Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Le Mystère

Last night, I went out with fabulous bloggers, WendyB and ThumbelinaFashionista (as well as my good friend, Jen!), and we tried on and purchased many gorgeous francis items. We then went out for (mystery) drinks and snacks. Lucky for us, CFR joined us as well. But check out the menu! They are totally copying my post from yesterday! (How did they know? I thought only my mother read this blog.)

Stay tuned. Next week I will post my own version of the mystery drink below. It's going to be aMAZing.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Chill Out

It's gettin' hot in herrrrre! Africa hot. That's the problem with a south facing apartment. The light is great but it's a freakin' oven! What's that you say? Turn on the A/C? Oh, silly. I'm holding out until August. Why? Because I like to suffer! And my Con Ed bills go completely out of control the minute I turn it on. (I swear I'm paying for someone else's too!) Plus, it's been a relatively cool summer so far, so I'm just trying to make it...A. Few. More. Days. But feel free to slap me when I start complaining about how tired I am because I'm too uncomfortable to sleep, or that I wake up in a puddle of sweat. On the plus side, it makes me want to spend ALOT of time in the very air conditioned gym.

What does any of this have to do with anything? Well, I won't cook when it's hot, so it's either a bowl of cereal, frozen yogurt, or Rosé for dinner. Except that I still have that yellow watermelon kicking around. Another no-cook savory solution for that lovely piece of produce is to make a soup. (Thanks for the idea, Wendy!) But not a sweet dessert soup. A cold, gazpacho type soup. I basically used the same ingredients that I used in the salad (with a few tomatoes thrown in) and just threw it all in a food processor. Voilà! (Ain't it purdy?)

Yellow Watermelon Gazpacho

3 cups cubed yellow watermelon (seeded and rind removed), plus 2 tablespoons diced
4 Roma tomatoes, quartered
1 small shallot (peeled and halved)
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1 tablespoon red (or white) wine vinegar
1 small jalapeño, diced (stemmed and seeded)
Crumbled feta (optional)
Fresh chopped cilantro (optional)

1. Puree the 3 cups of watermelon, tomatoes, shallot, lemon juice, and vinegar in the bowl of a food processor (or blender) until smooth. Add the jalapeño and pulse once. Divide the soup into bowls and top with the feta, cilantro, and reserved diced watermelon, if desired. Serves 4 as an appetizer.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Stone Cold

Peach. Yeah. My local mini farmers market has a total of 5 vendors, tops. Each week there is a tent that promotes the Greenmarkets throughout the city and each week they pick a different topic to highlight. Last week's was stone fruit. So...I loaded up on white peaches, yellow peaches, white nectarines, and apricots. Since there was no way I was eating them all in one sitting, I made a galette. Well, a rustic tart. Actually...I'm unsure of the proper French definition of a galette which I've read described as a flat cake. Other definitions describe it as a free-form rustic tart, so there you go. That's what I made.

The cool thing about making a rustic tart is that you don't need a special pan and you don't have to roll out the dough into a perfect circle. The imperfections are fully acceptable. And my dough is totally easy. But...I guess if you are super scared about making your own dough, just buy a decent store made dough and then follow the directions for making the galette below, and I'm pretty sure, no one will be onto you. Except me.

Peach Galette

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
10 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cut into pieces
3 tablespoons ice water
1 large egg yolk

Egg wash:
1 large egg, lightly beaten with 2 teaspoons water

6 medium peaches (white, yellow or both), cored and cut into 1/4” wedges (peeled if you prefer)
1/4 - 1/2 cup sugar (depending on the sweetness of the raw fruit)
3 tablespoons flour

1. Make the crust: Mix the flour, sugar and salt in a large bowl. Add the butter. Using a pastry blender, cut the butter into the flour mixture until it resembles coarse meal.

2. In a small bowl, mix the cold water with the egg yolk and add it to the flour mixture. Stir in just until a dough forms. (Add additional 1 tablespoon water if the dough is too dry to hold together.) Gather the dough into a ball and flatten into a disk. Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and refrigerate until firm, about 1 hour.

3. Make the filling: Preheat the oven to 375°F. In a large bowl, mix the peaches, sugar, and flour until combined.

4. Roll out the dough to a 13-inch round. Transfer the dough to a large baking sheet. (Refrigerate for 10 minutes if the dough becomes very soft after rolling it out.) Spoon the fruit mixture over the cold dough, allowing it to mound in the center, leaving a 2-inch border of dough. Fold the dough border partially over the filling to form an 11-inch round. Brush the crust with the egg wash and sprinkle with sugar.

