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Macro

5 Nov

Recently my mom told me that one of her friends likes visiting this site when she is stressed out.  She especially likes the macro shots. She finds them calming.

Well, I’m feeling a little stressed right now.  Last week we had a third round of very deep layoffs at work and my uncle died. On Friday I’m having surgery, again.

So, I decided to go out into the backyard to see if taking macro shots could calm me down. And you know what? It worked.

So thanks Patty!  I hope these shots bring you the same degree of placidity in viewing them that they gave me in taking them.

In/Out

4 Mar

I love eating in. And if you’re here, you probably like eating in, too.

West Village Reflection

But, I really only like eating dinner in. I’m not one of those people that enjoys rolling out of bed and brewing a pot of coffee while poaching eggs and toasting bread. Nope. And I’m not into crafting composed salads and delicate sandwiches for lunch either. Uhuh. That, my friends, is why god created restaurants!

The weekends are our time to explore all the culinary goodness New York City has to offer. Recently I’ve lunched on a Hangtown Fry at Stone Park Cafe, the most succulent and tender ginger-slicked cuttlefish at Lucky Eight, cheese bureks at Djerdan, thin, pliable waffles with salty butter and lingonberry jelly at Nordic Delicacies, kimchi-filled dumplings at Mandoo Bar, avgolemono and halloumi, cucumber soup and sauerkraut salad and mahogany-lacquered squid tentacles.

The Other Side, Flatiron Building

Our weekend lunches are often the highlight of my week. We’ll plan entire outings around them. But this world of food at our feet can sometimes cause trouble.

It is exceedingly rare that we both wake up craving the same food. And so a gentle negotiation must take place. Sometimes feelings get hurt or toes get stepped on, but the belly always wins, because no matter who’s cuisine reigns supreme, lunch is always delicious.

Midtown Apartment Building

And so, on Sunday, when I woke up with a serious culinary itch that needed scratching, it was nice to realize that very little cajoling would be necessary to get Isaac to accompany me to Miriam in Park Slope for crispy dough, shakshuka and labneh. It must have been this ridiculous, hilarious short film full of silly songs about hummus we watched the night before that put the idea in my head. Israeli food is so good.

The problem is, it seems that all of Brooklyn has come to this conclusion as well. The place was packed. You couldn’t have wedged another body or Bugaboo in there. I was gutted. My head was stuffy and I had acquired a wicked, hacking cough somewhere and all I could think about was their addictive, mysteriously green harissa. But it was obvious it wasn’t meant to be. So we walked out, sadly, and wandered down the block for seriously mediocre “Mexican” food.

The UN

But all was not lost. After a stop at Bierkraft for cheese and beer, we went home, where Isaac made chicken stock from the chicken carcass I had pot-roasted the night before while I convalesced on the couch. He had gone to the store and picked up jalapenos, cilantro and limes. He was planning to use them to flavor the strained stock to make a Mexican chicken soup.

But, that’s what I’d had for lunch. Granted, it was impressively mediocre, but still, I was craving something with intense flavors, so I suggested he use them to make a bastardized pistou. That way we could each flavor our bowl to an appropriate degree and the flavors would be fresh and punchy.

MexiMoroccan Chicken Soup

So he did, and it was wonderful; a spicy, tart, zingy cross between salsa verde and Miriam’s fiery harissa. It was just what the doctor ordered and completely erased our unfortunate lunch from my memory.

There’s a multitude of reasons I prefer eating dinner at home. No need to make reservations, no waiting for an overbooked table at an overcrowded bar, no need to listen to another person’s conversation, no waitrons rushing dessert, but most importantly there’s the chance to make unintended culinary discoveries.

MexiMoroccan Chicken Soup

Oh, and the wine is cheaper.

Head below the jump for the recipe for Isaac’s MexiMoroccan Chicken Soup and a bit about Pot-Roasted Chicken.

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Leisure

31 Aug

We’re good New Yorkers.

The view from Fairway

We rely on public transportation to get around. I’m nice to tourists. He walks incredibly fast. We indulge in real estate porn. I have a favorite spot in Prospect Park, he has one in Central Park. We know how to tell if a taxi is available (and share this knowledge freely). We love Grandma Slices and know who Dr. Z is. I do the bulk of my shopping at Greenmarkets and bodegas. I haven’t been to a Wal-Mart in more than a decade. We don’t own a car.

Can you guess what I am?

And so, like many, many, good New Yorkers, come tomorrow morning we’ll be jumping in a rental car and glomming onto the good will of two friends who own a country house to revel in the last days of summer. God I love three-day weekends!

