Wednesday, June 30, 2010

I'm 200. Raise a Glass.

People, I'm up to 200 blog posts. For reals. That's cumulatively more writing than I've done...ever. Including college. What does it all mean? Absolutely nothing. But thank you so much for reading, commenting, not commenting and telling me what you think about my posts in person. I'll be toasting myself with a glass of Champagne that I bought on sale at K&D Wines in NYC (see below - you should too!) and opened the good old-fashioned way. Not with a saber. Cheers!

Monday, June 28, 2010

Berry Bloody

Last night's episode of True Blood had a lot going on. Bill revealed more of his past through his dreams. Franklin made Tara's "acquaintance" and then later presented Jessica with a decapitated a shopping bag. Alcide made his first appearance. Lafayette got a bonus. And yet, I was still thinking about the multi-course blood dinner at Russell's mansion last week. BTW did you notice the cut crystal double old fashioned glass that Bill was drinking his blood out of this week? Fancy shmancy. I guess that's how the King of Mississippi (or more likely his opinionated gay partner, Talbot) rolls!

It was also 18 million degrees this weekend so the only thing that I could think to make in honor of the show was some blood sorbet (instead of the blood gelato
from last week's ep), until I realized that you need an ice cream maker to do so. Which I don't have. Blood granita will have to do. (And by blood, I just mean red. I'm not that literal.)

All you have to do is make a simple syrup, puree some fruit, strain out the teeny tiny seeds, mix it all together, freeze, and then...voila! A cool refreshing treat, not unlike a snow cone or shave ice...but way better. Fruitier. I even think that Talbot would approve. If I served it in cut crystal bowls.

Berry Bloody Granita

1 pound fresh strawberries, hulled and cut in half
6 ounces fresh raspberries
1 cup water
1/2 cup sugar
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

1. Place the berries into a blender or food processor and puree until smooth. Pass the berry puree through a fine mesh strainer into a medium bowl.

2. In a small saucepan, combine the water and the sugar and cook over moderate heat, stirring, just until the sugar has dissolved. Stir in the lemon juice and let the sugar syrup cool.

3. Add the sugar syrup to the berry puree and stir to combine. Transfer the mixture to a 13 x 9 x 2-inch nonstick metal baking pan and freeze just until ice crystals begin to form around the edge of the pan, about 30 minutes. Using a fork, scrape the ice crystals into the center of the pan. Continue to freeze the granita for about 2 hours, scraping the ice crystals into the center every 30 minutes, until the granita is fluffy and icy. Transfer the strawberry granita to bowls and serve. Alternatively, cover the granita tightly with foil until ready to serve. The granita can be made up to 2 days ahead. Let it stand at room temperature for 10-15 minutes, then scrape the granita with a fork until it is fluffy to serving. Makes about 4 cups.

Friday, June 25, 2010

The Art of Sabrage

Have you ever seen anyone saber a bottle of Champagne before (it's the noble art of sabrage to you Francophiles out there)? In person? Me neither. That was the WOWW moment at a food and wine event I attended last week at Bouley to help launch a new DVD series called The Everyday Guide to Wine. Towards the end of the night our host, Master of Wine Jennifer Simonetti-Bryan, grabbed a jeroboam of Champagne and her trusty saber, and in one fell swoop sliced off the top of the bottle. It was pretty rad. Why don't I have a trusty saber??? Probably because sabering a bottle of Champagne can be really dangerous if you don't know what you're doing. By the way, a jeroboam is a 3 liter bottle of Champagne (aka a Double Magnum) or in layman's terms, a bottle containing the equivalent of 4 standard sized bottles of bubbly. In other words, it's a big ass bottle. Wait a second. Now that I think about it, we never actually drank from that giant bottle. Where did it go?!? Did the staff drink it? Maybe there wasn't actually anything in it. Hmmm...


Anyhoo, The Teaching Company recently published this new educational DVD, a series of 24 half-hour lectures about wine, one of hundreds of courses available through The Great Courses. Looking through the syllabus, it's not unlike how my WSET advanced certification class at the International Wine Center was structured, but without the anxiety of a final exam or the price tag of a 16 week course. And you can go at your own pace, inviting friends over to "study" together.

The Teaching Company put on a great event at Bouley where, aside from the sabrage, we were treated to a four course food and wine tasting. I had never been to Bouley before so when I walked in, the vaulted ceilings made me feel like I was in a wine cave. It was the perfect venue.

The Cave aka Bouley.

The tasting evolved in typical fashion from light to full bodied wines, a Sauvignon Blanc to a Cabernet Sauvignon, paired with complimentary foods. You can see from the menu below what we tasted, in addition to roasted Long Island duckling with spring garlic and almond broth which was paired with the Pinot Noir, and a 2007 Caymus Cabernet Sauvignon which was paired with a dry aged prime beef, glazed bone marrow, and red wine sweet onions (both dishes cut off from my menu photo). Delish. Everything was delish.