5. Bake the pie until the crust is golden and the fruit is tender, rotating halfway through baking, about 40 minutes. Transfer the baking sheet to a rack to cool for 15 minutes. Serve immediately or at room temperature with vanilla ice cream. Makes 8 servings.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Thirsty? Eat a watermelon.

After a brunch that included way too many french fries (is that even possible?) I was parched. When I got home I downed half a bottle of Vitamin Water 10 and several glasses of water, but I was still thirsty. Surprisingly, after eating a few pieces of watermelon, I was instantly refreshed. Maybe it was the magical yellow hue that did the trick. Check it:

These little yellow babies are round (rather than oblong) and just a bit smaller that a volleyball. I found mine at my local farmers market on the way home from the gym. Some say the yellow variety is sweeter than the ubiquitous pink variety, and a little more canteloupe-like, but I thought it just tasted like a watermelon.

What to do with it? Well, shockingly I had ripped out a watermelon recipe from In Style a few weeks ago. Yes. In Style. Seriously. After a little more research (because I was skeptical) I found that Gourmet had printed the same recipe a few years ago. It's from a restaurant in Athens, GA called Five & Ten. (I guess this is where I would ordinarily reference R.E.M. but I'm not going to. This time.) I love the idea of using watermelon in this savory salad. Once again I was missing a few ingredients so I subbed in garlic for a shallot and a jalapeño for a serrano chile. I also think that some sort of nut might add a nice crunch. Macadamias? Toasted pine nuts? Just a thought.

I still have about 3/4 of that watermelon volleyball. I'll either have to try to make some sort of watermelon bevie, or work on my knife skills and carve an intricate basket that rivals Edible Arrangements.

Yellow Watermelon and Feta Salad

1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon fresh lime juice
1 tablespoon champagne vinegar (or white wine vinegar)
1 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme (or 1/2 tsp dried thyme)
1 small shallot, minced (or one small garlic clove, minced)
1 serrano (or jalapeño) chile, stemmed and sliced into small half rounds
Salt, to taste
1/2 of a small yellow (or pink) watermelon (remove seeds)
1/4 pound piece of feta cheese, sliced into 1/8" pieces

1. In a small bowl, whisk together the oil, lime juice, vinegar, thyme, shallot, and chile. Season with salt to taste. Set aside.

2. Slice the watermelon into pieces about 1/2-inch thick. Remove the rind. Cut the remaining watermelon flesh into 3-inch squares.

3. Assemble the salad on a platter by alternating layers of watermelon and feta on a bed of arugula. Drizzle with the vinaigrette. Serves 4 as an appetizer.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Summertime Rolls

And rolls and rolls. And rolls. And then it's August. And then it's over. Or is it over now? (Practically!) So what else can I possibly do but commemorate summer with summer rolls.

My recipe is less a recipe than a list of ingredients to roll up like a burrito. You can't go wrong. Well, I guess you could. I wouldn't roll up anything hot for starters. Or sharp and pointy. Or cheesy. But other than that, pretty much anything goes.

Summertime Rolls

8 (6-inch) rounds rice paper
2 ounces cooked rice vermicelli noodles, rinsed and drained
1 medium carrot, peeled and thinly sliced into matchsticks
Shredded lettuce
Fresh mint leaves
Fresh cilantro leaves
12 cooked shrimp, cut in half lengthwise
3 tablespoons fresh lime juice
2 tablespoons fish sauce
2 tablespoons sugar
1 tablespoon rice wine vinegar
1 tablespoon water
1/2 teaspoon red chili paste

1. Fill a shallow bowl or pan with hot tap water and place one rice paper wrapper into the water until it is soft and pliable, about 15 seconds. Gently remove the wrapper and lay on a work surface that is covered with a damp paper towel.

2. Layer some of the noodles, vegetables, and herbs, topped with three shrimp halves, in the lower half of the wrapper. Fold up the bottom edge to cover the filling, then fold in the sides. Continue rolling upwards to finish. Repeat with the remaining ingredients. Cover the rolls with a damp paper towel while you work.

3. Combine the lime juice, fish sauce, sugar, vinegar, water and chili paste in a small bowl. Whisk until the sugar is dissolved. Taste and adjust seasoning.