And yet…. I’m a little sad that summer’s ending. It seems to have been less profound out here by the water in Bay Ridge. It’s amazing how much less painful 100° days are when you’re not spending them boiling to death in a 350 square foot, east-facing oven with no cross ventilation.

Wires

We’ve only used the air conditioner once this year. And yet… I’m still bummed. I didn’t do a lot of the things I thought living out here in the “suburbs” would allow me to do. I never once sat on the stoop and read the entire Sunday Times cover to cover. We never pulled out the teeny tiny barbecue and grilled anything. We never picnicked in the park at the end of our street and I haven’t gone swimming once this year.

Sad

Yes, yes, there’s still time to do all these things, and let’s be honest, September is the greatest month of weather in New York City (those planning vacations to Gotham take note of this insider gem) and therefore ideal for many of these activities. And yet… I feel it’s somewhat hasty to be heralding the end of a season I kind of feel like hasn’t even gotten started yet.

Locks

And so I’m going to kick back and hope for good weather up in the mountains. I hear there will be beer, and maybe some vintage baseball and definitely some grilling and if it’s hot enough even a trip to the town pool.

I won’t be laboring very hard and I hope you won’t be either, so I’ll leave you with three incredibly easy recipes for enjoying Summer’s bounty.

Teeny Tiny Salted ‘Taters

Buy really, incredibly tiny red potatoes, wash them and then cook them in the saltiest of boiling water until tender. (For more detailed instructions see the recipe for Salt Potatoes).

Teeny Tiny 'Taters

The traditional way to eat these would be with drawn butter alongside a heaping platter of clams. But why not toy with tradition and eat yours with romesco sauce or Viking-style with mustard and dill?

Teeny Tiny 'Taters

Panzanella

Like your tomatoes with bread? Tired of sandwiches (is this even possible?)? Too hot to try Luisa‘s amazing sounding soup? Why not try a tomato and bread salad! Those crafty Italians gave it a fancy name so you can serve it to people without saying, “It’s, uh, tomato and, uh, stale bread, uh, salad.” Instead you can walk up to the table with a big bowl and say to everyone in your finest Sophia Loren accent, “It’s Paanzaneeeeellla! Prego! Go! Dig in! Everyone eat! Mangia!” and be adored. God the Italians are brilliant.

Panzanella

To make it crush a few cloves of garlic in a garlic press, toss them into a bowl with a healthy pinch of salt, a luxurious glug of olive oil and splash of red wine or sherry vinegar (please, no balsamic). Cube up some of your prettiest heirloom tomatoes, toss them in, mix and add some roughly chopped basil. Grind in some pepper and mix it up again. Add cubes of stale bread, toss one last time and serve with a smile.

Squash Carpaccio

I was at the Greenmarket a few weeks ago at the same stand where I bought the eggtoes. And see, here’s another thing that makes me a good New Yorker. There was a guy buying some so I briefly told him about my recipe, he said thanks and I walked away feeling good. I was buying Avocado Squashes because they were pretty and I’d never heard of them before. I walked up to pay and the lady in front of me turned and said, “Ooooooh those are delightful prepared like carpaccio!” Really? I asked. “Oh yes,” she said, “Just slice them very thin and dress them with lemon juice and olive oil.” Thanks! I said, and I actually meant it. She’s a good New Yorker, too.

Avocado Squash Carpaccio

So I took her at her word and boy was she right.

Avocado Squash Carpaccio

To eat her good advice simply slice a few avocado squash very thinly and arrange on one plate per person. Sprinkle with a little salt and some freshly ground pepper and dress each plate with the juice of half a lemon, a healthy glug of the very best extra virgin olive oil and a few capers. Top with a handful of arugula dressed with lemon juice and olive oil and a few shavings of Parmesan and more freshly ground pepper. Your vegetarian friends will thank you, but so will everyone else!

So get out there America! Go grill some steaks, prop your feet up on a cooler and enjoy this last weekend of Summer.

This good New Yorker will be right alongside you. Just don’t work too hard doing it, that would be unpatriotic!

P.S. I just noticed that my little stats counter says I’ve had my 100,000th visitor. What a milestone!  Whomever you were, thank you so much for stopping by! The same goes to all of you, from the first to the last, who have made my little blog so much fun and so fulfilling. You guys rule!

Just Peachy

13 Jul

A real quick hit before the weekend.

Bay Ridge From Above

Do try and get yourself up on a roof this weekend if at all possible. Or to a park. Or to a backyard.

Peaches & Melons

And if the fruit where you live is as incredible as the fruit is here in New York this summer, go grab some, buy a little prosciutto, or jamon, or whatever cured pork product you can find, and wrap it around something!

Prosciutto & Melon

We all know and love melon with prosciutto, but what about porky peaches? Possibly even better if you can believe that!

