06 October 2009


To the loyal friends who still check to see if I've tapped anything into the blogosphere: hang on, something new and better is coming.

Heresy! I hear you roar. And true enough, I could never improve on the quality and caliber of my collaborators: Angela, Erin, and my original globe-trotting partner-in-crime Aleks (alias Cinnamon Jones, Tsinamin Djonz). Thank you very much ladies for eating everything from the ultimate chocolate chip cookies, Mexican breakfasts, and naan bread in Kabul. Your appetites have enriched us all.

Yet all by my lonesome in London, and out of deference to the fact that I cannot replace the original Girl Who Ate Everything (will have to fire my researcher for that embarrassing branding clash!), a new opportunity has emerged. No hints, though. You'll have to wait and find out.

Borough Market Resilient

Fear no more: Borough Market is alive and well despite construction on the historic site. Network Rail has begun work on a new train line into London Bridge station, which will close the old market hall for at least two years. Vendors in that location have been redistributed primarily to the new Jubilee Market, located in the formerly barren space on Winchester Walk between the wholesale market and The Rake pub.

The future of the market seemed in jeopardy as the forced relocation of these stalls, comprising about a third of all vendors, occurred at the same time as a rent increase. Concerns still exist that the Network Rail Thameslink project, which demolishes a few surrounding buildings, will over-gentrify the area and cause the market to lose its Dickensian character.

Yet the hungry hoards still descended and thronged the market stalls these past couple weekends since the move. Confusion has been eased by new information stands that direct customers to the new location of their favorite vendors. Since the Jubilee Market is around the corner from the rest of the market it remains undiscovered by some market-goers and is less crowded even on a Saturday afternoon.

Borough Market is one of London’s most famous foodie destinations comprising both a wholesale market for fruits and vegetables that occurs every night (except Saturday) and a specialty food bazaar open to the public Thursday through Saturday. Its origins can be traced back 1,000 years to when the Romans first built London Bridge.

This will be sent to the ilovemygrub.com team as part of an application to be their intern - and try to spin this food writing gig into the realm of paid professionals.

06 July 2009


Hullo from Cheery England!

These past three years, under Marcus' careful tutelage, I have been learning to enjoy fish again. Ever since a fateful fish sticks snack 16 years ago, I have avoided any sea life. Yet as I grew older and more curious in my eating (and let's face it, there's no where to go but up after considering frozen fish sticks and ketchup a lunch par excellence), I knew I had to face my fears. Yogurt is still another story for another time.

Happy am I to report that Haddock has now been added to the list of fish I eat! Saturday Marcus introduced me to Borough Market, London's premier wholesale market also open to the public certain days. It's already become my new Chelsea Market, my London replacement for the place I loved best in NYC.

Fish! is a Borough Market establishment already thoroughly documented in the foodie press for its high quality fish exquisitely cooked. Skip the indoor market and stand in line to buy fish and chips more cheaply at the outdoor stand. Haddock and cod are always offered, but other varieties of fish may be possible according to seasonality and availability.

The Haddock fish and chips tasted like butter, exquisitely delicate as it melted on my tongue. The tartar sauce was nice but not necessary. The thick-cut chips were undersalted to my tongue, but salt and vinegar (and yes, ketchup) are there to season to taste. Another British standard, mushy peas, tasted of my grandmother's Pennsylvania Dutch split pea soup except thicker.

If you're in London I can't recommend the place more heartily! Have you got any other food treasures in London or greater Britain? I've just moved here and look forward to your thoughts!

23 May 2009

Declaration on How To Eat Avocados

Wherefore: I love recipes that set us free to be our own creative geniuses in the kitchen.

Whereas: Organic avocados at Whole Foods come in a bag of 4 for $4

Whereas: Guacamole should not be a beautiful mystery strictly confined to Mexican restaurants

I do hereby resolve: All that is needed to make avocados go from good to spectacular is

1) salt
2) acid
3) onion

Therefore these truths becomes self evident:

- Classic Mexican: salt, lime, chopped white or yellow onion
- Italian Iconolast: salt, lemon, chopped garlic (which is a member of the onion family, Alliaceae)
- French Flair: salt, sherry (or red wine) vinegar, finely sliced shallots

10 May 2009

James Beard Foundation Awards 2009

Attending the JBF Awards was a dream come true, and I've been walking around in a trance ever since. Still, I was determined to pay homage to the experience, better late than never.

May 4 saw the peacock's plummage of the food world arrive at Lincoln Center. It was fun, slightly glamorous, and the odor of desperation permeated the awards hall like crushed garlic from a kitchen. JBF President Susan Ungaro hammered home a message to resounding applause:

"We are going to cook, dine and drink our way out of these tough times"

Here, here for more hedonistic pleasures in our lives!

My hosts for the evening were the thoroughly charming Mireille Guiliano of French Women Don't Get Fat, and Dr. Edward Guiliano, President of the New York Institute of Technology. They met in Istanbul, which is why I know their love is the enduring kind. All couples I know whose stories revolve around Istanbul remain happily in love even decades after the fact, celebrating anniversaries in the high double digits with fountains spouting champagne. But fill me with as much good wine as they did and I'll make grand proclamations for your love too...

A predictable hour late after a long awards ceremony, the magic of the food at the VIP dinner had evaporated under too many heat lamps, but there were some notable exceptions.

The cheese course was truly extraordinary for its quality and gutsy simplicity. No crackers, no fruit or other accoutrements to distract from the bliss of complex flavors that can be coaxed from simple dairy. Thank you bacteria!

Kunik from Nettle Meadow Farm,

Laurier from Vermont Butter & Cheese (my favorite, a chalky goat named for its laurel leaf wrapping),

Blanca Bianca from Mozzarella Company, and

Kirkham's Lancashire from Rocca Family Vineyards.

Debbie Gold's (The American Restaurant, Kansas City, MO) cured bone marrow on mustard croutons with parsley and ramps punched up the flavor, as did Lidia Bastianich's (no introduction necessary I presume) herb crumb encrusted veal cheeks with spring begetables and quinoa salad. Looking back, it makes sense that the only dishes whose flavor survived the evening's delays were those with plenty of fat.