4. Serve the rolls immediately with the dipping sauce. Makes 8 rolls.

The real inspiration?
Fell into
A sea of grass
And disappeared among
The shady blades...
Children all
Ran over me
Screaming tag!
You are the one!


Oh...the summertime rolls.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Chocolate Oysters

Today we had a 1 hour chocolate tasting at work. Fabulous? Yes. Well...In theory. Except that it was at 4:00 and I was going out for happy hour oysters after work. Chocolate. Oysters. Two great tastes that do NOT taste great together!

What are happy hour oysters? Obviously they are $1 oysters that are served between 5 - 7 pm...or thereabouts. I'm not telling you where exactly because I don't want you to get in the way of my ordering! (I'm greedy like that.)

Too be honest, I thought about pretending that I had made a fabulous dinner tonight but...I can't do that. When I was walking home from the subway thinking about what the hell I was going to write about, (listening to the live Radiohead album I Might Be Wrong) in the middle of "True Love Waits," Thom Yorke's voice cracks. Subtly. In a kind of cheesy parallel, I realized that it doesn't really matter if I cook every day and have a perfect occasion to write about. Tonight's perfect occasion revolved around NOT cooking and NOT writing a recipe. So there. Just eat oysters and chocolate. And listen to Radiohead. You don't have to cook. Who cares? Except...I'll be back tomorrow. With a recipe.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Cold Noodle

Have you ever been to one of those Chinese restaurants that serve free wine? You know, those unending carafes of cheap white wine? I remember one that I used to go to on the Upper West Side when I first moved to NYC. The food was cheap and the wine obviously cheaper. Do those restaurants even exist anymore?

Well, once upon a time I had the most amazing cold sesame noodles (perfectly spicy) and I have yet to ever find them again. I don't know where it was (too much cheap wine?) and I am always disappointed whenever I order sesame noodles now. They tend to be way too sweet. The obvious solution? Make them myself. Fortunately I tend to keep all of the necessary ingredients on hand and they're soooo easy to make. I have actually made them before, but I am still perfecting my perfect balance of nutty, salty, and spicy, with a touch of sweet. The cool thing is that it's another one of those recipes that is super easy to tweak according to your personal tastes.

I recently ran across this version of Mark Bittman's on the NY Times blog
Bitten. It reminded me of my quest for the perfect cold noodle. It's quite similar to other recipes that I've tried, so I decided to give it another whirl. I think I'm getting closer.

Cold Sesame Noodles

1 large cucumber
12 ounces long pasta like linguine
2 tablespoons sesame oil
1/2 cup sesame paste (tahini) or peanut butter
2 tablespoons sugar
3 tablespoons soy sauce, or to taste
1 teaspoon minced ginger
1 tablespoon rice or wine vinegar
Hot sesame oil or 1/2 teaspoon dried red pepper flakes, to taste
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/4 cup minced scallions for garnish

1. Set a large pot of salted water to boil
. Meanwhile, peel the cucumber, cut in half, and, using a spoon, scoop out the seeds. Cut the cucumber into shreds and set aside.

2. When the water comes to a boil, cook the pasta until tender but not mushy. While the pasta is cooking, whisk together the sesame oil and paste, sugar, soy, ginger, vinegar, hot oil and pepper in a large bowl. Thin the sauce with hot water, so that it is about the consistency of heavy cream; you will need 1/4 to 1/2 cup. When the pasta is done cooking, drain it and run under cold water. Drain thoroughly.

3. Toss the noodles with the sauce and the cucumbers. Taste and adjust seasoning as necessary (the dish may need salt), then garnish and serve. Makes 4 servings.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Harold and Maude

Last night I went to see Harold and Maude in Bryant Park.



Since you have to get there super early to secure your spot on the lawn (Thanks, Chad!), I had plenty of time to enjoy a feast of cheese, cheese, cheese, crackers, cheese, and wine. Might I suggest that on your next picnic you consider a sparkling Malbec? We actually enjoyed some very nice red wine last night, but I did recently try the sparkling Malbec. The color alone is pretty spectacular but it tastes pretty good too. Try it! You'll like it! And if you don't, just send me the leftovers.

