Tag Archives: food

Like A Lamb

2 Jan

2009 crept in while I slept.

Hudson River Sunset

For the first time since my age was in single digits, I slept through the transition from old to new year.  And though I would have liked to watch the tail-end of 2008 slink away into the shadows of history, I’m okay with my decision to get some sleep.  It bodes well for the new year. Maybe this one will contain more serenity (and naps) than the last.

For, like many, I am not displeased to have 2008 behind me.  In reality, it was a pretty good year for me.  I got promoted, and we bought the house, we went to Italy, my second nephew was born, I mastered pie crust, went to the county fair, was party to the world’s best dinner party story ever and had a successful surgery that will hopefully keep me hale and healthy for many years to come. These are good things.

But I also worked my tail off in 2008, as did Isaac, and while good things hopefully lie ahead for both of us, we could both use a calm 2009.  So, a toast!  May your 2009 be healthy and happy, full of friends, family and delicious food.  May your house retain its value, may your bank accounts stay in the black and may your new year be as full of naps as your heart desires!

But back to 2008 for one minute.  The thing that I have spent the most time thinking about during my break away from the blog has been recipes.  Turns out that, after careful consideration, the writing of recipes is the thing that keeps me from posting more frequently.  You see, I’m not a very organized or disciplined person when it comes to cooking.

Click here for more sheep.

Macro-Micro

12 Sep

New York City is never more beautiful than when it’s seen from afar after dark.

Seeing its pulsing, sparkling lights, flowing and dancing at a languid, dreamlike pace from a plane coming in for a landing at JFK can bring tears to my eyes.  And the city is never more alluring than when seen from the Triboro Bridge or the BQE, as it plays a glittering game of hide-and-seek between the monolithic, brutalist shells that pass for housing along the highways of the outer boroughs.

Since I don’t love driving in the city after dark, Isaac has been pulling the return leg of our upstate forays, allowing me to sit and gaze out on the view of the city I love the most.  When the sun has set and the lights are on, all the hard edges and drab grayness fade away and New York becomes the city of dreams and possibility.

Each tiny apartment, lit up like a Russian egg, glowing golden with the light over the kitchen sink or silvery cool from the television, is a little bastion of hope and exertion, a refuge from the hurly burly that is daily life in New York.

Because, it is this daily life that makes New York so hard to crack.  Even once you’re inside the city, walking through its hallowed halls, standing upon its celestial corners, it’s still the dream city.  It isn’t until you live here, really live here, that the trials begin.  The scrimping of money, the oppressive noise and heat, the long, dark, cold winters, year upon year of toiling, hoping it’s enough and waiting for that big break or genius stroke of luck.  That’s when New York becomes the fabled she-lion that gobbles you up and spits you back onto the streets, naked, shivering and lost.

It’s a giant, heroic struggle, pushing against a Herculean tide of people, time and ambition, locked in constant battle with hope.  Life in New York is big and diffuse.

My yard is never more beautiful than when seen just before the sun sets.

In the country, I’m finding that my cares exist on a far more granular level.  I forget about work and ambition and our noisy neighbors, about the herds of NYU students that have invaded my favorite ramen joint, about the crazy lady who sits on the corner near my office and sings, about where the markets are going and why.

Up there, the little things are what I care about.  The tenths of inches my kale has grown in a week, the tenacity of the spiders to not be vacated from their cozy corners, the miracle of a day lily blooming before the deer decided to make it a delicious afternoon snack.  This is what occupies me when I’m 200 miles north of New York.

It’s like splitting my time between the two halves of my favorite New York treat, the black-and-white cookie.

Which brings us to food.  Shopping for dinner upstate is so much more fun than down here.  It’s the same farmers with the same produce as I see at the greenmarket in Union Square, but up there, they seem much happier, too.  There’s time to answer questions and chat about the weather, to swap recipes and discuss pest control.  The farmers seem less guarded, less tired.  Perhaps it’s because they’re not being stalked by magazine writers, chefs and foodies.

This past weekend we made our first foray to the Kinderhook farmer’s market. It was wonderful, despite the threat of rain.  I was seduced by gorgeous yellow beets and a sour cherry tart.  Isaac fell for potatoes and corn.  Rounded out with delicious chicken from Olde Hudson Gourmet, and we had ourselves an epic meal of locally grown and produced goodness.

We cooked the beets and potatoes together and then mashed them and stirred in some delicious garlic, local butter and the beet greens.  I roasted the chicken and made a sweet-sour Anaheim chile relish that was as good with the chicken as it was stirred into the mash. And we ate it all with a salad of the world’s pepperiest, most delicious arugula ever.

And while I love cooking simple food made from simple ingredients and padding about in the grass, I miss spending weekends in the asphalt jungle a little bit.  So I’m looking forward to next weekend when we’re going to stick around in the city.

