Search results for 'pimenton de la vera'

Salad Days

12 Jun

Do you hear that? That rushing noise?

My View, Under the Tree

That’s the sound of people up and down the East Coast, especially me here in New York City, breathing a sigh of relief that the heat wave is over.

I don’t know what it’s been like where you are, but here? It’s been hot. So hot. In fact, it’s been so hot that yesterday morning when I got up and the radio told me that it was going to be only 86°F and only 56% humidity, I sighed with happiness. So hot that I was happy and excited to go to work on Monday because my office is air conditioned. So hot that all I ate for four days was salad.

The Dog Days

Yes, we’ve got an air conditioner, but neither of us like using it. This may be crazy, but it sure does help with the electric bill. Instead, we like to get creative with our ways to keep cool.

One great way too cool off is to befriend someone with a backyard. For two wonderful summers I would hang out in a friend’s, beer in hand, feet in a kiddie pool full of ice water. It was blissful, and fun. Keeping a bag of frozen peas in the freezer is also handy. One very hot, very unemployed summer, I would sit in front of my fan with a wet towel over my head, frozen peas on the back of my neck, and my feet in a bowl of ice water. Apparently my feet get very hot.


But, my all time favorite way to keep cool is to visit the Museum of Natural History. Most of the halls are bathed in a soothing, dusky half-light, and intense air conditioning. Of special note is the Hall of Ocean Life, which, with all the watery (and might I add beautiful) dioramas, can’t help but cool you down. I’m especially fond of the otters, but if you’re in desperate danger of melting, might I suggest you spend some time contemplating the walrus.

The soothing, watery hall is great, but there’s another room at the museum that I feel is the best place, possibly in all of New York city, for halting a core meltdown. Can you guess? Okay, I’ll tell you. As unlikely as it may seem, it’s the Hall of Minerals and Gems.

So Hot

It’s a funny room, like your best friend in 6th grade’s parent’s den. You know, the one with a sunken fire pit and shag carpet on the walls… But you know what? It’s incredibly dark, almost painfully cold and, with all the carpeted levels, it’s even possible to pull up a dark corner and take a nap. I’ve never done it (Who? Me? Napping in a museum? Never!), but I’ve seen others doing it.

But that’s not what we did this weekend. Instead, we pulled up a tree on a bluff overlooking New York Harbor in Owl’s Head Park. There was a very strong sea breeze wafting off the harbor. Under our chosen tree it was at least 20 degrees cooler. It was lovely.

New York Harbor

The park is perfect for watching ships and boats come and go in the harbor. If you’re a fan of tug boats (and really, who isn’t?), this is the park for you. There’s dozens of them pulling and prodding, herding and cajoling the scores of enormous tankers making their way to the Port of New York. I think next time I’ll bring my binoculars, and a picnic.

Owl's Head Park

Sadly, we hadn’t planned that far ahead this time. Seriously, it was too hot to think ahead like that. So after a few hours we headed home for dinner. We whipped up our third, delicious bodega veggie salad of the weekend. On Saturday we made a dilly cucumber number and a zippy, Moroccan-esque carrot ditty (kind of like these pickles, but in a bowl) and on Sunday, a kitchen sink chopped salad.

Zippy Moroccan-esque Carrot Salad

This heat wave came too early. It was too hot to cook, but there were no fresh, seasonal veggies to help make is seem worth it. I don’t mind a stretch of days in the 90s in late July or mid-August, at least then there’s produce in the markets. You really can live on tomatoes alone during those dog days. But early June? No thanks Mother Nature! The peas aren’t even out yet!

Dilly Kirby Ditty Salad

But, we survived, with the help of some salads. I’m sure there are more hot days, and thus, delicious salads to come, but just in case it’s really, really hot out, and you can’t find me in the kitchen, you’ll know where to look.

I’ll be the happy lump under the mica display.

Head below the jump for the recipes for Zippy Moroccan-esque Carrot Salad and Dilly Kirby Ditty Salad.