Sparkling Malbec

Sunday, July 19, 2009

On the Fence

When I was a kid our neighbors had little gardens that actually produced enough random veggies that my family often received their overflow. The neighbors to the right would bring mounds of rhubarb which my mother would turn into rhubarb pie, but the neighbors behind us had a special policy: Whatever grew threw the chain link fence was ours to keep. This basically amounted to a few tomatoes and a couple zucchini. At the end of the day, they often realized that they still had more than what they knew what to do with, so we'd inevitably end up getting a big bunch of zucchini too. Hello, zucchini bread!

Since the farmers markets and grocery stores are currently overflowing with summer squash, I decided to make my own zucchini bread (plus it's not too crazy hot). I remembered having a recipe (in my little kid handwriting) from my old recipe box, and in fact I found several quick bread recipes. Check out my handwriting style over the years. I particularly like the circles over the 'i's. (And, really? Oleo?)

I figured that there must be a new and improved recipe out there so I consulted some of my cookbooks. Every recipe was pretty much the same except for The Best New Recipe. The main difference is that they have you drain the shredded zucchini. Interesting. A lot of liquid does actually drain out. Anyone thirsty?

So...even though I consider myself a pretty good baker, I overlooked something. (It happens!) The recipe called for 1/4 cup yogurt and I threw in a whole 7-ounce container. Ooops. I didn't notice it until I was writing up the recipe just now. But it helps explain why the center of my bread sank and the bread didn't have a consistent crumb throughout. Oh, well (I think it will be good toasted). I also neglected to weigh my zucchini since I bought it from a farmers market so I guesstimated the amount for the recipe. I was a little out of it I guess. By the way, I recommend using a couple of smaller zucchini rather than one giant one. I think they're a little more tender and you won't have to bother scooping out seeds from the more mature veggies. I think, in addition to just paying more attention, next time I might leave out the lemon juice and add a touch of cinnamon, just because that's how I remember the flavor, while eating it cold for breakfast.

Zucchini Bread
(Adapted from The New Best Recipe)

2 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for the pan
1 pound zucchini, washed and dried, ends and stems removed
3/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup walnuts or pecans, coarsely chopped
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup plain yogurt
2 large eggs, beaten lightly
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and cooled

1. Heat the oven to 375˚F. Grease the bottom and sides of a 9x5-inch loaf pan; dust with flour, tapping out the excess.

2. Shred the zucchini on the large holes of a box grater. Toss with 2 tablespoons of the sugar and place into a fine-mesh strainer set about 2 inches above the bottom of a bowl to drain.

3. Meanwhile, toast the nuts in a medium skillet over medium heat until fragrant, stirring frequently, about 5 minutes. Set aside to cool.

4. In a large bowl add the flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt and whisk until combined. Set aside.

5. Whisk together the remaining 1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar, the yogurt, eggs, lemon juice, and melted butter in a medium bowl until combined. Set aside.

6. After the zucchini has drained, press between sheets of paper towel to absorb any excess moisture. Stir the zucchini and yogurt mixture into the flour mixture until just moistened. Add the nuts and fold in gently. Scrap the batter into the prepared pan and smooth the top with a rubber spatula.

7. Bake until the loaf is golden brown and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean, about 55 - 60 minutes, rotating the pan halfway through baking. Cool in the pan for 10 minutes before turning out onto a wire rack to continue cooling for at least one hour before serving.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Sour Grapes (or Cherries)

Sour Grapes!
You leave such a bad taste.
Sour grapes!
I don't need you anyways!
I love that song. It might date me but I don't care. That song solidified my decision to buy a mountain bike while I was in college. I notoriously comparison shop until no more comparisons can be done. When it came down to the final decision on my Trek, all the bike dude had to say was, "The color's Sour Grape." Umm...Sold!!!

Basically, I like everything sour, not just my bikes or music. I guess a sour grape would technically be a raisin, but I hate raisins. Sour cherries on the other hand...amazing! Fresh sour cherries have a very short season so might I suggest, dried sour cherries. And might I suggest stirring them into your baked goods.

With all of the weekend trips that people take during the summer, one tends to need hostess gift ideas (if you are a thoughtful guest!). I think that fresh baked scones make an amazing hostess gift. The thing is, these scones taste best the day of, so if you make them the day before, just pop them into a 350˚F oven for 5 - 10 minutes just before you serve them so that they can warm up and crisp up. can just wake up a few minutes before your hosts and whip them up fresh for everyone. They don't take very long to throw together and your hosts will be SO impressed!