Best blow-by-blow account of the evening can be found on New York Magazine's website's Grub Street.

As a Barnard woman and youngun to the food world, I appreciated this year's theme honoring women in the culinary scene, be they chefs, writers, bartenders, artisans, or sommeliers. Let's hear it for women not only surviving but redefining a man's world - requisite jokes about a woman's place being in the kitchen and all.

06 May 2009

Not a very good photo

Not a very good photo (this is the end of my 4-year-old digital point and shooter), but this is the magnificent pici with fennel and cinnamon sausage and caramelized brussel sprouts. Falai's pasta is all made in-house, and these pici had the most delightful springy, light yet simultaneously dense texture.

Best Burger in NYC

Today's New York Times highlighted a group of men in New York City dedicated to discovering and rating the city's best burgers.

I applaud their efforts, but should point out that they missed the beauty of a homemade burger. Having eaten at Peter Luger (their #1), Burger Joint (#6), and Genesis (#8), I can say unequivocally that my boyfriend's Marcus' burgers are the best, and I am proud to have played the crucial role of meat purchaser.

The best burger of my life (pictured) was made of a combination of ground pork, veal, and grass-fed beef bought at the meat counter in Grand Central (Ceriello Fine Foods). Marcus mixed this with an egg or 2, a sizeable grated onion, a bit of panko bread crumbs, and salt and pepper. These were cooked to perfection on top of the stove, and finished under our oven's broiler to melt a good chunk of New York State-sourced cheddar. On top of that went a slice of thick-sliced bacon from our butcher at Eli Zabar, a good slice of tomato, and beautiful lettuce. I forget what sauces we used... Was it a homemade mayonnaise or the reduced-fat stuff lurking in the fridge? A bit of mustard. Perhaps some ketchup or Pio Pio's addictive green sauce. All this on Eli Zabar's brioche hamburger buns, toasted. Despite all this luxurious shopping, we still paid less per burger than the typical $10+ charged in restaurants.

Served alongside was a coleslaw of red and savoy cabbage and carrot, sauced with that magical verdant liquid from Pio Pio again (couldn't resist, not strictly necessary), vinegar, olive oil, dijon mustard, crushed garlic, and a bit of salt and pepper. Not bad at all, especially on a warm day.

01 May 2009

Falai: Best of NYC

Falai serves the top Italian food in NYC, so extraordinary that it would hold its own as a top restaurant even back in Rome (hometown to its chef and waitstaff - and me).

The only problem remains its out-of-the-way location in the Lower East Side at 68 Clinton Street (although it is an interesting, gentrified yet gritty neighborhood).

Three visits over as many years reveal consistent high quality, seasonal, imaginative dishes. Exceptional service reminds me of my old haunts in Rome where waiters approached their job as a profession if not a calling. Their wine list is excellent too, full of small Italian producers focusing on region-specific grapes and sustainable agricultural practices.

Best flavor combinations of the night:

Fennel and cinnamon sausage with pici.

Granny Smitch apple, curried potato, squid ink black rice with olive oil and herb-marinated baby octopus tentacles.

An omniverous wine (mostly verdant, bits of animal, and slightly mettalic) from Puglia. Very smooth and well-balanced, it actually reminded me more of a French wine than Italian.

Cacc'e Mmitte di Lucera of Alberto Longo 2005

It's a blend of Nero di Troia, Montepulciano and a white variety, Bombino Bianco

30 April 2009

Favorite Food Blogs

The UK's Times Online posted a list of "50 of the world's best food blogs". I chose to view the ommission of my own blog as an oversight. There's always next year to correct the mistake...

In the meantime, I love to patronize the blogs of fellow "food enthusiasts" as Matthew Wexler would say. (Matthew has a new blog called Roo de Loo).

Here are a couple that didn't make the list but should.

  • My favorite is Ms. Glaze's Pommes D'Amour; she's so damn readable. A graduate of gay Paris' Le Cordon Bleu by way of Cornell University, she's a pedigreed chef in a fancy New York restaurant. Her personal life, the travels to and from Paris, her native California, and new home in New York, and beautiful recipes all feed into the strong narrative of a girl trying to make it in the man's world that is the world's top restaurants. It could be turned easily into a novel, TV show, or movie (revealing her Cali show biz instincts?), and I read it as such for its feeling of escapism.

  • Tea and Food is more of a mixed bag as it's sometimes more preachy than pleasurable, but I do love how it often showcases out-of-the-mainstream ingredients. His Boston focus also means that he sometimes has food stories I haven't come accross before. The bottomline is that I keep on coming back for more, which is the ultimate mark of a good blog.

Twitter Cookbook Magic

Although I've resisted the Twitter bug, I succumbed to the charms of this New York Times article by Lawrence Downes.

Maureen Evans, a British Columbian living in Belfast, condenses a range of interesting, complex recipe into the 140 character formula of Twitter. As Downe writes, they read like haiku, teensy gems, or Faberge eggs. It's a brilliant food writing innovation, especially when there's a certain sameness to all the prose written out there (a critique I apply to my blog as well).

Find the link to her Twitter page here.

Samples recipes:

Chevre-Pomegranate Portobellos: stem/oil 4shrooms; stuff w 8T chevre/s+p. Wrap w 4pce prosciutto (opt). 25m @375F/190C. Top w pomegranate.

Brown Dal: fry T oil/t cumin; +c onion/2t garlic&ging&chili&curry. Simmer20m+c brwnlentil/3c h2o. Blend+2T lemon&buttr. Srv w cilantro/rice.

New Eggplant Parmesan: cvr3tom/s+p/3T wine@low7m; puree. Slice/oil2eggplant; 15m@400F/205C. Dip w egg/crumb&s+p. Broil+c parm. Srv on puree.

Surprisingly intelligable, no?

29 April 2009

Sam's Falafel

Just off Broadway on Cedar Street, way down at the tip of Manhattan near Wall Street stood the largest line for falafel I've seen in a good while. Naturally, I dragged a friend and went to try it. 20 minutes later, sandwich bag in hand and out of lunch break time, we had to bolt back to the office.

