Monday, December 20, 2010

She's Crafty

Just in case you haven't been plied with enough sweets yet (there are still 5 more days until Christmas!) I have another cookie recipe for you. I've been making these little macaroons for a couple of years now, and even though I'm not a coconut über fan, there's something light and elegant about these cookies. The chocolate is optional but...C'mon. I also like that they look like tiny snow covered mountains. If you squint. Really. Hard. And you're super stoked to spend your holiday in Aspen skiing and enjoying aprés-ski merriment so everything you see resembles a ski town...

OK this recipe is really easy. Really. Really. Easy. With only five ingredients all you need is a spoon and a bowl. Actually, you don't even need a spoon. You can mix everything with your hands if you feel like it. And if you think shaping my little pyramid shapes is way too complicated and crafty, then just roll the coconut mixture into little balls. Whatevs. Then bake, crush the sugar cookie competition, and enjoy!

Chocolate Dipped Coconut Macaroons (aka Snowy Peaks)
(From The Ski House Cookbook)

4 large egg whites
3 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 (14-ounce) package shredded sweetened coconut (about 5 1/3 cups)
1 (3.5-ounce) bittersweet chocolate bar, chopped

1. Preheat the oven to 350° F. In a large bowl, whisk the egg whites until frothy. Add the sugar, vanilla, and pinch of salt and stir to combine. Add the coconut and mix well.

2. Dampen your hands with cold water. Form a rounded tablespoon of the mixture into a haystack shape and place on a non-stick baking sheet. Repeat with the remaining mixture, spacing the stacks about 1-inch apart. Bake until golden brown, about 18 minutes, rotating the sheet halfway through baking. Remove the cookies from the pan while still warm to cool completely on racks. Repeat with remaining coconut batter.

3. Fill a small saucepan with 1-inch of water and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to low and place a medium heat proof bowl on top so that the bottom is resting just above the simmering water. Add the chopped chocolate and stir until completely melted.

4. Turn off the heat and dip the bottom of each macaroon into the melted chocolate and place on wax paper to cool and harden. The macaroons can be stored in an airtight container for up to 3 days. Makes about 24 cookies.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Peace in Procrastination

I'm really good at procrastinating. Instead of studying I've cleaned my apartment, gone to the gym a few times, checked email, and spent time talking on the phone about how I should really be studying. I also made a batch of super chocolaty goodness otherwise known as World Peace Cookies. This recipe made the food blog rounds a few years ago and, even though I'm a little late to the party, they still rock. I made them for a work friend's birthday today so hope that they will be put to good use later tonight when the munchies set in. These would also be fantabulous holiday cookies for any of you who may have found yourself coerced into a cookie exchange. You'll be the belle of the cookie ball.

World Peace Cookies
(from Dorie Greenspan)

1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
11 tablespoons (1 stick plus 3 tablespoons) unsalted butter, at room temperature
2/3 cup (packed) light brown sugar
1/4 cup sugar
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
5 ounces bittersweet chocolate (70 - 85% cacao), chopped (no pieces bigger than 1/3 inch)

1. Sift the flour, cocoa, and baking soda into medium bowl. Using a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, beat the butter on medium speed until smooth but not fluffy. Add both sugars, vanilla, and sea salt. Beat until fluffy, 2 minutes more.

2. Turn off the mixer. Add the flour mixture, cover to protect from flying flour, and beat on low speed just until blended. (The flour will just be incorporated and the mixture may be crumbly.) Add the chopped chocolate and mix just to distribute.

3. Divide the dough in half. Place each half on a sheet of plastic wrap. Form each half into 1 1/2-inch-diameter logs. Wrap each in plastic. Chill until firm, about 3 hours. DO AHEAD: Can be made 3 days ahead. Keep chilled.

4. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper. Using a thin sharp knife, cut the logs crosswise into 1/2-inch-thick rounds. Space 1-inch apart on the prepared sheets. Bake 1 sheet at a time until the cookies appear dry (cookies will not be firm or golden at edges), 11 to 12 minutes. Transfer the baking sheet to a rack and let the cookies rest until they are just warm. Remove from the baking sheet and serve or allow to come to room temperature.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Did Somebody Say Delivery?

