beauty. So many wonderful recipes for interesting meats and creative ways to cook fish, but I was looking for simple, vegetable-centric ones.

You need to know about two recipes; a bread and a sauce below the jump.

Andre’s Cafe

15 Jan

Are you a New Yorker?  A frequent visitor? Maybe you’ve been here just once?

Yes? Have you ever been to Andre’s Cafe? No? Tsk tsk.

Oh, come off it Ann! A Hungarian place all the way up in the barren no-man’s land also known as the circle of hell the Second Avenue Subway hath wrought? Why should I bother?

Why? Because your preconception of Hungarian food is probably wrong and you like good coffee. Oh, and because you deserve a pastry today!

Well, sure, I always deserve a pastry, but aren’t Hungarian pastries stuffed with, uhm, poppy seeds and gummy cheese?

Gasp.  Get yourself to Andre’s, stat!

We went this weekend for lunch and it was great.  Everyone thinks of Hungarian food as paprikash and strudel and sticky pastries and these things are available at Andre’s, but when they’re done properly and well (read not by your mother in the ’80s as an attempt to cook something new and exciting) they’re utterly sublime.

Oh, and the coffee!  As we sat rhapsodizing over how delicious and balanced it was, the little old lady sitting next to me leaned in, “Isn’t it divine?” she asked, “It’s the best coffee I’ve ever had. It’s what keeps me coming back, well, that and the pastries.  Every time I eat here I call my brother and say ‘You have to come to New York and try this coffee!’ That’s how much I love it.”

Yeah.  That pretty much sums it up.

But coffee, coffee’s just a beverage Ann! What about the food?

Andre’s specializes in both savory and sweet strudels (I’m going back for the cabbage strudel, you can be sure) and palacsinta; crepes filled with delicious things like pepper stew (lecso), mushrooms (the couple that replaced the old lady oohed and aahed over these) and cheese with dill and bacon (I’m going back for that too).  And as if that wasn’t enough they also serve full dinners, sandwiches, soups and yeah, pastries.

Bacon, bacon and more bacon below the fold.

Auspicious, Delicious

7 Jan

Well, hello there! Happy 2010 to you!

I hope your New Year started well, in fact, I honestly hope your New Year started with as delicious, and auspicious, a meal as ours did.

I decided that this Christmas was going to be the Christmas of beans.  It was a bold choice, I know, but much like any other person who has been touched by zeal, I felt the need to spread the gospel even if it meant giving gifts of dubious motivation.  So since my stepsister was getting a new crockpot from us, it was full of beans.  And since both of Isaac’s parents hail from the South, they got beans too.  Plus, both my stepsister and Isaac’s mom are trained anthropologists.  I figured that despite initial skepticism, they would come to see the beauty, cultural significance and, most importantly, the deliciousness of my gift.

I’m still waiting.

But, really, this is all just a long-winded way of saying that I kept a bag of beans for myself.  I mean, a girl needs to gift herself at Christmas too, right?  I had ordered a bag of Yellow-Eye beans to give to my stepsister, but when they arrived, they were so beautiful and so full of promise I just had to keep them.

And so we found ourselves on New Year’s Day watching the snow and the birds and boiling a ham hock and soaking beans.

Head below the fold for my versions of Hoppin’ John, Collard Greens and Red Rice, with a twist, of course.