Sam's Falafel is no amateur. He hands out fried pita chips to keep us waiting in line (wedges of nearly stale pita that still held the nice granular texture inherent to grain, and the taste not of salt but of well-salted dough). What's more, for a $3 sandwich, it's hard to go wrong.

While perhaps not the best I've ever had (and in fairness, I've eaten a lot of falafel in my day, in many countries), this one was both credible and delicious. The falafel was toothsome and freshly fried, doled out in a generous portion. The chickpeas constituting it were coursely pureed and well seasoned. I especially enjoyed the addition of slices of fried eggplant, which were thick-cut and not too greasy. Sam's hot sauce is the spiciest I've ever come accross in Manhattan, which is a good thing! Instead of the fried onions, though, I would have prefered hummus or baba ghanoush to echo the fried eggplant slices. Worthy of a repeat? Definitely.

22 April 2009

BACKSTAGE PASS: Food Bank Can-Do Awards 2009

Food and celebrities united for a good cause made for a fine evening yesterday.

Since it was a glitzy fundraiser for the Food Bank For New York City attended by many consciously skinny people, the emphasis wasn't necessarily on the dinner. I, however, couldn't be so easily distracted and caught this appetizer waiting for CEO Lucy Cabrera in our volunteer's lounge. Without the benefit of a menu, I can only tell you that it was a breaded , fried jumbo shrimp on top of a bed of shredded carrot and a plantain crisp. Some sort of risotto formed the base. I appreciated the orange sauce on the plate, the official color of the Food Bank. I will have to dig deeper with my informants at the organization for the exact description.

For the main, a seared piece of white fish served alongside baby leak or a steak with potato purée was the choice. Neither looked particularly interesting, and I'm suspicious of the kitchen's ability to cook such finicky proteins for a few hundred people at a time. Fish and steak are so easily overcooked, and judging by the paste-y, wilted vegetables accompanying the meat, it was probably inevitable in this case.

At any fundraiser it's well recommended to keep the booze flowing in order to open up people's wallets. Can-Do did not skimp in this regard. Every moment of the 6pm-1am event featured not only an open bar, but roving waiters with wine and pre-mixed cocktails. The Food Network hosted a dessert buffet which I did not witness. Sweets never hold my attention. The accompanying champagne, however, I was sad to miss.

I enjoyed spotting Bill Clinton (who showed up at 11pm dead tired, not his usual self), Anthony Bourdain (doting heavily on his wife, Ottavia Busia), Mario Batali (the life of the party), Tom Collicchio, Anne Burrell, Susie Fogelson, Katie Lee Joel, Emeril Lagasse, Jimmy Fallon, Isaac Mizrahi, Kenneth Cole, Bono, and Jon Bon Jovi (the honoree of the evening). My more music saavy friends spotted various members of REM. Of course those are only the people recognizable to me. Check out the various paparazzi sites of the event for other famousity:

PR photos
Getty Images

Unfortunately no original photos from this photographer as I was working the event in an official capacity.

Which reminds me, I need a new camera for taking pictures of food - after 4 years of service this one isn't cutting it anymore. Any suggestions?

20 April 2009

Making Stock / Dancing with a bag of Peter Luger Cow Bones

I took my bag of Peter Luger steak bones out to dance at the Alphabet City Lounge after dinner. It was worth it, and it was surprising how little shame I felt in the act. Good meat will do that to me.

The ultimate payoff, though, was in the stock. With little more than the 2 T-bones of gnawed-on bones and half a large onion, I boiled up a delicious stock in just 2 hours.

There's a lot of pride in good homemade stock. I always feel a safe (and a little smug) knowing I have some in the fridge. It's the fact that it turns what would have been trash into culinary treasure.

The key, I've found, is to keep a sturdy container in the fridge or freezer for each prospective stock after a meal of meat on bones (chicken, beef, lamb, whatever). Then, as you chop up vegetables for other dishes as the week goes on, save the bits you would have thrown away (especially things like onion peels), and add them to the stock pile. Once the container's full, shove everything into a pot, cover with water, and simmer for as long as you can manage - 2 hours is just fine. Cool, strain into another container, and put it in the fridge (or freezer) until you need it. Magic!

19 April 2009

Peter Luger Steakhouse

First of all, thank you to the person who posted this exquisitely evocative photo of Peter Luger's facade on Flikr. Last Saturday was my second visit in as many years to the steak shrine - about the right frequency necessary to keep cardiac arrest at bay. Peter Luger is one of the few New York institutions that still garners respect. I've gotten yawns when bragging about multiple trips to 3 Michelin-starred Per Se, but everyone musters up some interest in Luger's extreme steak.

They cook only the Porterhouse cut, USDA Prime, selected by Luger staff, aged on premises for up to three weeks. After that, our waiter intimated, the stink isn't worth it. A real Porterhouse is a thing of beauty, the buffet of steak. The T-bone of our 4-person-sized steak stretched for half the table. The cut includes the New York Strip (my favorite for its texture and flavor), the filet mignon (could live without that - it's what non-meat eaters think of as good steak), as well as beautifully long strip of tenderloin. Eating a Porterhouse makes me want to apprentice to a good butcher.

I can cook an amazing steak (if I say so myself), but even my best effort looks wimpy next to a Luger's Porterhouse. Their crust sets it apart. It is crunchy, salty, and thick like a hand-made potato chip. Yet it doesn't compromise the rare meat inside.

The key is the oven. Heat inside reaches 1300˚F, according to our waiter. The crust's complex flavors emerge with no more coaxing than a good sprinkle of iodized table salt. It's the aging and quality of the meat that make the difference.

And their bacon! It's almost worth the schlep to Brooklyn in itself. Served as an appetizer, it comes as a thick-cut steak of ham with a minimum of fat marbling. Again, the searing gives it a great toothsome quality while preserving the meat's integrity.

I would hand over a ransom to learn who their bacon supplier is. Any ideas?

13 April 2009

Back after a cold winter's night

It's been a rough two weeks! I've made and consumed two chicken stocks to finally defeat a long and nasty cold that's been circulating around NYC and hit me twice.