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heirloom·modern: Eldress Hall’s 1907 Tomato Bisque

20 Nov

Hmmm… It seems I should re-name heirloom·modern. Maybe, Heirloom Tomato Modern? Of the now five entries in this occasional editorial feature, three are for tomato soup. Why? I have no idea. Perhaps in the past tomato soups were more flexible, more interesting, more varied. Or, maybe I just really like tomato soup!

heirloom·modern: Eldress Hall’s 1907 Shaker Tomato Bisque

What was the occasion that called for yet another tomato soup? I had just pulled “the best thing ever to come out of my kitchen” from the oven, and while it was cooling I realised I needed a simple foil for this “best thing.”

Shaker Tomato Bisque

I didn’t feel like running to the market, my brain felt wibbly from hunger and exertion, I wanted something quick and easy. I poked my head in the fridge. Aha! A carton of Pomis! I poked my nose in The Best Of Shaker Cooking. Aha! A simple tomato bisque! (The Shakers are so reliable for simple, quick recipes). Et voila! Dinner was decided.

There are three recipes for tomato soup in this amazing book, but this one from Frances Hall intrigued me with its inclusion of baking soda.

Although she is not noted as being a member of the faithful at Hancock Village, this reference leads me to believe that Frances Hall was actually the last eldress of this beautiful village that is now a working museum (and definitely worth a visit if you’re in the area, A. because it didn’t bore me as a 7th grader on a field trip and B. There’s an amazing restaurant there).

And what of the baking soda? As near as I can figure it added a delicate lightness to this soup which would be very, very necessary if you followed the original recipe which calls for 1 quart of milk (most likely whole and with cream back then) and 1/2 cup of heavy cream! I did not follow those measurements and, after tasting the soup sans dairy and realising it tasted just like Campbell’s, embarked on some very necessary modernising.

I cut down on the dairy, added some garlic and tossed in some slightly spicy, seductively smoky Spanish pimenton de la vera. The pepper added such a lovely, almost bacon-y flavor. Utterly delicious!

Shaker Tomato Bisque

And what is “the best thing ever to come out of my kitchen?” You’ll just have to stay tuned til tomorrow (or snoop around on my flickr page, should be pretty obvious from there).

Head below the jump for my adaptation of Eldress Hall’s Tomato Bisque.

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Crusty Perfection

31 Oct

I’m always amused when it happens.

When after 10 years–a decade–the City throws me for a loop.  It crystallizes for me how confusing and dynamic and thrilling it must be to be a newbie or visitor here all over again, and reminds me why I live here, gives me that old thrill for just one second.  It also makes me blush like hell and mutter a bit to myself like a crazy lady.

Take Tuesday for example.  I had jury duty at Brooklyn Supreme Court.  What a simultaneously fascinating, and frustrating, experience!  Whatever algorithm the Kings County court system is using to ensure a diverse jury pool sure does work.  Sadly, the processes they use for picking juries are still a bit outmoded.

I got paneled for a case that I couldn’t sit on because the trial is scheduled for while Isaac and I are in Colorado visiting his family.  Could I tell the lawyers this and go back into the jury pool to possibly get on a jury I could sit on, thus possibly helping a fellow New Yorker?  No.  I had to sit there, for four hours and listen to the droning lawyers until my name was called, at which point, I could finally, officially, tell them I couldn’t sit on the jury because I wouldn’t be here.  Sigh.

But I did learn one very important lesson.  If you are forced to listen to a lawyer who is passionately in love with his own voice, don’t fight it.  No matter how smart you think you are, you’re never going to be able to read the Economist.  Do yourself a favor and bring a copy of US Weekly…. Just in case.

And that was it.  I was released back into the pool where I sat down, did some work, and was then, a few hours later, released back into the cold, windy, wet world.  Brooklyn’s court house perches on the edge of one of the most beautiful neighborhoods in all of Kings County, Brooklyn Heights, but sadly, it was too icky of a day to enjoy it. So I scurried to the Court Street subway stop as quickly, and dryly, as possible.