It might seem crazy to make homemade pizza in New York City where you can get everything from a 99 cent slice, to a quintissential NYC pie, to an artisanal pizza from one the newly annointed pizzaiolos. I decided to give it a whirl anyway because somebody (Holla, Michael!) gave me a packet of Fleischmann's "pizza crust yeast" to try (and I just might be a little cray-cray). How is it any different from regular yeast you might ask? If you care? Well, at first I assumed that it was simply a marketing ploy to get you to buy it over regular old yeast packets, until Michael pointed out that it doesn't require any rising time. You just mix it up and roll it out. In the past I've used frozen pizza dough to make pizza, so at least I didn't have to plan ahead to defrost the dough.

I made a mozzarella, tomato, and basil pizza with all-purpose flour in the dough, and a mushroom and fontina pizza (no sauce) with whole wheat flour in the dough. Both versions of the dough mixed up and rolled out easily. My conclusion about the texture, however, left a little something to be desired. In both instances my pizza crust had a slightly bready consistency, so it kind of reminded me of a cheap frozen pizza you might have last had in college. I think I just prefer a little thinner, crunchier crust. I like the idea of having these little packets on hand, but I think I like calling 1-800 pizza delivery more.

Homemade Pizza with Pizza Crust Yeast

1 1/2 to 2 cups all-purpose flour
1 envelope Fleischmann's Pizza Crust Yeast
1-1/2 teaspoons sugar
3/4 teaspoon salt
2/3 cup very warm water (120 to 130°F)
3 tablespoons oil
1/2 to 1 cup tomato sauce, if desired
Other toppings as desired

1. Preheat the oven to 450°F.

2. Combine 1 cup flour, undissolved yeast, sugar, and salt in a large bowl. Add very warm water and the oil. Mix until well blended, about 1 minute. Gradually add 1/2 cup flour to make a soft dough. The dough should form a ball and will be slightly sticky. Knead* on a floured surface, adding additional flour if necessary, until smooth and elastic, about 4 minutes.

3. Pat the dough with floured hands to fill a greased pizza pan or baking sheet, or roll the dough on a floured counter to a 12-inch circle. Place on greased pizza pan or baking sheet. Form a rim by pinching the edge of the dough.

4. Top with desired toppings and bake on the lowest oven rack for 12 to 15 minutes, until cheese is bubbly and crust is browned.

*To knead the dough, add just enough flour to the dough and your hands to keep the dough from sticking. Flatten dough and fold it toward you.Using the heels of your hands, push the dough away with a rolling motion. Rotate dough a quarter turn and repeat the "fold, push and turn" steps. Keep kneading dough until it is smooth and elastic. Use a little more flour if dough becomes too sticky, always working the flour into the ball of dough.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Red Red Wine Ragu

Each time that I go to Philly for a visit, it's a total food fest. Whether it's checking out the latest Garces opening, or stocking up on supplies at the Italian Market or Reading Terminal, it's pretty much non-stop eating.

This past weekend was no different. Because it was so chilly, it felt like the perfect weather for making short ribs. Instead of serving them straight up, they got shredded into a sauce to serve over fresh pasta. DE-lish!

I used a braised short rib recipe from Mario Batali as a base for this pasta sauce. When the short ribs were done, I removed them from the braise, reduced the sauce, pureed it, shredded the meat, and put it back into the sauce. Voila! Short rib ragu! It may sound like a lot of work, but most of the work happens unattended so you can have a drink and spend a few hours playing tennis, bowling, and golf on your Wii. Not that I know anything about that.

Red red wine. For drinking.

Short Rib Ragu

(Adapted from Mario Batali)

4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 pounds boneless beef short ribs
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 large Spanish onions, diced
1 medium carrot, sliced
2 ribs celery, chopped
3 garlic cloves
4 ounces pancetta, diced
2 cups Barolo or other hearty red wine
1 (28-ounce) can whole peeled tomatoes (or 2 cups prepared tomato sauce)
Parmesan cheese, for serving

1. In a large Dutch oven, heat the olive oil over high heat. Season the meat generously with salt and pepper. Working in batches, cook the meat on each side until deep brown all on sides, about 12 minutes per batch. Remove the short ribs to a plate and set aside.

2. Remove any excess oil and then add the carrots, onion, celery, garlic, and pancetta to the pan and cook over medium-high heat until beginning to brown and starting to soften, about 6 minutes. Add the wine and the tomatoes and juices and bring the mixture to a boil.

3. Return the meat to the pot and bring back to a boil, then reduce the heat to a gentle simmer. Cover and cook until the meat is very tender, 1 1/2 to 2 hours.