Peaches Love Prosciutto

So I ask you… What’s your favorite thing to wrap prosciutto around?

Happy weekend ya’ll!

Be on the lookout for some “firecrackers” around here early next week.

On A Cloud

26 Apr

I’ve conquered my fear of couscous.

I thought you’d all be excited to hear that.

And who was holding my hand throughout the entire harrowing affair?

Well, Claudia Roden, of course.

She has quickly risen to the highest level of my pantheon of cooking gods. She’s joined Nigel and Bert and Roy and Madhur at the apex of my culinary esteem.

Claudia Roden

First she helped me conquer my fear of rice. Then she introduced me to a new way to pickle cauliflower. Now couscous? The decision to deify her was a snap.

So why should any grown woman have a fear of couscous? I blame the ’80s.

My mother has been a lifelong subscriber to Aramco World. For those unfamiliar, it’s a free magazine published by the Saudi oil consortium to further understanding of the Arab world and the Muslim religion. I was never interested in it as a child unless they had a feature on Arabian horses. I was obsessed with them, and I mean, who wouldn’t be. They’re gorgeous. They look so fragile and yet they’re some of the most sturdy equines in the world. They’re intelligent, loving and did I mention beautiful?

But I digress…

The magazine is also a wonderful resource for people interested in the Arabic kitchen (oh and look, Claudia Roden wrote for them). I figure this is how my mother was first introduced to couscous. I have this vision of her scouring the shelves of the local co-op and the Grand Onion for years and years hoping to spot couscous, until one glorious day in the ’80s when it finally appears. And, not only has it appeared, but it’s instant! Cooks up in 5 minutes! Comes pre-flavored! Serve alongside your favorite chicken recipe!

Oh, Near East foods… Thank you for introducing the world to couscous. But curse you for making that couscous so unlike the real stuff. You’re cheating people out of one of the greatest culinary experiences ever!

Couscous, The Right Way

It was only recently, during a lunch at La Maison du Couscous, that I discovered what a culinary hoodwink has been pulled on the children of America. Couscous is not supposed to be soggy. It’s not supposed to be flavorless. It’s not supposed to be gummy. It’s not supposed to be hard and crunchy. It’s not supposed to be lumpy.

It’s supposed to be airy, ethereal, toothsome, silky and so light that if you inhale wrong it can easily go straight up your nose. In short, it is supposed to be exactly everything instant couscous is not.

Vaguely Middle Easter Stew

Of course, cooking couscous the proper way is not nearly as simple as emptying a bag, adding one cup of water and one tablespoon of butter to a pot and allowing to simmer for 5 minutes. Yes, it takes an hour, but dear god, it’s so easy and downright enjoyable to make it fills me with sadness that this method has fallen out of favor.

Here’s what you do:

  • Take a large colander (big holes are okay) and place it in a pot that it will fit snugly in. Take the colander out and put a shallow layer of water into the pot. It must not touch the bottom of the colander. Place the colander back in, place on the stove and bring to a simmer.
  • Pour as much couscous as you want into a bowl. Sprinkle it lightly with cold water. It will cause little lumps, that’s okay. Use your hands to rub the lumps out and to distribute the water evenly amongst the couscous. I found this to be a great pleasure. It was so tactile and earthy. And it made my fingers feel really cool!
  • Once the water is simmering, gently pour the couscous into the colander. There will be some collateral damage, you will lose a few, but it’ll be alright. Do not cover. Allow the couscous to steam, uncovered, for 30 minutes.
  • Using a pot holder remove the colander from the pot and pour the couscous back into the bowl. Some will most likely be stuck to the bottom and really sticky, scoop them out too. Lightly sprinkle the couscous with cold water again and season with salt. Rub the grains again to distribute the moisture, break up lumps and make the grains airy. Return to the colander and allow to steam, uncovered, an additional 30 minutes.
  • When the time’s up, return the couscous to the bowl and rub a nubbin of butter into the grains and toss them about to make them airy. Serve and enjoy!

That’s it. That’s all the work that goes into making a perfect bowl of couscous. I served mine with harissa marinated lamb, a vaguely Middle Eastern stew and a classic cucumber and yogurt salad.

Kirbys In Yogurt

Claudia says that traditionally the grains are steamed over a stew that’s been cooking for hours. I’m sure it adds flavor but might be a bit awkward if you, like me, do not have a couscouserie lurking about in your cabinets.

And so, yet again, culinary superhero Claudia Roden has righted another egregious culinary wrong. First rice, now couscous.

What culinary fear will she help me conquer next? Might it be okra? Dates? Tahini? Stay tuned to find out!

Head below the jump for the recipe for Vaguely Middle Eastern Stew.

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