Now, if only I could decide which side of the half-moon cookie New York is.

Head below the jump for the recipe for Beeten & Mashed.

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The Sounds Of Summer

10 Jul

With apologies to Simon & Garfunkel, at this time of year, darkness is my old friend.

Bird On A Wire

By the time I’m wrapping up my day at work, the building has shut off the a/c and I’ve been sitting at my desk, sweating from both effort and atmospherics, for on some days, over two hours. Leaving the sweltering confines of my cubicle and stepping out onto the half-lit, hurly-burly of lower Fifth Avenue feels refreshing.

Fly On A Fern

And by the time I step onto the by-comparison-silent sidewalks of Bay Ridge, the sun is nothing more than a spectacular neon bruise over Staten Island, bent into gaudy fractals by the evening’s weather pattern stomping across the harbor.

At The Top of Touch-Me-Not Mountain

The darkness makes it feel cooler, but it’s the sounds of the city settling into stillness that help erase the day’s woes. Let’s be honest, there are no sounds of silence anywhere in New York City. But stillness? Yes, stillness is something we can do. Stillness has a sound; many little noises melting into a gentle swell of quietness. Cats mewling for dinner, dogs yapping at planes, the Yankees game on my neighbor’s radio while she grills steaks for dinner, birds wishing each other good night, an easing of traffic, teenagers strolling hand-in-hand whispering as they head for home.

Dandelion

I’ve grown used to these noises and find them soothing. So it was a shock to arrive at our friends’ house in the Catskills on July 4th to the cacophony of the country; the rustlings and bustlings of animals settling in for the night, the whizzes and whistles of birds catching dinner, the humming and droning of mosquitoes, children giggling and screeching while chasing fireflies, dogs gossiping about the day’s events, thunder echoing off valley walls and finally, just past sundown, fireworks popping and booming in patriotic celebration of the day.

Shadows, Light

And what a revelation the morning was! What lies in a bird’s heart that makes it sing with such gusto and glee first thing in the morning? Is it the joy of seeing another sunrise? Happiness at being surrounded by so much greenery? The self realization that the ability to fly is a rare gift? It’s easy to be annoyed with birds in the summer, especially when one has gone to bed too late, full of the world’s most delicious barbecued pork ribs (seriously, better than any of the one’s I’ve ever managed to get here) and possibly one glass too many of rosé.  But one should never be annoyed with birds.

Ferns

What was in reality little more than 40 hours in the country felt like days and days by the time Isaac and I packed up and headed out for a hike on our way home. We were relaxed and well fed and ready to face another week of daunting proportions.

Sun

We arrived home just as Brooklyn was settling in for the evening. I walked to the back of the apartment, opened the fire escape window and reached out into the stillness to pluck two tomatoes off my plant. They were small, but perfectly ripe. I also pinched-off two wee crowns of basil.

Yay! \'Maters!

And then we stood next to the sink, half a tomato each held in our hands, and ate them with a dusting of sea salt and a few tiny leaves of basil, in silence.

Head below the jump for the recipe for Mint & Arugula Pesto.

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Whoopie!

1 May

Did you know there’s a season for whoopie pies?

Wind

Neither did I until yesterday. A bunch of my co-workers are obsessed with a brand of packaged “cookies” called “cakesters.” I hesitate to give you a link, as I’m afraid it will only fuel the mania, but, since I can hear you asking, here it is.

They’re so obsessed that they went out and bought a case of the ooey, gooey treats. I find this terrifying. Why? Because I cadged one, and seriously people, these aren’t soft, pillowy Oreos. They’re whoopie pies. And whoopie pies are something I hold very (very) dear to my heart.

Reflection

I’ve long suspected (like, since I was in junior high long) that there is a correlation between Oreos and whoopie pies, and this new development, of the “cakester,” serves, to me, as a confirmation. Growing up, the family that lived at the bottom of the hill in our neighborhood was from Lancaster Co. The mom was a champion baker, and her specialty was, of course whoopie pies. I loved (lovedlovedloved) going to their house because she always had some on hand and because they had a gigantic Old English Sheepdog who was the most awesome dog ever.

So, I can understand my co-workers’ obsession with tender chocolate cookies and sweet, fluffy filling. But only to a point. What I can’t get over is their fetishizing of a product filled with chemicals and high-fructose corn syrup, when as well paid, sentient adults they could be fixating on something worthy. Like the whoopie pies, baked fresh in Lancaster Co., and brought to the Union Square greenmarket a block away from our office a few times a week.

Chelsea

I’m passionate about food, something you’re probably aware of. But what you might not know is that I’m also kind of loud. So it’s easy for me to come across as a bit strident and bloviating (known to some as annoying), especially when I insist on say, harranguing every person that walks past my desk with a “cakester.” “Whoopie pies are better you know!”