4. Transfer the meat to a plate. Bring the cooking liquid to a boil and cook for 30 minutes to reduce to about 2 1/2 cups. Once reduced, use an immersion blender to puree the sauce. Taste and adjust seasoning.

5. Meanwhile, shred the cooked meat, discarding any excess fat. Return the shredded meat to the sauce and stir. Serve over pasta, such as pappardelle or rigatoni, with cheese if desired. Serves 4 - 6.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Chocolate Chip Childhood

When I was little, my sister and I use to craft our own candy bars by filling a plastic sandwich bag with chocolate chips, placing it in a sun patch on the living room floor to melt, and then putting it in the freezer to harden (more or less) into a candy bar shape. Sometimes I would add nuts if I was feeling fancy. Candy making safe for kids! It could be all the rage.

Eventually I upgraded to filling Pillsbury Crescent dinner rolls with chocolate chips to bake my own chocolate croissants.
(There were always chocolate chips in the house thanks to my family of chocoholics.) I don't remember ever having a chocolate croissant as a kid so have no idea how I came up with that masterpiece. Maybe it was from watching a Bugs Bunny episode with Pepé Le Pew...

Anyway, I've upgraded my childhood chocolate croissant experiment by using frozen puff pastry and really excellent chocolate. It's closer to the real thing but still super simple. (The day I actually make my own puff pastry, someone please tell me that I'm out of my mind. I live in New York and can just go to Balthazar, or other fabulous French bakery to buy my croissants!) I suggest splurging on the good puff pastry if you can find it, otherwise ye olde grocery store brand will work if you're desperate. I made mine by folding the dough in a triangular shape around the chocolate (just like I used to fold the American flag back when I was the Safety Captain in the sixth grade) but you can just roll them up for ease. King Arthur Flour sells chocolate batons just for this use. Hmmm...what if baton twirlers twirled chocolate batons? Now that would take talent!

Quick Chocolate Croissants

(Adapted from The Ski House Cookbook)

1 sheet frozen puff pastry, thawed and cut into 8 squares
1 large egg
2 teaspoons water
1/2 cup chopped bittersweet chocolate, or 8 chocolate batons

1. Preheat the oven to 375° F. Whisk the egg and water in a small bowl. Brush one edge of a puff pastry square with the egg wash. Place 1 tablespoon chocolate (or baton) on the opposite edge of the pastry square and roll up the dough tightly. Press the edge with the egg wash into the dough to close. Place the pastry roll seam side down on a baking sheet. Repeat with the remaining pastry squares and chocolate.

2. Brush the tops of the pastry rolls with the remaining egg wash and sprinkle lightly with sugar. Bake until the pastries are golden brown, about 20 minutes. Serve warm. Makes 8 pastries.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Dessert First

Photo by Kate Mathis

Guess what I'm having for dinner? Totes. (Thank god summer is over the way I eat.) Full disclosure: I didn't make these tarts. I got lucky at work today, reaping the benefits of birthday desserts and the good fortune that certain peeps know that salted caramel chocolate tarts are one of my faves. I don't have a recipe for them as these tarts are actually a combo of a few different recipes, but you could always take a look at this recipe as well as this one for reference. Thanks so much to Megan for the delicious treats! And thanks to Kate for the photos and Scott for the hawt shiny tray!

Photo by Kate Mathis

Sunday, November 7, 2010

You Don't Know Jacques

I just got back from a quick work trip to LA where it was an unseasonable 90˚F. It was a nice respite from the chilly fall days of the northeast, but it made me think about how I'm totally over summer clothes. Now that I'm back in NYC I'm ready to put away my sundresses, cook a bunch of cozy comfort meals...and to finally drag all of my winter clothes out of the bowels of my closet.

I've posted a whole roast chicken recipe before, and since it's so easy to make, there's really no reason to revisit it...except that I really like this super fast method that I found by Jacques Pépin. He has you butterfly the chicken by removing the backbone (which isn't as hard as it might seem because it really doesn't matter if you kind of hack it up a bit) so that it cuts the roasting time in half. (The garlicky-mustard mixture makes the chicken super tasty too.) Throw these fantabulous brussels sprouts into the oven with the bird and then whip up
some mashed potatoes while you're waiting with a glass (or two) of wine while wearing your favorite leggings and T. That's pretty comfortable food.