The tasting least part of it.

Last bite of the skate. The fish, not the winter sporting good.

I'll never be able to cook like David Bouley or be a super taster like Jennifer Simonetti-Bryan, but I'm pretty confident that I could put together a decent meal with complimentary wines. At least I'm pretty sure my buds wouldn't say no if I invited them over for food and drink. And with The Everyday Guide to Wine I'll have a great point of reference for my future wine endeavors. But only wine endeavors that don't include a saber. For that I'll just have to stick to DVDs of Star Wars and light sabers.

Red red wiiiiiiine. Thank you, UB40. That song will never leave my head.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Oh Sookie

Chilled carbonated blood with a citrusy finish. Warm blood bisque infused with rose petals. Blood gelato. (My post has nothing to do with Snoop D-O-Double-G. I just like the title of his latest music video.) True Blood is stepping up their culinary game and I'm still on cruise control. If this were Top Chef, I'd be packing my knives. But at least now I'm inspired for next week. (Hey Mario! Blood gelato! I've never seen that on the menu at Otto.) In the meantime, enjoy my True Blood red pepper pasta with lots of garlic or a little, depending on whether you are trying to attract Eric or repel him. I know that I for one will be reducing my garlic intake.

Red Pepper Rigatoni

(Adapted from Marcella Hazan)

2 large red bell peppers
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 - 4 peeled garlic cloves
1/8 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes, optional
1/2 pound dried pasta (such as rigatoni)
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
Fresh basil leaves, torn into small pieces

1. Cut the peppers in half lengthwise and discard the seeds, pulpy core, and stems. Peel the peppers with a vegetable peeler and then cut lengthwise into strips about 1/2-inch wide, then cut crosswise into 2-inch strips.

2. Place a large saute pan over medium-high heat and add the olive oil and 4 garlic cloves. Cook until the garlic is golden brown, 3-4 minutes, then remove and discard it. (Alternatively, mince 2 garlic cloves and add after step 3.)

3. Add the peppers to the hot pan and cook, stirring frequently until soft, about 15 minutes. Add the minced garlic and red pepper flakes, if using, and cook for 2 minutes. Add salt to taste, stir, and then turn off the heat.

4. Meanwhile, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the pasta and cook according to package directions, until al dente. Gently reheat the peppers and then add the drained pasta, butter, and cheese. Remove from the heat and toss with the basil. Serve immediately. Serves 2 generously.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Ice Ice Baby

Last week I took a cooking class at the Institute of Culinary Education with my fabulous friends, Chad and Julie. I've taken classes at ICE a couple of times before (Thai cooking, cheese and wine pairing...) since they offer a ton of recreational courses. On Friday night we opted for The French Steakhouse...for obvious reasons (see photos below!) and because Chad and I had been talking about taking some meat centric classes (fortunately Julie agreed with the theme). I've always wanted more experience cooking meat since a.) I live alone so never buy large cuts of meat and b.) I live in a small space, NOT a particularly high-heat cooking friendly environment, as searing or grilling meat instantly sets off the smoke detector and the lingering smell of smoke lasts for at least a week. So, I took a class.

Our class of 16 broke into 3 groups in order to complete our vast menu. The one common recipe among the groups was the Pommes Anna (though some burned theirs...) but beyond that, the remaining recipes were unique to each group. Group #1 (ours!) made Celeriac Remoulade, Huitres Mignonette (oysters with a sherry-shallot sauce), the aforementioned Pommes Anna, and Onglet Bordelaise (hangar steak with red wine sauce). Don't ask me how to pronounce any of that. Not even the English words.

How did it all go down? I would call it organized chaos. But once everyone figured out what to get started on, peeps seemed to relax into their assigned tasks. Our leader, Chef Sue, was a calming presence despite the shouts from across the room. "CHEF! CHEF SUE! SUE! SUE! SUE! SUUUUUE!" She was able to attend to everyone and, according to her, we all finished in record time. (More time to eat!
) Chad, Julie and I decided that we would revisit some of our favorite recipes and remake them together at home. And by home I mean Chad's.

Chad musseling an...oyster. He shucked them all. Good job, Chad!

Oyster close-up. Lacking focus. Too. Hungry.

Frisée aux LARDONS! Nuff said.

Butchering the onglet. That's hangar steak to you and me.

Grillin' & chillin'.

Tasty morsels of beef.

Potatoes that I sliced on the mandolin. (That's a mandolin with a sharp blade, not a mandolin from the lute family.) I managed to keep all of my digits intact.