This is a classic cream scone recipe. I used the recipe from The New Best Recipe for this batch, but The Joy of Cooking has an almost identical recipe which is equally good. Regardless, you shouldn't be frightened of making scones. You don't need a rolling pin or any special tools. And they don't have to look perfect. Irregular shapes and craggy edges are what make scones unique. I originally made these to enjoy during Breakfast at Wimbledon. I hope you enjoy them!

Sour Cherry Cream Scones
(Adapted from The Best New Recipe)

2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
3 tablespoons sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
5 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
1/2 cup dried sour cherries, roughly chopped (or other dried fruit)
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons heavy cream

1. Heat the oven to 425˚F.

2. In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, sugar, and salt.

3. Use two knives, a pastry blender, or your fingertips, and quickly cut in the butter until the mixture resembles coarse meal, with a few slightly larger butter lumps. Add the dried cherries and mix just to combine.

4. Stir in 1 cup of heavy cream with a rubber spatula or fork until the dough begins to form.

5. Transfer the dough, and all dry flour bits, to a countertop and knead the dough by hand just until it comes together into a rough, slightly sticky ball. Pat the dough on a lightly floured surface into a 3/4-inch thick circle (about 8-inches round). Cut the dough into 8 wedges. Brush the tops with the 2 tablespoons of heavy cream. Sprinkle lightly with sugar. Place the wedges on an ungreased baking sheet.

6. Bake until the scone tops are light brown, 12 - 15 minutes. Cool on a wire rack for at least 10 minutes. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009


OMG. Martha Rose Shulman and I are SO in sync! Last week when I was cleaning out my fridge, SHE was cleaning out her pantry. I was readying for a trip to Philly, SHE was readying for a France. I am a "writer," SHE is a Writer...for The New York Times. I could go on and on!

One of Martha's recipes in the Recipes for Health section this week is actually perfect for my continuing efforts to streamline, as I am now focusing on my ridiculously packed freezer. Somehow it has become a frozen food graveyard as well as a storage facility, and it's time to change that. Multi-year old Aquavit, anyone? TWO bottles?!? Plastic bags filled with Parmesan rinds? A whole bundt cake? When am I planning to use these things? At a party where I get everyone drunk on Aquavit, (if they can even stomach it) topped off by Parmesan popsicles and bundt cake chasers? I am planning to slowly chip away at these things and I'm starting with some frozen edamame.

I do eat edamame regularly, so this isn't a serious space infraction, but it's a start. The original recipe calls for dried chickpeas (which I never have) so I'm going to substitute the edamame, which is plentiful. I am also substituting whole wheat couscous for the bulgur for the same reason. I did find some barley shoved in a corner, but once I realized it would take an hour to cook, I reconsidered. And since I am actually going out for a late dinner, I'll eat this for lunch tomorrow...

Couscous with Edamame and Herbs
(Adapted from Martha Rose Shulman/NYT)

1 cup frozen, shelled edamame
3/4 cup whole wheat couscous
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
3 large garlic cloves, minced
1/4 cup finely chopped flat-leaf parsley
2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh mint (or whatever you have)
Juice of 1 lemon
1 teaspoon lemon zest
Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

1. Cook the edamame according to package directions. Drain and set aside.

2. Cook the couscous according to package directions. Set aside.

3. Heat 1 tablespoon of the oil over medium heat in a large skillet. Add the garlic, and cook until fragrant, about one minute. Stir in the couscous and edamame. Remove from the heat and add the herbs, the remaining tablespoon of olive oil, lemon juice, zest, and salt and pepper to taste, and toss together. Serve hot or at room temperature. Serves four to six as a side dish.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Oh, Snap!

OK, friends. It's been seven whole days since I last wrote of a beverage AND this turns out to be my 50th post! Par-tay! To celebrate that, and just cuz, I concocted a new drink. This one came to me as a result of discovering Green Apple Italian Soda at Whole Foods. OK not "discovered" in a Christopher Columbus kind of way, more like "saw for the first time." And, actually, it wasn't AT Whole Foods but at work. But it is for sale at Whole Foods.

Originally I made the drink using vodka, but the results were too reminiscent of a Jolly Rancher or Blow Pop (not in a good way), so I had to scratch that. Once I tried Cognac, a completely new drink was born. I sort of wonder if the apple/Cognac combo makes it more of a fall drink, but I think the flavors are actually quite bright and summery, in a Dark & Stormy kind of way. Cheers!