Quick Roast Chicken

(Adapted from Food & Wine)

One 4-pound whole chicken
4 large garlic cloves, minced
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
2 tablespoons dry white wine
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 teaspoon Tabasco
1 teaspoon herbes de Provence
1/2 teaspoon salt

1. Preheat the oven to 450°F. Using poultry shears, cut along each side of the chicken backbone and remove it. Turn the chicken breast side up and press on the breast bone to flatten the chicken. Using a sharp knife, cut partway through both sides of the joint between the thighs and the drumsticks. Cut partway through the joint between the wings and the breast.

2. In a small bowl, mix all of the remaining ingredients. Turn the chicken breast down and spread it with half of the mustard mixture. Set the chicken in a large skillet breast side up and spread with the remaining mixture.

3. Set the skillet over high heat and cook the chicken until it starts to brown, 5 minutes. Transfer the skillet to the oven and roast the chicken for 30 minutes, until the skin is browned and the chicken is cooked through. Let the chicken rest for 5 minutes. Transfer to a cutting board, cut it into 8 pieces, and serve. Serves four. (The chicken can be prepared through Step 2 and refrigerated overnight.)

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Cheese Balls

Now that Halloween is over and it's officially Dia de los Muertos (buy my Juana necklace here), I hope that you've got your New Year's Eve outfit picked out because I'm pretty sure that I just saw some Valentine's Day crap in the stores. Forget about Christmas. I think they've been playing holiday tunes since August. But in case you are planning a few parties between now and next year, there is nothing more deliciously satisfying than some fresh out of the oven cheesy gougères. A cheese puff made from a dough not unlike that of cream puffs or profiteroles, gougères are the perfect savory snack with a glass of wine or cocktail before dinner. Chad and I actually made them on Halloween before we served an eight pound pork butt, but that's another post. Yes, it would be best to make these à la minute, but you can bake them off and then just quickly reheat as your guests are arriving. You're welcome.

(From Terrance Brennan)

4 tablespoons butter
1/4 cup milk plus extra for brushing
1/2 teaspoon each salt and ground white pepper
1/2 cup all-purpose flour, sifted
1/8 teaspoon baking powder
2 eggs
1/2 cup grated Gruyère plus extra for garnish
Coarse sea salt

1. Preheat the oven to 400˚F.

2. Bring the butter, milk, 1/4 cup water, salt, and pepper to a boil in a medium pot. Remove from the heat and add the sifted flour and baking powder. Stir well, and return to medium heat. Cook, stirring constantly, until the mixture pulls away from the sides of the pan and forms a ball, about 2 to 3 minutes.

3. Place the cheese and the mixture in the bowl of a mixer fitted with a paddle, and beat until just warm. Add the eggs slowly as the mixer runs, until the dough is smooth and shiny. (Alternatively, stir to cool by hand and beat in eggs with a wooden spoon.) Transfer to a pastry bag, and pipe in 1-inch mounds using a No. 4 tip, or drop with a teaspoon, on a sheet pan lined with parchment. (At this stage, the gougères can be frozen and then stored in a plastic bag. They do not have to be thawed before baking, but 11/2 to 2 minutes should be added to the cooking time.) Brush with milk, and sprinkle with cheese and sea salt.

4. Bake for 10 to 12 minutes; when puffs are golden brown, reduce to 375˚F and cook 2 to 3 minutes more. Serve hot or at room temperature. Makes about 32. (The goug
ères may be reheated.)

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Nudie Gnudi

Nudie Gnudi

Not Nudie Gnudi

Unlike never nudes, I've had gnudi experiences. My first was at Picholine. It was restaurant week years ago (not my normal lunch destination obvs) and I had never tried gnudi before. That is just so sad because I had to wait so long to discover how delicious they are, in a way that gnocchi (it's little potato cousin) often aren't. Instead of being little pillows of heaven, if they aren't made well, gnocchi can be little starch grenades. However, the Picholine gnudi were light and fluffy and amazing. Fast forward to the opening of The Spotted Pig and the crazy delicious sheep's milk ricotta gnudi that are served there. Whoa. There's no reason to order anything else. Except the burger. Check please! Valet, bring my ambulance around.