And here’s where the city threw me for a loop.  Court Street is a very deep, very old station. The sides of the walls are rounded, the platform is narrow and the trains feel very close.  It’s also a disorienting station with trains arriving in both directions and scarce singage saying “This way for Manhattan” or “This way for the rest of Brooklyn.”  So, I relied on my internal compass, something every New Yorker has whether they know it or not.

A train arrived.  My internal compass said, “Yep, that’s the one! That’s the train that will get you home hours earlier than you’ve gotten home in months and months and months.” So I hopped on, grabbed a seat and resumed reading about why the world is going to hell in a hand basket.

And then, after a few stops, I looked up, expecting to see us pulling into the Atlantic-Pacific station only to see scaffolding and workmen.  “Heeeey,” I thought to myself, “That looks like Cortland Street station in Manhattan… How’d I get here?”  And then, a few feet further on, there were the station signs.  It was, in fact, Cortland Street station in Manhattan.  I had been duped.

This is the point when I started blushing and muttering to myself.  Not that anyone on that rainy day-R train could possibly have known that I, seasoned New Yorker, humbler of the forgetful, mocker of the mistake-maker, had just pulled an “Oopsie!”  Regardless, I was embarrassed.  I slyly exited at City Hall, crossed the platform and re-started my journey home.  I still made it home hours early, but I had been humbled, for the umpteenth time, by the city I thought I knew so well.  It was kind of refreshing, actually.

So why am I telling you all of this?  Because sometimes after a great triumph, one must fall.  And what was my great triumph.  Pie crust my friends!  Isaac, for weeks, has been agitating to make both caldo verde and pumpkin soup.  And while I love soup, we settled on him making a version of the Portuguese kale soup over our long weekend and, riffing on his pumpkin idea, I decided to make Christina’s winter squash quiche.

But, before one can crack a few eggs, butter and flour must meet.  And since I was using up the bulk of our beautiful, incredibly tasty free-range eggs from farmer Dan, and a beautiful kabocha squash from the Chatham farmer’s market (which we finally got to go to since it’s held, rather inexplicably, on Friday evenings from 4-7pm), I knew the crust had to be special.  So I checked with Martha.

All of her crusts say to use a food processor.  Which is fine, I have one of those.  Only problem, it was down in the city, and I was up in the country.  So I decided to continue on anyway with my God-given food processor.  My hands.  I remembered reading somewhere about a lady who made the most wonderful pie crusts in all of creation, and her secret was using her hands.  I figured if she could do it, so could I.

I followed Martha’s pate brisee recipe, cutting the frozen butter into the flour with two knives until I got tired, at which point I used my hands, rubbing the butter into the flour and working in the water.  I didn’t over work everything, believing that the crumbliness would hydrate in the fridge. And I was right.

I know this is a “like duh” moment, but you don’t need a food processor to make absolutely perfect pie crust.  Seems logical given that women have been making pies for centuries and the Cuisinart has only been around for a few decades.

And so, we had an everything-must-be-in-a-crust dinner, and it was delicious.  Christina’s quiche is so magical.  It’s custardy and sweet and tangy and smokey and elusive and mysterious and gosh darnit delicious.  If you make it for friends, they will beg you for the recipe, she’s right. I can’t wait to make it for my family for Thanksgiving dinner.  And the pie? Oh my god, the pie.  It’s been so long since I baked an apple pie, and back then, it was kind of a disaster.  The crust was bad and the filling was meh.  But this time?  Sublime.

So if you’ve got some pumpkin guts hanging around from your pre-Halloween carving activities, roast them up and toss them with some eggs and make yourself a pie crust with your hands.  Don’t be shy. Go ahead, get a little dirty. Apparently they make guilt-free choose-a-size paper towels these days.

So make a mess!  It’ll be tasty, guaranteed.

Head below the jump for the recipes for Christina’s Squash Quiche and Ann’s Apple Pie.

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Pumpkin Eater

2 Nov

The Boy and I pulled a Fergus Henderson on a pumpkin this weekend and indulged in some real stem to blossom-end eating.