Green Apple Snap

2 ounces Cognac (or brandy)
1 ounce ginger simple syrup*
1 ounce fresh lime juice
4 ounces green apple Italian soda
Granny Smith apple, very thinly sliced (for garnish)

1. Fill a double old-fashioned glass with ice. Add the Cognac, simple syrup, lime juice and soda. Stir and garnish with a slice of apple. Serve. Makes one drink.

*To make the ginger syrup: Bring 1 cup of water and 3/4 cup sugar to a boil in a small saucepan, until the sugar dissolves, about 2 minutes. Remove from the heat. Add 2 tablespoons of grated fresh ginger and set aside for at least 30 minutes, or up to one hour. Strain into an airtight container. Use immediately or store in the refrigerator for up to two weeks.

Monday, July 13, 2009


When I was in 8th grade, I had a friend (who shall remain nameless - you know who you are!) who I would occasionally join for dinner out (along with her mother), and whenever we saw quesadillas on the menu we had to make a big deal about how to pronounce it. "How do you say this word? Kay-sa-dill-ah?" That's junior high school humor for ya. Completely inane. Her mother probably wanted us to sit at another table. But I still remember it and curiously make quesadillas about once a week.

Since I had some leftover shrimp from yesterday's spiedini, I decided to throw them into a quesadilla for dinner. (And I promise that this is the last post on shrimp for a while!) I cut them in half lengthwise so that they would heat quickly, and then added some jalapeños and cheese. Serve a little gauc on the side and you're done!

Shrimp and Jalapeño Quesadillas

2 flour tortillas
1/2 cup shredded monterey jack or cheddar cheese
1 small jalapeño, thinly sliced
8 cooked shrimp, cut in half lengthwise (along the arch)

1. Place the tortillas on a work surface. Sprinkle the cheese over half of each tortilla, followed by the jalapeño and the shrimp. Fold the tortilla in half by folding the empty half over the half with the ingredients.

2. Heat a medium skillet over medium heat. Add the folded tortillas and cook for three minutes. Turn over and cook for two minutes more. Remove the quesadillas to a cutting board and cut into wedges. Serve immediately with guacamole, if desired. Serve one as a main course, or two as an appetizer.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

A Philly State of Mind

When I go to Philadelphia to visit my good friends (and now their newborn baby!) the trip usually consists of shopping, and planning when and where our next meal will take place. This weekend was no different. I have been in the market for a mid-century modern credenza (forever!) and my hunt continued in some of the great shops around Center City. Sadly, this trip didn't produce my big find, but we did discover a brand spankin' new mid-century housewares/furniture store that had their grand opening party on Friday night. I bought a bunch of glasses and my friends bought a new coffee table. Score! I also managed to blow some money on shoes (in a different store!). Check out some of my finds.

When we weren't shopping we were eating, and eating well. One of the cool things about Philly is all of the BYOBs that are around town. NYC needs more of those! It really makes a huge difference in the bill at the end of the night. We ate a great meal in the sidewalk cafe of a little neighborhood place where we were able to pull the baby stroller right up to the table, and crack open our own bottles of wine (for us, not the baby).

But we did manage to cook at home too. Since we had two pounds of shrimp and a backyard with a grill at our disposal, we set out to find the perfect recipe. My friends have Mario Batali's Italian Grill which is a great cookbook that I've considered buying, until I remember that I don't have a grill or a yard or any use for it. I won't even use my grill pan in my apartment because of the amount of smoke it creates. My smoke detector inevitably goes off and my apartment smells like whatever I've tried to cook for a week. (It's disgusting.) The funny thing is that the recipe we finally selected doesn't even have to be cooked on a grill. It's meant to be cooked on a flat cooking surface, una piastra, which essentially translates to a griddle, that you place on the grill. So, we didn't even bother with the grill and just cooked on the stove top. We were also supposed to skewer the shrimp but we skipped that step too. (We were hungry!) It was great. So great in fact, that I decided to replicate it at home. I even used my leftover rosemary to make the skewers. Check it.

Shrimp Spiedini

1 cup loosely packed fresh basil leaves
1 cup loosely packed fresh parsley
1/2 cup fresh bread crumbs
1/2 teaspoon salt
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil, plus more for cooking
1 pound shrimp, peeled and deveined
8 Rosemary sprigs (about 6-inches each) or wooden skewers
Lemon wedges

1. Place the basil and parsley into a mini-food processor. Pulse until finely chopped. (Alternatively, finely chop by hand.) Add the chopped herbs, bread crumbs, salt, pepper, and oil to a medium bowl and stir to combine. Add the shrimp and toss to coat.