It's not like I was obsessing over gnudi last week out of the blue, which wouldn't be unlike me, but it was while reading my weekly Food & Wine e-newsletter that I spied a recipe for a batch of spinach gnudi. And that was it. I bought my ingredients and got to work! While I may not be able to exactly replicate the perfection that I've had in restaurants (yet!), this rendition is pretty darn good...and super tasty and easy to make. I think some fresh basil might be a nice addition, or a lathering in a simple brown butter. And just to show how on trend I am, check out this article
in the NY Times today!

Spinach & Ricotta Gnudi

(Adapted from Food & Wine)

2 teaspoons extra virgin olive oil
2 cups spinach, stems discarded
2 pounds fresh ricotta
4 large eggs, lightly beaten
Pinch of freshly grated nutmeg, optional
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese, plus more for serving
2 cups all-purpose flour

All-purpose tomato sauce
4 tablespoons butter, optional

1. Heat the oil in a medium skillet over medium-high heat. Add the spinach, a handful at a time, and stir over until wilted, about 3 minutes. Transfer to a colander and let cool. Squeeze the spinach dry and finely chop it.

2. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. In a stand mixer, combine the spinach with the ricotta, eggs, nutmeg, and the 1/2 cup of Parmesan and mix on medium-low speed until blended. Add the flour in 3 batches, mixing on low between additions, until just incorporated.

3. Add about one-fourth of the gnudi dough to a large, resealable plastic bag. With scissors, cut a 1/2-inch corner from the bag. Working over the boiling water, squeeze the dough through the corner opening and use a knife to cut it into 1-inch pieces as it is squeezed out. Cook the gnudi over moderately high heat until firm, about 3 minutes. (They will drop to the bottom of the pot and then float to the surface as they cook.) With a slotted spoon or wire skimmer, transfer the gnudi to a platter. Repeat with the remaining dough.

4. Heat the tomato sauce and stir in the butter, if desired. Carefully transfer the gnudi to the tomato sauce and stir lightly to heat through. Spoon into shallow bowls and serve at once, passing more Parmesan at the table. Serves 6 - 8. This recipe can be halved and works perfectly.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Lock, Stock, and Barrels

This past weekend I made my maiden voyage to the North Fork of Long Island while on a field trip with my wine class, or rather a couple of peeps from my wine class. (I could have brought friends!) The educational emphasis was on viticulture and vitification because that is the unit that we are currently studying, but let's face it, it was also about tasting and buying wine.

We started out at Paumanok Winery, then moved on to Lenz Winery, both smallish but quite well established wineries making delicious wine in Long Island. (No, it's not an oxymoron, though it certainly could be.) We ended up capping off the day with a trip to a goat cheese farm called Catapano Dairy Farm to buy some delicious goat cheese and then finally ended up at Briermere Farms where several peeps stood in line to buy one of their abundant pie selections. I just bought some beets to roast up to go with my bevy of goat cheese (lavender-honey and plain chevre). All in all it was a pretty fabulous day.

Yep. With 30-some-odd wineries (vs. just a couple in the South Fork) the North Fork is synonymous with wine country.

An example of the trellising/pruning technique called replacement cane pruning. I won't bore you with the details that I have to know about this. Gnarly. Harvest was just completed a few days ago, hence, no grapes.

Hello, Cabernet Franc.

Extra barrels just waiting to be used.

A Lenz Gerwürztraminer just after fermentation. Cloudy yet delicious, but not quite as Gerwzy (my word) or clear as it has yet to become.

Paumanok Winery on a lazy October afternoon.

Warm Goat Cheese Salad

Here's a recipe from The Ski House Cookbook in case you ever have an excess of goat cheese, and eating it with a spoon just won't do.

2/3 cup bread crumbs
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 teaspoons chopped fresh thyme
2 teaspoons chopped fresh parsley
1 large egg
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
6 ounces goat cheese
6 - 9 ounces baby greens

Dijon Balsamic Vinaigrette
Whisk together:
3 teaspoons extra virgin olive oil
2 teaspoons red wine vinegar
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard

Extra virgin olive oil

1. In a small bowl mix the bread crumbs, pepper, thyme, and parsley. In another small bowl whisk the egg with the salt and mustard.

2. Cut the goat cheese into 4 equal pieces and form into disks about 3/4” thick. Roll the disks in the egg wash and then in the bread crumb mixture, pressing the crumbs gently into the cheese to coat. Place the disks on a small baking sheet and transfer to the freezer for 15 minutes.