The last stock I made was particularly good: made with the left-over bones from a dinner at Pio Pio, carrot, and garlic, and boiled for 2-3 hours over a low heat.

I like chicken soup with a base of finely diced carrot, onion, and red chili flakes, sauted in olive oil. A good homemade broth always makes me happy, as does filling out the soup with bite-size chunks of potato. Lemon and cilantro or parsley lift the flavor at the end. Rarely do I actually add chicken to the soup, prefering the essence and flavor in the broth to the actual meat. However, a chicken soup as described above with the addition of thigh meat and a bag of frozen corn kernals was a delicious treat worth repeating. Corn in chicken soup is a Pennsylvania Dutch specialty, and reminds me of the small town of Middletown, PA where my mother was raised.

29 March 2009

Portrait in a new (food) economy: Matthew Wexler

It can feel a little crushing if you're caught too close to the fall-out of this economy, like a bad hangover. This is why the effervescent spirits (the alka seltzers for this hangover) of those few entrepreneurs still emerging as if nothing's wrong capture my imagination.

One such character I met as he left his managerial job at the Food Bank For New York City's offices, just as I found my way in. Matthew Wexler has bid adieu to the 9 to 5 grind and immediately stepped into a new world of freelance work as a personal chef and marketer extraordinaire. More zen than brazenly confident, his fearlessness is centered on a desire for quality of life. He cares about being able to go to the Union Square Farmer's Market during the weekday so that he can meet the producers. He plans to spend time exploring the many niche Asian markets in Queens among the burgeoning immigrant populations. Most of all, he's going to enjoy himself.

He is associated with Good Commons, a eco-friendly, relaxation heavy, gastro retreat in Vermont. Guests can request him as their personal chef, lured by his promise to deliver comfort food with inspiration from around the globe. The owner, an old friend, actually inspired him to go to culinary school in the first place, and continued to be an inspiration as he kicked into gear his own, alternative career.

As I finish interviewing him, Matthew hands me his new card. It is brilliant, and I immediately want to steal the idea for myself: a substantially smaller him, grinning ear to ear with chocolate ringing his mouth, a greedy fist clenching what looks to be a glazed profiterole. Below the photo, a very simple job decription. Food Enthusiast.

Donate to the Food Bank

The state of the economy is such that it permeates every topic and every conversation, especially since I began to work at the Food Bank For New York City. They experienced a food shortage last year as wholesalers and grocery stores began tightening their belts, and this year donations are down.

If you're looking for a worthy cause to donate to, is a compellingly efficient charity. Nearly 96 cents out of every dollar donated goes directly to support their programs and provide food to 1,000 food bank, pantries, and soup kitchens around the city. For every dollar donated, 5 meals can be provided to New Yorkers in need. Donate here.

23 March 2009

How to get creative with the kitchen cabinet

A friend asked how I create meals on the spur of the moment with a limited pantry. It's a good question, one I've considered at length.

- Read lots of cookbooks, cover to cover.

- Get comfortable with basic techniques and recipes: risottos, soups, omelets, boiling water...

- Pay attention to classic flavor combinations. This is the surest way to ensure success when experimenting. Tomato and basil, pork and apple, and garlic and parsley to just scratch the surface. I'd love to hear readers' favorite combos.

- Most importantly, you can't be too hard on yourself, because ultimately it's a hit or miss endeavor. You'll get better at the techniques and flavors, but only if you get started in the first place. Here's a tip: never combine fig and blue cheese on top of pasta. Don't know what I was thinking that night!

19 March 2009

Pea Pesto!

A pasta aficionado like myself should not have waited so long to spread this gospel:

If it's winter or you don't have a garden full of basil, don't give in and buy the jarred stuff. It's always depressing compared to real Genovese pesto. Instead, make pea pesto!

Peas, parsley, onion, lemon. It all never tasted so good.

- put on a big pot of water to boil
- sauté finely diced yellow or Spanish onion in olive oil w/ salt & pepper until golden in another wide pot.
- pour in a pound bag of frozen peas (NOT sweet garden peas - too sweet for pasta), stir and break up until nearly cooked through on its own steam
- water should be boiling now (put a lid on it to hurry it up), salt well, and add a pound of your favorite pasta shape
- just before the pasta is done take up to 3/4 cup of the cooking liquid and pour it over the peas. Turn the pasta off.
- add a big handful of loosely chopped flat parsley, juice of 1-2 lemons, and a lot more salt and pepper to the mixture
- *special equipment notice* use a handheld immersion blender (or a food processor or regular blender in a pinch) to purée the pea mixture very well. Taste for seasoning.
- transfer to the pasta to the sauce with tongs or a slotted ladle (the bit of extra liquid is good for the sauce)
- serve pasta with a good snowfall of parmigiano reggiano and a bit more fresh, coarsely ground black pepper

18 March 2009

Flatbread 101: Bread that is Flat

I'm fascinated by making things from scratch as much as I can. It is my life's greatest tragedy that I live in New York City instead of on an organic farm on the Amalfi Coast or somewhere in Provence. Not even having the logistics for a window box really cramps my style, if you know what I mean. I've always wanted to learn to make truly great bread, but so far have been intimidated by the amount of counter space and time necessary.

Enter this wonderful recipe for flatbread found in the River Cottage Family Cookbook. Easily created within 45 minutes from start to wash-up (and 15 of those minutes you're resting), these taste better than anything I've had at any Lebanese or similar Middle Eastern restaurant.

Eat it naked and warm or with nearly any topping. Perhaps you'll like it with a homemade hummus: purée a drained can of chickpeas with a bit of sesame or olive oil or tahini and two very juicy lemons. Add parsley before you purée and garnish with chopped tomatoes to make it pretty. Or roll a flatbread around a salad of chopped tomato and cucumber (seeds removed), served with feta cheese (or any cheese like it), chopped parsley, a bit of red wine vinegar (or more lemon juice), and a bit of olive oil. Make a sandwich with a smear of hummus and top it with any leftover meat.