Luckily, people still like me despite this minor personality quirk and put up with my abuse, but only up to a point. I could tell that it was time to stop talking and start acting on my whoopie pie assertions.

Shadows

So, despite being desperately late to work yesterday, I dashed into the greenmarket, no mean feat as they’ve changed the layout (p.s. I hate it), and found the stand I was looking for. I glanced around. Meats. Check. Scrapple. Check. Stone-ground corn. Check. Lots and lots and lots of plants. Check. Whoopie pies? Uhhhh… So I asked the guy, “Where are the whoopie pies?” “Oh, they’re seasonal, fall and winter only.”

Whaaaaaa? I had no choice but to believe him. I mean, you can’t argue with someone who doesn’t have whoopie pies. So I turned away, and slunk off to the office with my metaphorical tail between my legs. Getting my co-workers off the “cakesters” just may take a bit more effort than I had initially assumed.

Swoon

But, there’s a reason I bring this up, and that’s seasonality. Who knew that there was a season to whoopie pies, and who knows the reason why? At Pegasus, our favorite Greek-Cypriot spot in the neighborhood, the owner make the world’s best avgolemono, but, much like the whoopie pies, only in fall and winter.

The soup I can understand. So much whisking and standing over a hot stove, no one wants to do that in the middle of summer! But whoopie pies? I mean, wouldn’t the machines and stoves do most of the work?

Saint

But really, the point I’m trying to make is that this is a tough season for eating. The weather can’t make up its mind and the culinary standbys of the past season are gone while fresh, new vegetables that make spring so exciting are only just beginning to make an appearance. It was one of these vegetables that I was obsessing over this past Saturday. Asparagus.

As I lay napping on the couch, I dreamed of supping on lightly pan-roasted asparagus topped with a gently poached egg and pillows of lemon and black pepper flecked fresh goat cheese. Then I woke up. At 5.30pm. In Bay Ridge. An hour’s subway ride from Union Square. It was never going to happen. So I rubbed my eyes, shook the cobwebs out of my brain and snapped to attention. If we were going to have a delicious dinner, I needed to act fast.

Shadows

I roused Isaac, slipped on my shoes and dashed out the door. We headed to the fish monger. Isaac had seen that he had halibut fillets earlier in the day, but they were gone, so we settled on flounder and some colossal shrimp. We ran across the street to the Korean market and grabbed leeks, mint and lemons. They had asparagus, but it was flown in from somewhere that wasn’t upstate New York, so I left it there. I can wait for local asparagus.

Copper

The meal was composed entirely on the fly. I made a quick shrimp stock from the shells and then melted the leeks. I decided pretty late in the game that the dish needed bacon. It was a good move.

This meal is seriously delicious. And the leftover sauce was exceptional a few nights later as a post-work dinner with pasta, a dash of sherry vinegar and a flurry of grated cheese.  And, in it’s way, being based on wintered-over leeks and citrus, it is in fact seasonal.

Flounder Smothered in Melted Leeks

I know it’s kind of a cruel turn, to start with whoopie pies and end with flounder, but I hope that, like my co-workers who put up with my occasional tirades and bursts of vulgarity, you’ll forgive me. It is my birthday after all.

Head below the jump for the recipe for Flounder Smothered In Melted Leeks.

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Creamy Evil

23 Apr

I got my first sunburn on Saturday.

Our Neighbor's Cherry Tree

I also ate an extortionately priced orange, found a Baby Jesus sausage, bought a racially insensitive cookbook, walked over eight miles and crossed three bridges. It was a great day!

Manhattan Bridge

Isaac and I did the “Three Bridges” walk over the Brooklyn Bridge, Manhattan Bridge and Williamsburg Bridge. I had never heard of, or even really thought of, walking over more than one bridge in a day until the other Ann left a comment about it way back in January.

Manhattan Bridge

We had kept it in the back of our minds as something we really wanted to do for four months, waiting for the perfect day. It finally came on Saturday. Sunny, but not too hot and delightfully breezy, we haven’t had a more glorious day in about six months.

Water Tanks from the Manhattan Bridge

We started in Chinatown walking over the Manhattan Bridge into Dumbo. The Manhattan Bridge is still my favorite. I know it’s not fair to play favorites, but I just love it. I was in a horrific mood when we started. I’d been woken up by work (on a Saturday!) and my mood had gone from cranky to downright foul in about 2 seconds. But, by the time I was out over the middle of the East River, everything was once again right in the world.

Manhattan Bridge

We bumbled about in Dumbo. It really is a beautiful neighborhood, and there’s a fabulous bookstore there, P.S. Books, that all book loving geeks should make a pilgrimage to. They have a terrific selection of books on art and history, a great cookbook and fabulous biography sections and a neat place for kids to play and read. It’s a lovely bookstore, the sort I wish we had out here in Bay Ridge. I found a tiny old pamphlet on the cooking of the Pennsylvania Dutch. The Amish may know a thing or two about pickling and pork, but racially sensitive they are not. A well spent $2.50 if you ask me!