3. Preheat the oven to 450°F. In a large bowl toss the greens with the vinaigrette. Add salt and pepper to taste. Remove the cheese from the freezer and brush the tops lightly with the oil. Transfer to the oven and bake until golden, about 10 minutes.

4. Divide the salad among 4 plates and top each with a goat cheese round. Serve immediately. Serves 4.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Rosemary + Chocolate + Olive Oil = Dessert

It must be the chill in the air that makes me want to bake everyday, at least that's my excuse. Even after my trip to Eataly, land of savory goodness, I managed to find a way to bake with my new olive oil. I've been reading about using olive oil for baking for quite a while, but had never actually made an attempt. It was time. This rosemary-chocolate tea cake recipe is the perfect vehicle for venturing into the world of sweet and savory all at once. I don't particularly love super sweet desserts, but thought that this recipe could use a tiny touch more sugar, and maybe a touch more chocolate (everything tastes better with more chocolate, obvs). I also substituted whole wheat flour for spelt flour...because I didn't have any and was too lazy to go out and buy some. Since this cake is not overly sweet, you could consider it more of a breakfast treat than dessert, perfect with a cup of tea or coffee. Hey, they say that olive oil and dark chocolate are good for you so this is my new breakfast of champions.

Rosemary & Chocolate Olive Oil Cake

via The Catskill Kiwi via The Wednesday Chef via Good to the Grain

Olive oil, for the pan
3/4 cup spelt flour (or whole wheat flour)
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 cup plus 2 tablspoons sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
3 eggs
1 cup olive oil
3/4 cup whole milk
1 1/2 tablespoons fresh rosemary, finely chopped
5 - 6 ounces bittersweet chocolate (about 70% cacao), chopped

1. Preheat the oven to 350˚ F. Rub a 9 1/2-inch fluted tart pan (or regular round cake pan) with olive oil.

2. Sift the dry ingredients into a large bowl. Set aside.

3. In another large bowl, whisk the eggs. Add the olive oil, milk, and rosemary and whisk again. Using a spatula, fold the wet ingredients into the dry, gently mixing until just combined. Stir in the chocolate. Pour the batter into the prepared pan, spreading it evenly and smoothing the top.

4. Bake for about 40 minutes, or until the top is golden brown, and a skewer inserted into the center comes out clean. The cake can be eaten warm or cool. Once cooled the cake can be wrapped tightly in plastic and kept for up to 2 days.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Carbon Dating

After a week of the world's worst cold I made a date with two of my besties, Chad and Ken, (Holla!) to enjoy a food extravaganza. The foodie destinations we visited have already been reviewed 80 million times (I've never said that I was cutting edge) so I was hoping our late showing would make for a more mellow experience since I can't stand crowds or lines or...people.

We brunched at The Breslin where I had the most amazing lamb burger with a side of thrice baked chips. had me at thrice.
(Oh, THAT'S why my jeans don't fit! Interesting.) We had some issues with the front of house but excused their general inadequacy after we ate.

Then we made our way over to Eataly. Yes, the original food and wine market is in Italy, but the way the lines formed around the block you'd think that Mario invented the place. Since I don't do lines, I took one look and got ready to run the other way. Fortunately I was with friends who aren't quite as fazed by such things. (Tip: If there's a line when you go, wait at the 23rd street entrance where it will be shorter. The Broadway entrance is bananas. Also, it only takes about 5 minutes to get in.) The place is pretty cool, though I can't imagine having an enjoyable meal there because it's loud and frenetic, not exactly the way I like to enjoy a glass of wine. I did manage to find some relative bargains hidden among the more upscale items. I bought some ground espresso for 6 bucks and a really nice bottle of olive oil for about 12. Plus the array of dried pasta is dizzying. At least now I know where to find those more unusual shapes.

A big motivating factor for our visit to Eataly was to pick up some guanciale, which is basically an unsmoked Italian bacon made from the jowls of the pig rather than the belly. It's a little harder to find than pancetta, so when we scored it we knew that carbonara was in our immediate future. This basic pasta is essentially a bacon, egg, and cheese (and pepper!) mixed into pasta rather than served fried on a roll. It's SO GOOD. There is some discrepancy about whether the name, carbonara, refers to a meal served to Italian coal workers (coal miner's spaghetti), or that it was originally made over charcoal grills, or that the abundance of black pepper simply resembles charcoal. Whatevs. It's delish. More importantly, I am suddenly realizing that this post is coinciding with the long awaited rescue of the trapped Chilean coal miners. Can you imagine being trapped underground for 69 days??? I certainly can not. And I can't believe their ability to keep it together and not go all Lord of the Flies on each other. They better get compensated for all of the book/screenplay/movie deals that most likely have been in the works for the past 52 days. That's it. Spaghetti alla Carbonara absolutely means Coal Miner's Spaghetti!