River Cottage Flatbread

To make 8:

- 1 and 2/3 cups all purpose or white pastry flour (plus extra for dusting work surface)
- 1 heaping teaspoon of salt
- 1 Tablespoon olive or sunflower oil
- 2/3 cup warm water

1) Sift the flour and salt into a mixing bowl. (Sifting means shaking through a fine-mesh sieve)

2) Add the oil in the measuring cup with the water and pour the liquid into the flour in a thin stream with one hand while using the other hand to stir it.

3) Form the flour and water into a soft ball of slightly sticky dough (you may have to add a little extra flour or water to get the texture right). Rub off any dough that sticks to your hands

4) Sprinkle flour onto a work surface and start kneading the dough by pushing the heel of your hand (where the palm meets the wrist) into the dough to stretch it. Fold it over, give it a quarter of a turn, and then stretch it again. If the dough starts to stick, simply sprinkle it with more flour. Keep kneading for 5 minutes, until the dough feels smooth and plump. Again, the longer and more aggressively you knead, the better the dough.

5) Cover the ball of dough with the upturned mixing bowl and let it rest at least 15 minutes (longer is better but not strictly necessary)

6) When ready, roll the dough into a sausage shape and divide into eight pieces. Flour the work surface again, and with a rolling pin, roll out the dough into a very thin round roughly the size of a small plate.

7) Get a frying pan very hot over a high heat, and then turn the flame down to medium-low.

8) Shake off excess flour from the rolled-out piece of dough and put it in the pan for about 30 seconds to a minute each side, until bubbles form. Roll out each piece of dough individually and cook one at a time.

09 March 2009

New Mexico: a menu

From Mexico to New Mexico. My 2 favorite New Mexicans put together a truly stunning dinner party this weekend. The food was killer, but what impressed me just as much was the concept. They created a symphony of a menu. Some people say success lies in writing what you know. I say, cook what you know. They certainly did, with a classic menu of enchiladas, rice, black beans, tomato and spinach salad (interesting: no dressing, and the better for it), and of course, Angela's famous chocolate chip cookies. Pay careful attention to this photo essay on assembling Frank's enchiladas. Note to us gringos: there's no tomato in enchilada sauce. Admittedly, he cheated a bit by using a prepackaged seasoning mix, but it consists mostly of paprika, chili, onion, and garlic. First fry the corn tortilla in a bit of oil, then submerge it in the sauce before assembling it in the pan. After each layer of tortillas, add a good handful of cheddar and asiago cheese (the mixture is crucial to my mind). Frank divulged that his enchiladas have become even better since he's doubled the amount of cheese. No surprise there.

04 March 2009

Eating seasonally is easy in Mexico City

Wednesday Thursday Friday Saturday Sunday
80° F | 42° F
80° F | 42° F
78° F | 46° F
80° F | 50° F
Scattered Clouds
80° F | 48° F
Clear Clear Clear Clear Scattered Clouds

03 March 2009

Mexico City, 16:01

March 3, 16:01

It's essentially an octopus and shrimp stew. So good. The crab was fried simply, topped with shallots and cilantro and served with very very thin tortillas. Truly excellent. And a simple tomato and basil salad to finish. I am satisfied!

Mexico City, 15:39

March 3, 15:39

The best yet: octopus and shrimp tacos. The seafood in a clinging, spicy deep red sauce, with slivers of avocado to give a little calm in the sloppy spicy delight. I never knew octopus could be so tender. My fried soft-shell crab just arrived. More later...

02 March 2009

Mexico City, 12:29

March 2, 12:29

Hello! I'm just sitting digesting a heartbreakingly good breakfast and thought I'd continue the updates! I just ate toasted local bread spread with refried beans and topped with melted cheese, served with a fresh tomato salsa. (Note: every country has its own version of cheese on toast). Carrot, beetroot, and papaya juice, and stunning coffee. In a huge atrium of a restaurant. Thinking more on the crab yesterday, I think you're right. Shrimp would have been better. There is nothing you can do with crab that's better than cracking it open and picking every last fibre of unadorned meat out, in my opinion.

01 March 2009

Mexico City, 22:59

March 1, 22:59

I received your email while eating dinner in the 55-year-old restaurant my driver insisted I come to instead of the 'nouvelle mexican' hipster bar I asked for. And I am glad! Just had more guac (I figure try it everywhere) which wasn't half as good. I like it lumpy, clay-like and with a surprise kick. This is sloppy and had too much lime juice in it, so the avocado becomes just a material, not a taste. But I guess everyone has their own recipe. They brought me fried cheese with salsa verde and tacos to diy - delicious - and I'm just tucking into a cheese-stuffed pepper topped with tom sauce. Good, not great. But the true winner here is the margarita. Served in what's essentially a shot glass, heady, sweet, almost creamily dense. Divine! I'm staying at the W and am saving some space for their molten- middle chocolate-chili cake when I get back. Mole sauce is top of my list but only seems to come with meat sadly. Anyway, shall eat before all is cold. Check out my hotel though. I have a hammock in my room. A HAMMOCK.

Mexico City Food Correspondent

Friend and fellow blogger extraordinaire, Erin Newby of O-Absalom, sends us dispatches from the Federal District's food scene. Unfortunately her camera's broken. Fortunately, she's a lyrical writer with a degree in English from Oxford under her belt. It really shouldn't be any problem to imagine these dishes. Her favorites, you will see, often center on guacamole, margaritas, and seafood. This is all a lead-up to a guest blog she will write upon re-entry in New York, so stay tuned!

March 1, 17:38

Just arrived and went for lunch at a place the concierge recommended. Amazing! Star was the zucchini flower quesadilla, along with the spicy, delicious guacamole, and there were also some wonderful crabmeat tacos that had been cooked in banana leaves. And a zesty, sweet margarita, or course!

22 February 2009

Polish Nostalgia

The lovely Nicole Galpern had me over for some Polish TLC after a meeting at Food and Wine Magazine. We bonded the first year of Barnard College over shared memories of Poland and its food. She's first generation New Yorker, with the luck to have been brought up in part by her wonderful housekeeper from Bialystok who cooked us this beautiful meal. The borscht was especially good - I'm hoping to get the recipe. I make a very simple version by cooking beets, and using the resulting liquid to boil chopped potato with salt, pepper, and a splash of vinegar. Sometimes I like to add a bit of ground coriander if I don't have fresh dill. Djenkuje bardzo!