Through My Window

We butchered a very large cheese pumpkin, then we gutted it. While the pumpkin parts roasted in the oven, I sorted through the pumpkin’s innards for the seeds. After a quick wash, the seeds went into a pot of salted, boiling water for 10 minutes, were drained, tossed with salt and olive oil and slipped into the oven to roast at 350°F for 15-20 minutes until golden-brown and delicious. The seeds got a mahogany coating of three peppers, a la the pepitas from the lost and mourned for East Village restaurant Uovo.

And that was the extent of my involvement in the evening’s meal. I washed my hands and left the kitchen while the Boy carried on.


It was lovely.

He scooped pumpkin flesh and sautéed onions while I propped my feet up on the ottoman and finished a disturbing and silly novel (I have a new back of cover rule, any books described with the words “gothic” “chilling” and “passion” are now verboten).

The Boy and his family celebrate what they like to call “Western Orthodox Christmas,” that is, Christmas in November in Colorado. They’re a busy family, spread out over a few states, who find it hard (and expensive) to get together exactly on December 25th, so they do the best they can.

A few years ago the Boy’s mom gave him a funny Western Orthodox Christmas present; a hand blender and a recipe.

3 More Peppers

At the time, he and I had been together a little while and were only just beginning to cook together in earnest. I guess it showed, though. His conversations with his mother were peppered with culinary allusions which, being a good mom, she picked up on. So she thought she would share her latest obsession with her newly minted foodie son: puréed soups.

The recipe is simple: sautée aromatics, add something delicious like potatoes, squash or root vege, season with fun spices, purée, add a little dairy, eat. The Boy has become the soupmaster of the house. His creations are always inventive, exciting and, best of all, delicious.

Spicy Pumpkin Soup

So when he suggested he make a spicy pumpkin soup as a way to celebrate the season and use up the three surprise peppers that grew on my plant after we thought it was done, I couldn’t have been happier. I’d get a day off and a delicious dinner. Who’s the luckiest girl in the world?

I must say, it was hard to keep myself out of the kitchen. I kept piping up, “Did you put Pimenton de la Vera in there? It smells smoky?” To which he’d reply, “Yep.” At which I whined, “But I was hoping to taste the pure flavor of the peppers!” To which he replied with silence. I kept trying to remember the marvelous quip from Judith Jones in the Times a few weeks ago:

When your husband is enjoying himself in the kitchen, keep your mouth shut even if you could do better.

I find it applicable to boyfriends as well.

Spicy Pumpkin Soup with Homemade Creme Fraiche and Three-Pepper Pepitas

I can’t tell you his exact recipe, but I do know he flavored the soup with the aforementioned smoky paprika, ground cloves and just a hint of dried mustard. Garnished with some crème fraîche we made (which oddly enough turned out lumpy) along with the pepitas and leftover breadcrumbs from my beloved kale salad, it was a delicious, seasonal and relaxing dinner.

It was even better as leftovers a few nights later. Especially when we remembered to add some frozen corn I had saved from an aborted July 4th party.

Spicy Pumpkin Soup with Homemade Creme Fraiche and Three-Pepper Pepitas

So ladies, it’s November now. Want a night off? Go out and buy your man an immersion blender. When he asks why, tell him it’s a Western Orthodox Christmas present.

Then sit back, put your feet up, read a trashy novel, feign abhorrence while discussing the book over a delicious dinner, oohing, aahing and feigning nothing.

Happy weekend!

Past Perfect

11 Oct

Do you remember which emotion you woke up feeling on October 5th, 1987?

Third Avenue Festival, Bay Ridge

If you lived anywhere within 100 miles of Albany, you probably woke up feeling awed. That was the night upstate New York was hit by the earliest blizzard in its history.

When you’re a kid in snow country there’s certain aural clues that alert you to the possibility of a snow day. Hushed whisperings between your parents, the grinding of the snow plow on pavement, the whimpering of the dog who doesn’t want to go out to do his business in belly-high snow.