Spaghetti alla Carbonara

1 pound dry spaghetti
1/2 pound guanciale (or pancetta or good bacon)
1 cup Pecorino Romano, grated, plus more for serving
5 large egg yolks
Freshly ground black pepper

1. Bring a large pot of generously salted water to a boil. Cook the spaghetti, according to package directions until tender yet al dente.

2. Meanwhile, in a large sauté pan, cook the guanciale until it is crispy, 6 to 8 minutes. Remove all but 2 tablespoons of the fat from the pan.

3. In a large bowl, whisk the egg yolks. Reserve 1 cup of the pasta cooking water, then drain the cooked spaghetti and add to the bowl, along with the guanciale, reserved fat, grated cheese, and a very generous amount of black pepper and toss until fully incorporated. Add the reserved pasta water as needed to thin the sauce to the desired consistency. Season with more freshly ground black pepper, salt to taste, and grate additional cheese over the top. Serve immediately. Serves 4 generously.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Don't Speak

Since I've had laryngitis for the past few days you'd think that I could at least write a blog post...but you'd be wrong! I haven't been cooking OR going out to eat. I have nothing to say. Literally. But while I try to mend by ordering takeout and eating super spicy Thai soups like Tom Yum Goong, I figured that I could at least share my latest discovery: THE BEST COFFEE ON PLANET EARTH.

Macaron Cafe is an unassuming fabulous little place on a crappy block on West 36th street. (Actually I think there might be another location uptown too.) I discovered it when I needed to find some macarons for a photo shoot for work. Since my assistant and I trekked all the way over there from our office, we decided to treat ourselves to an iced coffee for the walk back. Now iced coffee may not be the best predictor of the quality of coffee, but it was outstanding nonetheless. And fully loaded. We were bouncing off the walls for the next 12 hours.

After that unexpected experience, I dragged another co-worker to Macaron Cafe after a recent photo shoot in the neighborhood. This time I ordered a cappuccino, and it was 5:00 pm. I thought that I should have some caffeine before my 3 hour wine class, naively thinking that my last experience with hyperactivity was a fluke. My friend had a sip, deemed it the best coffee she ever had, and agreed that she too would never sleep again when I called her after my class at 10:30 pm. Aha!

I'm not saying that this coffee is the best ever simply because of the caffeine. It's because of the flavor, the freshness, the perfection. The heightened alertness is simply a by-product. By the way, Macaron Cafe sells macarons too and they are delish, and super cute. (Don't they look like adorable little hamburgers??) My current fave is the caramel fleur de sel. Can't wait until I get better to actually taste food again!

Photos from

Caramel Fleur de Sel



Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Donut Haus

Aside from looking at loads of art last weekend, the other priority turned out to be obtaining apple cider, donuts, and apples from Robinette's Apple Haus. (How can you not want to go anywhere with haus in the title?) Some people (i.e. my sister, Erin) had claimed that I had been there before. Um, that must have been your other sister. Who doesn't exist. This was my maiden voyage to the land of manna. Growing up in Michigan you go to apple orchards, like, every other day in autumn, but I had never been to THIS particular orchard.

Bananas. That's what I have to say about them apples. The donuts were so freaking good that I don't know how I could possibly ever eat another donut not from Robinette's. And they're only 65 cents. What else can you buy for less than a dollar? Here's the deal. They have two (very important) flavors: pumpkin spice and cinnamon sugar. I ate one of each trying to figure out which was superior and could have eaten 10 more in my quest for answers. I'm not kidding. THEY ARE SO GOOD. They melt in your mouth. Did I mention that they were warm? Fresh out of the deep fryer? The outside had a slight crunch and the inside a soft, tender crumb. Even my dad's and aunt's apple-orchard-non-traditional chocolate covered cake donuts were ah-mazing.

Robinette's will send gift boxes...of apples (but not to Arizona, sorry). Dear Robinette's: Can you please make a gift box of donuts??? That would be awesome. Sincerely, Tina