Salads of the Non-Lettuce Kind, Winter Version

Spending my early childhood in Rome meant that my craving for delicious vegetables were constant. Yet the large portion of my life spent in Poland during nineties also taught me that vegetables are a purely seasonal affair. I had been thinking of life in post-communist Poland a lot these past couple months as the vegetable offerings at my markets began looking depressed. My mom used to make us salads of cabbage when she couldn't find anymore lettuce: slice very finely, dressed with olive oil, salt, pepper, dijon mustard, minced garlic, and red wine vinegar. If she had any parsley, that would go in too.

I finally broke out of my sulk about the lack of fresh, crisp veggies this winter when I remembered a classic: fennel and orange. Both are seasonal, and it's particularly nice with the blood oranges that I've been seeing in the markets since January. It's amazingly refreshing - a palate cleanser from all of winter's heavy dishes.

- 1 fennel bulb
- 1 blood orange
- good Extra-Virgin Olive Oil
- Sherry vinegar
- Maldon salt to taste (spectacular for its huge, textured crystals if you haven't tried it yet)
- fresh ground pepper to taste

Wash the fennel bulb, save the fronds, and peel the outside layer of the fennel bulb. Slice the bulb finely. Mince the fronds to use as a garnish. Peel and slice the orange into thin wedges. Combine it all in a bowl, squeezing the orange sections with your fingers as you toss to help it release some of its juices. Drizzle well with EVOO and the sherry vinegar, and toss again with plenty of salt and pepper, to taste.

Ray of Light Beef Tacos

I have decided that Tyler Florence is the only ray of light left on the Food Network. When I first started receiving cable TV two years ago, I spent hours on end watching all of Food Network's stars and their various shows, and felt impressed by the overall quality; I learned techniques, flavor combinations, and menu ideas. These days though, I am more inclined to agree with the gourmet food establishment's verdict that Food Network isn't an interesting foodie venue. Now that I have Bravo on my lineup of channels, I too will move on to the show, Top Chef. Food Network has stumbled by bringing on new faces with no aura of expertise (Ask Aida, and all those Next Food Network Star winners), repeating too much content from their established stars (Giada's gotten downright boring), and dumbing down their content rather than moving on to new heights for their more seasoned viewers.

So why do I still like Tyler Florence's show? He cooks recipes I'd like to eat, and always arranges the show into a cohesive menu that usually involves a challenging element - whether it's an unusual ingredient, or a new technique. I enjoy watching to see how he layers flavors in particular. This weekend Marcus and I cooked his ultimate beef tacos, which turned out sublimely. We made a double batch to last all weekend. Sear a salt and pepper-seasoned shoulder of beef in garlic infused oil, caramelize with Spanish onion slices, then cook down for almost 2 hours in a mixture of canned tomato and water (just enough to cover the beef) with bay leaves, red chili flakes, paprika, cumin, coriander - whatever looks good in your spice rack, really. This served alongside homemade salsa and guacamole was perfect. We didn't do the elote asado (grilled corn with cheese, lime, and chili powder) because it didn't look fresh at the market. I'll be good and wait until summer. With all this how could we choose anything else but a Negra Modelo cerveza to drink.

This isn't the first time TF has come through with excellent inspiration either - his brined pork chops with pan apple sauce is still a staple in my repertoire, and the perfect complement to my favorite original cocktail, the Apple Crisp.

11 February 2009

Hungry in Afghanistan with No Time to Cook?

Find out what the Expats in Kabul are eating: http://easyfood.af/

Someone's making brisk trade on Westerner's time and security concerns... $10 for an Afghan kebab? Really? The menus read like a middling airport's food court offerings, which makes sense if most of the food is imported.

Our Kabul Correspondent, a.k.a. Cinnamon Jones, keeps a stiff upper lip even when faced with these unpalatable options. She subsists on my all-too-infrequent care packages of Stumptown Coffee Roaster's Hair Bender beans that I can pick up from their Chelsea Market outpost. The true gourmand that she is, she brought out her own French Press and bean grinder among her limited luggage.

Here's why she likes it so much:

"Our Hair Bender is a complex espresso blend featuring coffee components from the three major growing regions of Latin America, East Africa, and the Pacific Rim... The aroma demonstrates floral notes of jasmine while the flavor is a combination of sweet citrus, milk chocolate and caramel."

06 February 2009


What’s your greatest kitchen mishap? I’m not talking about the unfortunately ubiquitous slivered finger, but the more dramatic events. Last night, in the midst of creating an amazingly complicated dinner, I managed to make my railroad-style kitchen so hot that the plastic exterior of my electric kettle melted into a solid block. This is the second electric kettle I’ve ruined in as many months (the last one I submerged in water while attempting to clean – apparently that’s a no-no).

One of my favorite mistakes, however, was arriving home after an epic night bartending to find Marcus and Frank sitting calmly in the living room, watching TV. Their Zen-like quality could only be fully appreciated seeing the thick film of vegetable oil they had managed to spread over the entire 450 square feet of our apartment. Apparently they had wanted steak frites, but never really knew how to fry on the stovetop. For weeks afterwards we walked on crunchy kosher salt, soaking up the remains. Our hardwood floors never looked so good.

David Tanis' North African Comfort Food

On a day when I had no idea what I wanted to eat, much less cook for a dinner party, Tanis' cookbook, A Platter of Figs, solved everything and let me create one of my best meals to date. I tweaked his menu to fit what looked good at the grocery store.

spiced carrot salad
warm chickpeas
chicken tagine with butternut squash
harissa oil
and although he recommends walnut cigars, which did look wonderful, we enjoyed a fantastic chocolate cherry cream cake brought by Erin instead.