But on that Sunday I remember waking up and thinking, something’s up, everything’s too quiet.

I looked at my clock’s blank face, that meant no power. No power means a lot of snow. I sat up in bed and peered out the window and looked upon the most glorious winter scene I’ve ever seen. It looked like the world had been iced. Every surface was covered by an inches thick layer of wet, glittery snow.

The Midway

The house was still a little warm even though the furnace had quit working when the lights went out, and since we relied on a well with an electric pump there was also no water. My dad dragged the kerosene heater in from the garage and got it lit, at least the living room and kitchen would be warm.

It didn’t seem like a big deal, snow in October, until it became apparent that the DOT had made a huge booboo. All the plows were still snoozing away their summer siesta and each and every grain of salt sat giggling in a crystalline warehouse under lock and key, just waiting for someone to say “open sesame.”

Win A Fish! Or A Turtle!

All the roads in the county were closed and since no one expected a blizzard (didn’t they learn anything from Monty Python?) the usual pre-blizzard panic shopping hadn’t occurred. What you had in the pantry was what you ate. Refrigerated things had to be chucked and frozen things went out back into the snow on the porch, but with an electric stove and no electricity there was no way to eat them anyway.

I’m sure that there were other edible things in the house, but I only remember eating one thing the whole week: Spam.

I decided, in all my 12 year old wisdom, that Spam was going to be what I cooked on top of the kerosene heater to keep my family alive and nourished. I folded up some tin foil, sliced off some slabs of Spam, cooked them until they were sizzling and served them in a pool of A-1.

Or A Parakeet!

The roads eventually opened, the power came back and by the end of the week I was back at school, but those few days live on in my memory as the most magical days ever.

I made a makeshift harness for my dog who pulled me all over the neighborhood in an orange plastic tobaggon, picking up friends as we went (don’t worry, he was huge and he loved it). There were sleepovers and no baths, maple syrup candy made on snow just like in Little House In The Big Woods and lots of games of Life. It was amazing.

Karaoke at the Salty Dog

My freshman year of college I fractured a vertebra sledding. It was a long, boring recuperation during which I read many, many books. My favorite was one given to me by my stepdad, Mark Helprin‘s Winter’s Tale. I devoured it. It was about upstate, the Hudson and New York City, it was about love and fidelity and awe and the past and the present and every big, weighty, delicious theme ever worth writing about.  And the winter scenes in Lake of the Coheeries reminded me of that blizzard.

So many bouncy castles

It’s all of these things I was thinking about last week when the weather in New York City was more appropriate to July than October. We set a new record on Saturday the 8th. 87°F! On the 20th anniversary of the blizzard? 83°F. I don’t know if it’s global warming or living near the water or just a decision made by the weather gods, but I miss “normal” weather. Crisp in October, snowy in December, rainy in April, hot in August.

Sunshine On Sprouts

And so I decided to say chuck it all and cook something autumnal, even though it felt like summer (this happened last year too). I braised a blade roast of pork rubbed with ground ginger, pimenton de la vera, brown sugar and lemon juice from Flying Pigs Farm in grape juice and roasted Brussels sprouts and fingerling potatoes.

Roasty, Toasty

The roast was disappointing. It was riddled with fat, in a bad way. We ate a few pieces and then pulled the rest for leftovers.

A few days later I arrived home starving and stressed. I looked in the fridge. All that stared back was the pork, eggs and a world of condiments. So I fried the pork in shatta and added two whisked eggs, cooking them until they clung to the pork. The final touch? A drizzle of sherry vinegar and a sprinkling of sea salt. I don’t know if it was hunger, desperation or skill, but this was the best off-the-cuff cooking I’ve done in years.

Rosated, Shredded Pork

That said, I’d give it up for 2 feet of snow, a kerosene heater and a slab of Spam coated in A-1 in a heartbeat.

P.S. The pictures are from Bay Ridge’s Third Avenue Festival. Due to some much needed running of errands, we missed the Ragamuffin Parade, which I’m kind of sad about. Next year for sure!