Dumbo, Art

We then walked through the park along the river where I tried to help some very, very lost tourists, breezed past the ungodly long line at Grimaldi’s and headed over the Brooklyn Bridge. This is my least favorite bridge to walk over, which is a pity, because it’s so beautiful, but it’s just too chock-a-block with tourists and bikers.

Off-Ramp of the Brooklyn Bridge

We walked under the anchorage, past the Brooklyn Banks and on along to the river. It was a quiet day, not many boats or fisherman, and no, no beavers. But Isaac did spot the world’s saddest dead turtle. All it’s limbs were limp and swaying back and forth in the wavelets. It kind of broke my heart, the hardness of the shell, the softness of its neck…

Brooklyn Bridge

But, we motored on and soon needed a pit-stop, so we headed inland for some pork & chive dumplings at Dumpling North on Essex. From there it was a skip and a hop over to Delancey and onto the Williamsburg Bridge. This is where my legs started rebelling, you finally realize how long the walk has been when you’ve walked and walked, and walked and walked on the Williamsburg and you’re still not over any water yet.

Brooklyn Bridge

The view on the Williamsburg Bridge is obstructed by a cage of safety fencing, so the real pleasure of walking over this bridge comes from the people watching. The endless stream of hipsters wearing ridiculous “ironic” t-shirts is something I find endlessly amusing and I’m always in awe of the beautiful coats worn by the men in some of Williamsburg’s Jewish sects. But the real reason to walk over the Williamsburg Bridge is to get to the other side.

The Brooklyn Banks

Williamsburg, to me, is like a Disney World for adults. Our first stop was Marlow & Sons, to pick up some of Steve’s magic beans (we got Goat’s Eyes and Little Horses). This is where I picked up the extortionately priced orange, too. $2.25 for an orange! But, I must say, it was absolutely worth it. It was the best orange I’ve eaten since we have been back from Italy, and that’s saying something.

Williamsburg Bridge

From there we walked up Bedford to the cheese shop. They have the best pickle selection in the world. It was everything I could do to keep myself from buying a half dozen different types. In the end, all we bought was some farina di ceci, or chickpea flour. I was sad to leave the little baby Jesus sausage where he was lying, but he looked so peaceful. Next time…

Williamsburg Bridge

Our bellies were rumbling again, so we pushed on the last half mile or so to Greenpoint. It was rough, but the siren call of Polish food made our trip quick and our feet light. We were going to get borscht! On a recommendation from Brooklyn Guy, we went to a place called Pyzy that he praised very highly for its soups. Unfortunately, it was a rare miss in our book. The food was decent, and yes it was very, very cheap, but, Polonica‘s food is vastly superior in flavor and freshness. But Pyzy, hands down, has better atmosphere. What a trip!

Williamsburg Bridge

And that was it. We walked to the G train, which oddly enough came instantaneously and went home. It was a great walk, and despite keeping ourselves well fueled, it was tiring. While Isaac napped on the couch I concocted dinner. In Rome one evening, Isaac was aced out of a dish of gnocchi di ceci that both he and I kept thinking about. Gnocchi, made out of chickpeas? It sounded so magical!

Williamsburg

And so that was what I was thinking of when I bought the farina di ceci. A quick search on the interwebs led me to the understanding that these are not your typical gnocchi. They’re more like the gnocchi alla Romana, made of semolina, than like a traditional potato gnocchi. Making them is like making polenta and then playing with your food. I was very excited!

Gnocchi di Ceci

Most of the recipes I found suggest serving gnocchi of this sort with no sauce, just pure creamy goodness covered in cheese. But me? I’m a sauce girl. I love sauce, almost more than I love stuff the sauce is on, so I whipped up a quick rustic tomato and pepper sauce.

Gnocchi di Ceci

This dish is so gentle, so creamy, so pillowy and decadently delicious that it reminded me of a class of potato dishes we kept running across in Italy that I named “Creamy Evil.” They’re cooked potatoes covered in bechamel sauce, sometimes with other healthy accompaniments like boiled eggs or an additional cheese sauce. They are so good, so insanely, swear-word-worthy-good, that yes, they are in fact Creamy Evil.

Gnocchi di Ceci

These gnocchi aren’t quite as bad for you, but they do have the same sort of mouth feel, and so, since I’m never (ever, ever, ever) going to allow myself to make potatoes covered in cheese and butter sauce, I hereby officially add gnocchi di ceci to the taxonomy of the food family known as “Creamy Evil.”

Head below the jump for the recipe for Gnocchi di Ceci.

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