Another group's Pommes Anna. (My group's PA might have been accidentally burned...and I might have been partially responsible.)

Meat fest 2010!

Pile o' French food.

Profiterole with ice cream and chocolate sauce.

Sliced celeriac relaxing in some acidulated (lemon) water.

Remoulade deconstructed.

Celeriac Remoulade

1 1/2 cups mayonnaise
3 tablespoons capers, drained and chopped
3 tablespoons chopped cornichons
1 tablespoon chopped chives
1 tablespoon chopped chervil
1 tablespoon chopped tarragon
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1 teaspoon anchovy paste
Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
3 – 4 dashes Tabasco
1 pound celery root, peeled and julienned (keep in acidulated water until ready to use - see photo above)

1. In a large bowl, combine the mayonnaise, capers, chives, chervil, tarragon, mustard, anchovy paste, salt, pepper, Worcestershire sauce, and Tabasco.

2. Drain the celeriac well. Add to the remoulade sauce and toss gently until lightly coated. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Guarded by Garlic

So did you catch the True Blood Season 3 premiere last night??? It was awesome! Fabulous bloggers, Wendy and Stacy, came over to hang out and to watch the awesomeness unfold. Even more awesome? Wendy brought me my new stake necklace just in time to wear at our personal premiere party! She revealed the new necklace design just in time for the show. (I love that the photo of Eric on her blog features him wearing a similar necklace.)

I didn't really plan my True Blood menu (at all), so the only thing linking the recipes below happens to be garlic. It's in everything. (Sorry, ladies. I hope peeps didn't have to move far away from you at the gym today!) According to folklore, garlic was used to keep vampires away. According to Google, it repels mosquitos. But after watching last night's episode, we'd really, really rather not keep Vampire Eric away.

Garlic Bread

(Adapted from Food & Wine)

4 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
6 large garlic cloves, thickly sliced (about 1/4 cup)
4 thyme sprigs
1 rosemary sprig
Coarse sea salt
1 baguette, halved and split lengthwise
Pimentón de la Vera (smoked Spanish paprika), optional

1. Preheat the broiler. Heat the butter and oil in a small skillet over medium heat. Add the garlic, thyme, and rosemary and cook over moderately low heat, stirring occasionally, until the garlic is softened and lightly golden, about 10 minutes. Discard the herb sprigs. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the garlic and any loose herbs to a small bowl and mash to a paste. Season the garlic-herb paste with salt.

2. Spread the baguette with the garlic-herb paste, brush with the melted butter left in the skillet, then sprinkle with salt. Season lightly with smoked paprika, if using. Broil the bread for about 1 minute, or until sizzling and browned. Serve hot.

Eggplant, Garlic & Feta Dip
(Adapted from Food & Wine)

2 (1-pound) eggplants
3 tablespoons chopped flat-leaf parsley
2 large garlic cloves, minced
Salt and freshly ground pepper
4 ounces feta, crumbled (about 1 cup)
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
Pita chips

1. Preheat the oven to 425°F. On a baking sheet, roast the eggplants, turning once, until they are very soft and blackened, about 1 hour. Let cool.

2. Cut the eggplants in half lengthwise. Using a spoon, scoop the pulp into a strainer. Let drain for 10 minutes, shaking the strainer occasionally.

3. On a work surface, finely chop the parsley with the garlic. Transfer the eggplant pulp to a food processor and pulse until chopped. Add three-fourths of the parsley mixture, and season with salt and pepper and pulse just until blended. Transfer the eggplant to a bowl and stir in three-quarters of the feta and 2 tablespoons of the oil. Sprinkle with the remaining parsley mixture and feta, drizzle with the remaining olive oil and serve. Serve with pita chips or crusty bread. Makes about 2 cups.

Mediterranean Couscous and Lentil Salad
(Adapted from Gourmet)

1 cup lentilles du Puy (French green lentils) or brown lentils
3 tablespoons white-wine vinegar
1 1/4 cups water
1 cup couscous
1/2 teaspoons salt
5 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 large garlic clove, minced and mashed to a paste with 1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup finely chopped fresh mint, parsley, or basil leaves (or a mixture of all)
2 cups vine-ripened cherry tomatoes, halved
4 ounces feta, crumbled (about 1 cup)

1. In a small saucepan, simmer the lentils in water to cover by 2 inches until tender but not falling apart, 15 to 20 minutes. Drain well. Transfer the hot lentils to a bowl and stir in 1 tablespoon of the vinegar and salt and pepper to taste. Cool the lentils completely, stirring occasionally.

2. In a saucepan bring the water to a boil and add the couscous and salt. Remove the pan from the heat and let the couscous stand, covered, 5 minutes. Fluff the couscous with a fork and transfer to a large bowl. Stir in 2 tablespoons of the oil and cool completely, stirring occasionally.