The Recipes, Basically (with a bit of my own spin)

For the chickpeas

1 pound dried chickpeas, picked over and soaked overnight. The next day, drain them, and put them in a pot with 3 quarts of water along with an onion chopped in quarters, 1 cinnamon stick, a few cloves, a splash of olive oil, and some salt. Bring to a boil, and then lower to a simmer until the chickpeas are tender, about 1 hour. If you usually use canned beans, you'll notice this method produces meatier, more flavorful beans. Leave it to cool. You'll use the cooking water for the tagine. When the tagine's almost done cooking, reheat the chickpeas in whatever liquid's still in the pot. Drain, reserving the liquid for lubricating the couscous (if you want). Dress the chickpeas to taste with butter, cinnamon, salt, lemon juice, and chopped parsley.
For the tagine

Peel a 2 lb+ buttnernut squash (or any other winter squash like pumpkin), remove seeds, and chop into large slices. Season them all with salt, pepper, and ground cumin (toast and roughly grind the seeds yourself if you can. you know when they're toasted when they fill your kitchen with fragrance). Then season 2 lb+ of chicken legs (with thighs) with salt, pepper, fresh mashed ginger, and more ground cumin. Dice 3 large onions, and sauté them in a combination of olive oil and butter (2 Tb each), seasoning with salt. When golden, turn off the heat and add a large pinch of saffron (crumble between your fingers), and 6 sliced cloves of garlic. Season to taste with red chili flakes. Spread the onions in a bottom layer in a shallow earthenware casserole (but a glass one can work too), then top with the slices of squash. Arrange the chicken, skin-side up on top. Add 3-4 cups of the chickpea cooking liquid, barely covering the chicken. Cover the casserole (tin foil works), and bake for 30 minutes at 400˚F. Uncover, and cook at 375˚F until the chicken in golden brown on top.

** It's great vegetarian too. Simply omit the chicken and take 5-10 minutes off both ends of the cooking time.

harissa oil

Toast a tablespoon each of cumin, coriander, caraway, and fennel seeds (however I only had the first 2, and augmented it with sesame seeds) over medium heat until they are fragrant. With a pestle and mortar, smash 2 garlic cloves with a tsp of salt so that it forms a paste. Add the toasted seeds and grind them up. Add 3 Tb. sweet paprika, 1 tsp red chili flakes, a bit of red wine vinegar, and up to a cup of olive oil. Stir well. This keeps in the fridge for up to a week. Spoon the oil over the tagine, couscous, and chickpeas to taste while serving. It adds the essential North African spice kick.

spiced carrot salad

Take a bunch of beautiful, peeled carrots. Using a vegetable peeler, turn all the carrots into long curls. Season liberally with salt and pepper. Add 2 cloves of finely minced garlic. Add 2 tsp. each of toasted and ground cumin and coriander seeds. Season to taste with red pepper flakes, lemon juice, olive oil, red wine vinegar, and chopped parsley. Chill in the fridge until ready to serve.


Cook couscous according to the packet instructions. Or: toast it lightly in a large pan or pot, pour an equal amount of already-boiling water in the pan and stir while the couscous boils and asorbs it. Add more water as needed until the couscous is tender and fluffly, yet still has a nice bite. You may also want to cook the couscous in any left over chickpea stock!

** We're drinking an excellent Chilean Cabernet-Sauvignon: Veramonte, a 2006 Riserva from the Colchagua Valley. It's $11 at my wine store.

Homemade Crème Fraîche

I spent the day in the Strand Bookstore's cookbook section, reveling in the many, heavy shelves of food writing. While I wanted them all, I restricted myself to 3: David Tanis' A Platter of Figs, The River Cottage Family Cookbook, and James Beard's Fish Cookery (a bargain at $1!).

Each fulfilled a different desire. I stumbled on Tanis' book in a display, attracted by the appearance of 2 quotes from Micheal Pollan and Alice Waters on the cover. While I didn't know yet that Tanis was the other creative genius behind Chez Panisse, I certainly try to get my hands on anything by Alice Waters, and I am beginning to warm up considerably to Pollan's unique point of view on food. His cookbook really sold itself, though. Divided by menus, organized by season, I felt compelled and attracted to the book. I enjoy cooking the main plats de resistance, and this bias leaves me well aware of my short comings in planning complete, multi-course meals. Tanis provides ample inspiration with what Waters calls "incomparable menus, each a little masterpiece". That he included a simple recipe for making crème fraîche at home tipped me over the edge:

  • Heat 2 cups organic heavy cream, not ultrapasteurized, to just under a boil
  • Cool to room temperature
  • Stir in 1/4 cup plain yogurt or buttermilk
  • Transfer to a glass, ceramic, or stainless steel bowl and cover with a clean towel
  • Leave at room temperature for about 12 hours, until slightly thickened. For a tarter flavor, let it stand for 24 hours.
  • Cover well and store in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks

I only find useful those cookbooks that instruct how to make every single component from scratch - books following Julia Child's pioneering writing. Why would I need a book to tell me how to combine pre-made components? That takes all the fun out of it!

For that same reason I fell for the River Cottage cookbook. It's beautiful, whimsical, and focuses on the origins of all the ingredients. There's actually a chapter entitled "The Magnificent Potato" with a momumental photo of the baking variety on the opposite page. It also includes one of the most practical set of instructions I've found for making bread.

29 January 2009

Modern Taste of Charleston: Chef Aaron Deal of Tristan

(figure in far right, pondering)

My first taste of a James Beard Foundation dinner did not disappoint. It was intimate, lively, extravagant.

The appetizers packed the most lively punch of flavor:

- "Charleston She-Crab Soup with Parsnip Crème" with a thick texture that melted in the mouth. Served in espresso cups.

- Winter Radishes under a lemongrass vinaigrette served alongside a White Miso Sauce captured even veggie-phobic Marcus's attention. The radishes themselves were gorgeous. Two varieties of pure white and then (if I remember correctly) "watermelon radish", apparently named for its marbled fushia coloring. The miso sauce was very thick yet light, letting the radish stand on its own.

- Duck Confit with Organic Maple Syrup and Toasted Pecan stole the show. The maple syrup was complex and not too sweet - it had been aged in bourbon casks. It may have been the best duck I've ever eaten, which says a lot. Served on a crisp of polenta, with the duck confit shredded on top.