2. Remove the leaves from the rosemary sprigs, if using. Skewer 4 shrimps per stem. Press on additional herb mixture that may have fallen off. Place a large skillet over medium-high heat. When hot add 1 tablespoon olive oil and the shrimp skewers. Cook for 3 minutes, flip, and cook for 2 minutes more. Serve with lemon wedges on a bed of lettuce, if desired. Serves 4 as an appetizer, 2 as a main course.

**Note: Keep additional olive oil on hand. I've noticed that the amount that you need to add to the herb mixture depends on the type of bread crumb you use. You want the mixture to be about the consistency of a thick pesto so that it will stick to the shrimp.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Use Your Noodle

Anytime I go out of town I stop buying groceries about a week before I leave, just so that I use up what I have (as I'm sure most people do), and I don't come home to a biological experiment in my fridge...or anywhere else. Well, I'm on the tail end of my last grocery stash and it's becoming more difficult to cobble together a meal. (Why do you think I wrote about a drink yesterday?!) Fortunately my freezer and cupboards are working for me, and I managed to throw together a plate of Thai Shrimp Noodles (at least that's what I'm calling it).

If you recall my post on side salads, you will recognize the flavor components of this dish, which essentially came straight out of my fridge. Seriously, if you are a fan of that tangy, salty, sweet, spicy explosion in your mouth, make sure to keep limes, fish sauce, sugar, and chili paste around. It's just a matter of keeping the flavors balanced. And (aside from limiting your stash of limes) you won't have to worry about mistaking your ingredients from moldy cheese when you return from vacation.

Thai Shrimp Noodles

2 ounces rice noodles (like banh pho)
3 tablespoons fresh lime juice
1 - 2 tablespoons sugar (to taste)
1 tablespoon fish sauce
1/4 teaspoon chili paste (sambal oelek)
6 shrimp, peeled and deveined
Scallions, sliced
Peanuts or cashews, chopped

1. Cook the noodles in a medium pot of boiling water for 6 - 8 minutes (or according to package directions).

2. Meanwhile, whisk the lime juice, sugar, fish sauce, and chili paste together in a small bowl. Heat a medium skillet over medium-high heat and add the sauce. When it starts to simmer, add the shrimp and cook until the shrimp is pink throughout, about 3 minutes.

3. When the noodles have finished cooking, drain, and immediately add to the skillet, stirring to coat and some of the sauce is absorbed, about 30 seconds. Plate, and garnish with the scallions and nuts. Serve immediately. Serves one.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Ring Around the Rose(mar)y

When life gives you lemons, you're supposed to make lemonade, right? Well, what about a bushel of rosemary? I brought home a bunch today (another random gift) but had no intention of roasting a chicken or a bunch of potatoes. What to do? The only low-frills idea I could come up with was (of course) using it to make a cocktail! And a summery one at that.

All you need to do is whip up some simple syrup, infuse it with a few rosemary sprigs, and you're ready to mix it up. This is really just a riff on a Salty Dog which I think is a riff on a Greyhound. It's quite delish! But I still have a bunch of rosemary left...

Salty Rose Fizz

Kosher salt and a lime wedge (for the glass)
2 ounces gin
1 ounce fresh lime juice
1 ounce rosemary syrup*
4 ounces sparkling grapefruit soda, such as Izze (or fresh grapefruit juice and a splash of club soda)
1 (3-inch) rosemary sprig

1. Make a cut in the center of a lime wedge and run it halfway around the rim of a highball glass. Dip that half of the rim in salt to coat. Fill a cocktail shaker with about 5 ice cubes, the gin, lime juice, rosemary syrup, and grapefruit soda. Shake briskly and pour into the prepared glass. Garnish with a rosemary sprig. Makes one drink.

*To make the rosemary syrup: Bring 1 cup of water and 3/4 cup sugar to a boil in a small saucepan, until the sugar dissolves, about 2 minutes. Remove from the heat. Add 2 (4 to 6-inch) sprigs of rosemary and set aside for at least 30 minutes, or up to one hour. Strain into an airtight container. Use immediately or store in the refrigerator for up to two weeks.