3. In a small bowl whisk together the garlic paste, remaining 2 tablespoons vinegar, remaining 3 tablespoons oil, and salt and pepper to taste. Stir the lentils and dressing into the couscous. Chill, covered, at least 3 hours and up to 24.

4. Just before serving, stir in the remaining ingredients and season with salt and pepper to taste. Serves 6.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Bleeding Love

Just getting ready for the season 3 premiere! I'll have some new recipes by tomorrow but in the meantime, check out my past True Blood posts here, here, here, and here.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Cool It

I made sure to do an hour of cardio before going to brunch at Cafe Luxembourg yesterday because I planned on ordering the burger. That was until I heard that the special of the day was a grilled prosciutto, gruyere, and caramelized onion sandwich extravaganza. With fries. Um. Yes, please. I will have to try to recreate it at home one of these days. Without fries.

In the meantime it was too hot and muggy to make much of anything else later in the day (and I was still pretty full anyway) but for some reason I decided that I needed to make a childhood dessert fave. Because that's healthy. And no-bake, so perfect for summer.

This is the kind of assembled dessert that I grew up on. I've never liked pudding, but somehow the lady fingers and Cool Hwip (the original recipe calls for store bought whipped topping) make it ok. And that fluorescent green color that comes to life when you add the milk to the powdered pudding mixture? How could you not love it? The original recipe is double the size of the recipe below, so fits in a standard 9 x 13-inch pan (in case you decide to make a double batch for a late night snack), but I found it extremely difficult to find enough of both the lady fingers and the pistachio flavored pudding in NYC (and I don't really need to eat an entire ginormous dessert) so I cut the recipe in half.

You could make this with any flavor of pudding, and actually make it from scratch, but that would sort of miss the point, wouldn't it? If you want something a little more gourmet, make tiramisu. Otherwise go for the green. And Cool Hwip.

Pistachio Delight

1 (3.4 ounce) package pistachio flavored instant pudding
1 1/2 cups cold milk
8 ounces heavy cream
2 tablespoons sugar
1 (3 ounce) package lady fingers
1/4 cup chopped pistachios

1. Prepare the pudding in a large bowl according to the package directions, except using only 1 1/2 cups of milk. Set aside.

2. In a medium bowl, using an electric mixer (or whisk) whip the heavy cream and sugar on medium-high speed until soft peaks form, about 5 minutes. Add half of the whipped cream to the pudding and stir to combine.

3. Split the lady fingers and layer half in the bottom of a small casserole dish (approximately 7 x 10.5"). Cover with half of the pudding mixture. Repeat with the remaining lady fingers and pudding mixture. Top with the remaining whipped cream and garnish with the pistachios. Make at least two hours before serving. Serves 6.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Oatmeal (Cookie) Pancakes

For someone who claims to not like pancakes, this, my fourth post on the subject, suggests otherwise. But then again, it also means that I've made pancakes only four times in a year. It hardly compares to my consumption of French Fries - something that I eat all the time but never actually make.

While hanging with one of my best my buds, Sarah, (and fam!) in New Hampshire this weekend, we made quite a few tasty meals, including a breakfast featuring some amazing local BACON(!) and a stack of oatmeal blueberry pancakes. (Fortunately we feature an oatmeal pancake recipe in The Ski House Cookbook. The book's not just for winter, people!) I would have been happy with just the bacon, but I guess when you have kids you're supposed to try to make a more complete meal. But what do I know?

Not much apparently. I made the same pancakes when I got home, except that instead of adding some nutritious blueberries...I added chocolate chips! I didn't have any blueberries and I'm pretty sure that dark chocolate has antioxidants too, so what's the diff? It was kind of like eating an oatmeal cookie for breakfast. That's healthy, right?

Oatmeal Pancakes

1/2 cup old-fashioned rolled oats
1/2 cup whole wheat flour
2 tablespoons wheat germ
2 tablespoons light brown sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon (optional)
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 large egg, lightly beaten
1 cup milk
Unsalted butter
Chocolate chips or blueberries (optional)

1. In a large bowl, whisk together the oats, flour, wheat germ, sugar, baking powder, cinnamon, and salt. Whisk in the egg and milk just to combine.

2. Heat a large nonstick skillet or griddle over medium heat. Brush lightly with butter. When the skillet is hot, pour in 1/4 cup batter to the griddle for each pancake, leaving room for the pancakes to spread. Sprinkle pancakes with chocolate chips or blueberries, if using. Cook until small bubbles appear on the surface and the bottoms are set, 2 - 3 minutes. Flip the pancakes and finish cooking through, about 1 minute more. Repeat with the remaining batter, adding more butter to the pan as needed. Serve immediately. Makes 10 (4-inch) pancakes.