The butternut squash terrine beginning the meal was a little lifeless, but things picked back up with the "Kilroy was here" sparkling Shiraz (2006, Barossa) served alongside a nice if unimaginative beet and chèvre salad.

The white tuna was incredibly meaty, no doubt augmented in its punch by its envelope of pancetta. The accompanying Tahitian Vanilla Broth was delightful. Chef Deal's adeptness with meat was confirmed with his veal short rib, proving that even a notoriously delicate meat can stick to one's ribs (provided some form of bacon is involved). The wine pairing here was also good: Clarendon Hills "Sandown" Cabernet Sauvignon (2004, Clarendon). Smelled and tasted mostly of chlorophyl-rich grass.

Finally, the foie gras pot de crème defied this blogger's low expectations (as neither foie gras nor sweets are her favorite thing). Yet the foie gras was subtle and heightened by crunchy sea salt. The accompaniaments of Cashel Blue Cheese and pickled grapes (pickled for 3 weeks in a long list including red wine vineager, star anise, black pepper, and cloves) lifted it out of the sugar doldrums.

I feel an affinity to Chef Deal's palate: meaty goodness, crisp heirloom veggies, and a less is more attitude with sweetness. My good opinion of him was confirmed when I asked for his favorite cocktail.

"Grey Goose on the rocks"

Showing a certain similarity to Rachel Ray's answer to the same question, and the truism that a chef also must be an alcoholic on some level. I'm not sure if the inverse is true for me, however. My own taste for quality, straight liquor probably only signifies my rearing in Eastern Europe.

16 January 2009

Angela's Best Chocolate Chip Cookies

A guest article by Angela Williams, who makes chewy yet crispy chocolate chip cookies of a special magnificence. I especially like how the taste of salt emerges through the sweetness, and the depth of the dark chocolate. She may be a poet, but I'm trying to convince to make these cookies full-time. Enjoy!

The only reason I can think of that people like my cookies so much is due to the butter, salt, and quality of the chocolate chips. I use more butter than is advisable for human consumption. Not really, but to make four dozen chocolate chip cookies you have to stir in two sticks of butter (and I use salted even though unsalted saturates more of the flavor but I looove salted butter). In fact, salt is a necessary ingredient—salted butter and half a teaspoon of salt. It'll offset the sweetness of the granulated and brown sugar.

Next, the chocolate chip issue. Use quality chocolate. I use Ghiradelli's because its chocolate is the closest to gourmet. You can use Tollhouse or Hershey's, but let's face it, those are run-of-the-mill blah chocolate chips and most likely use bad, bad ingredients such as high fructose corn syrup (even regular corn syrup makes the chocolate heavy). You want to taste chocolate, not sweetener. If the chocolate doesn't match the dough's quality, you'll have an uneven cookie. I like to use milk chocolate chips but bittersweet is the best chip to satisfy everyone. That said, I think I made Christie and Marcus worship this particular batch of cookies because I specifically used dark chocolate (60% cocoa).

Last, always understand your oven and its settings. Never leave the cookies in for too long because then they'll dry out. If the recipe calls for 375 degrees (such as mine), then put your cookies in for 9-10 minutes only. The edges should be so lightly brown you can barely tell. The chewier the cookie, the yummier. And always, always hand mix! You'll get a much better texture and you'll burn calories, all at the same time. What could be better than that?

The Best Steak Sandwich

Last night we ate NY Strip Steak (my favorite cut for its big flavor and chewy texture) with oven toasted, rosemary and thyme-rubbed potato wedges. It tasted as good as it sounds. Today, however, I was blown away with the power of the leftovers, transformed into a steak sandwich.

First, as to the meat: I firmly believe that the only good-tasting meat is happy meat. Meat needs to be happy throughout its chain of being, meaning that it needs to be raised in reasonably clean and comfortable environment, slaughtered humanely, and cooked with the utmost respect. I got the four gorgeous examples in the picture from our butcher's at Gourmet Garage. I first let the meat become comfortable at room temperature, and sealed it up on both sides with a simple yet heavy seasoning of Maldon salt and fresh ground pepper. A smear of of extra-virgin olive oil on top helped it both brown in the oven and not stick to the pan. After the meat seemed relaxed and feeling good in its salt and pepper dressing (I let it sit out for maybe 45 minutes, which was fine in our cold winter apartment, but might not be recommended by food safety experts), I stuck it into a searing hot broiler, cooking it for about 3 minutes on both sides, to a nice medium rare. (I typically eat my beef on the bloody side of rare, but I was looking for something more like comfort-food this time) Crucially, it rested for at least 5 minutes while I was setting the table. This all resulted in extremely flavorful steaks. I served it with a dallop of compound butter (thyme, shallot, lemon juice, salt, pepper, unsalted butter) to smear into the meat. So simple.

Today the steak's punch of flavor was intensified as the compound butter had worked its way through the meat overnight.

I sliced the left-over steak up and toasted the remaining leg of yesterday's baguette. A smear of the aioli (garlic, salt, egg, and good oil, emulsified) kept everything moist and flavorful inside. On top of the steak went slivers of Castellano cheese (like an aged Manchego), and a handful of peppery and crisp arugula. It's the best thing I've tasted in a long time, if I may say so myself, and I highly recommend it. Now I just need a glass of Chianti to call it a meal...

15 January 2009

White House Chef: Walter Scheib

The James Beard Foundation is my new favorite organization. It's dedicated to excellence in American cuisine. Need I say more?

In addition to their famous dinners, they host a series called "Beard on Books", bringing in interesting food writers on a variety of subjects.

Today master storyteller Walter Scheib graced the upstairs dining room of the James Beard House with at least 40 audience members crammed in like anchovies in good olive oil. He kept us in cahoots with tales of the antics and sometimes strange palates of the Clinton and Bush families. W ruined one of his first state dinners by not knowing dining protocol; having rejected a far-too avant garde green soup, all of his guests had theirs taken away mid-bite. Scheib ran a mini cooking school for Chelsea Clinton prior to her first classes at Stanford. Pick up his book if you find politicians and/or food interesting. It's a thoroughly entertaining read, although I wish after hearing him today that there was an audiobook version.