Archive for December, 2009

Another Year in the Littlest Kitchen

December 22, 2009


On the second anniversary of The Littlest Kitchen, I get to fine tune the kitchen.  It’s functional, it’s cute, it works for me (or do I work for it?).  Yes, it’s small.  I truly wish that I had more storage for food, pots and pans, and appliances.  Given my natural hoarding tendencies, it may be a good thing to have limited space, especially in the refrigerator, a scienc project in the making.  

Kitchen 2.0 may finally take place next year, based on the accrual of more funds, and being decisive.  Maybe I’ll even finish putting up the vintage cabinet doors.  In planning the kitchen, I thought that all my plans were fixed and would be so for life.  Now, I’m not so sure.  I’ve learned to adapt and embrace change. Options are good, sometimes better than plan A, I’m open to it.  I want to keep evolving and keep cooking.

Reconsidering Cakes

December 15, 2009

I don’t consider myself a baker, at all.  Hence the lack of urgency to get an oven.  And, minding my figure, the last thing that I need to know is how to make cakes.  But, All Cakes Considered shows that one doesn not need to bake one’s cake and eat it too.

The beauty, and charm, of Melissa Gray’s All Cakes Considered is that it derives from baking a cake for her co-workers at NPR’s All Things Considered for a year.  Culling recipes from relatives and cookbooks old and new, there is a range of cakes for 50 weeks.  A learning process for the author, her instructions are clear and easy.  Makes me want to be the most popular person in my office.

Back to Reality

December 10, 2009


After going to Buenos Aires, a fantastic Thanksgiving, and the incredible Ko, I’ve come back to earth to start cooking from my hoarder file again.  I realized that I have cooked from Gourmet, only the recipes come from Epicurious, not the magazine.  I almost feel like I have blood on my hands, aiding in the print edition’s demise by drawing from the web.  But, it’s just so convenient.  Search for a recipe via an ingredient, such as celery, and voila!  You can hang on to it for three years and not even know that you have it, or remember printing it out.

I’m always looking for ways to use up a bundle of celery, this Celery, Sesame and Tofu Salad from the June 2006 issue of Gourmet, looked like a fresh alternative.  Finely sliced celery and thin strips of tofu in a sesame vinaigrette, what’s not to like?  I just wish that I liked it more.  It had no tooth, no traction, kind of bland.  Maybe it was the lack of flavoring, or the rawness of the tofu and celery which didn’t quite integrate.  A quick saute with a little black bean sauce, and I had it where I liked it.  Not so much a salad, but an improvement.

Living Up to Expectation

December 8, 2009

By luck, happenstance and good fortune, a friend scored a reservation a Momofuku Ko, and I got to go.  The whole process of the reservation – having an account, logging on at 10am on the dot, refresh, refresh, refresh – is so much more annoying than a simple phone call.  It’s enough to turn me off completely.  But I didn’t have to do the heavy lifting this time, and after the divine meal, I would refresh until my fingers go numb.

The limited capacity of Ko, steps up the game tremendously.  Effortless courteous service and a calm, grown up nature is a departure from the chaotic Noodle Bar and Ssam.  Sitting at the bar and having the food explained in front of your face, made you feel included and pampered.  Our menu to the best of our collective memory:

-2 chiccharons, black pepper biscuit, a spoonful of soft tofu with burnt applesauce

-cube of fried cheese served on top of pickled cauliflower

-fluke with spicy buttermilk and poppy seeds

-spanish mackerel with yuzu and rice cracker beads

-oxtail consomme with carmelized onion and oxtail dumplings made of daikon skin

-smoked poached egg with caviar and fingerling potato chips

-hand torn pasta with snail sausage and shattered chicken skin

-fried monkfish in a spicy fennel soup with uni

-shaved foie gras over lychee gelee and peanut brittle

-duck breast w/braised daikon, chinese mustard greens and pumpernickel dust with duck leg pate

-spiced white wine sorbet with asian pear

-goat milk cheesecake with butternut squash sorbet, dried cranberries and crushed pumpkin seeds

There’s no denying the innovative combinations and textures – the interplay of east and west, spicy and sweet, smooth and crunchy, high and low brow.  Never a dull moment for three hours, the chefs fielded questions, down to “what are you squirting on the plates and wiping off?”.  Answer:  vodka.  It degreases the plates and is fit for human consumption.  As a testament to its foodie cred, there were singleton diners, happy to dine alone for the experience.  It’s worth the hype. 

Momofuku Ko

163 First Avenue, between 10th and 11th Streets

The Trouble with Christmas

December 3, 2009

Shopping for others, presents the problem of shopping for oneself.   In my Christmas recon, I stopped at Crate and Barrel to replace a foil cutter that I broke at a friend’s.  Not only did I get the replacement foil cutter for her, but I got an oven thermometer, a dish sponge, and a reversible measuring spoon for myself.  All needed in one respect or another.  With Christmas soon arriving, I will need an oven thermometer in Santa’s workshop given that the oven temperature seems off.  The dish sponge at Crate and Barrel is superior to any other sponge that I’ve tried recently.  I can always use extra measuring spoons, so what’s better than one that serves as four?  

The neato factor exceeds my true need for the item which has silicone cups on each end that pop in and out to halve its volume for multiple measurements.  Given the yield of three presents for me to one present for another, Santa should be under house arrest.

The Buenos Aires Report

December 1, 2009


Saving forward has allowed me to go on vacation without guilt.  I’ve been wanting to go to Buenos Aires for some time, and now I could afford to.  It didn’t hurt that it’s one of the few places whose currency is weaker than the dollar.  Without getting to long and flower-y, here is my hit parade:

-empanadas – as the de facto grab and go snack, they are outstanding everywhere – freshly burnished from the wood oven at Cumana, hocked by wandering vendors like cigarette girls at the San Telmo Feria, beautifully displayed to be quickly consumed at Confiteria Quebec.  I would know, I had one almost every day.

Cumana, 1149 Rodriguez Pena, Recoleta

San Telmo Feria, at Plaza Dorrega, San Telmo, Sundays only

Confiteria Quebec, 1202 Avenida Callao, Recoleta

-alfajores – essentially a sandwich cookie with dulce de leche in the middle, it beats Oreos by a mile.  Varying from soft and cake-like to crisp and buttery to thin and wafer-y, I liked them all.  I, also, had one a day.

-caffe con leche – didn’t have a bad one.  Ever.

-lomo!  lomo!  lomo! – I couldn’t help myself.  The sirloin cut proved irresistible and oh so cheap, crunchy char on the outside, juicy (and bloody) on the inside.  Greed has a name called lomo.

Juana M., 1535 Carlos Pellegrini, Retiro

Parrilla Pena, 682 Rodriguez Pena, Tribunale

-pizza – I have room in my heart for both New York and Argentinian pizza.  My stink pie – half roquefort, half anchovies – was divine on a crisp pillow-y crust.  Especially in a place as untouched as El Cuartito.

El Cuartito, 937 Talcahuano, Recoleta

-choripan – how can I not love a sandwich that has sausage, lettuce, tomato, a fried egg, and chimichurri?  Better yet, when it’s had a stand by the river.

Mama Baker, Calabria and Padre Migone, Costunera Sur

-finger sandwiches – when I wasn’t eating empanadas on the run, I would have these ultra thin sandwiches on tissue-thin crustless bread.  The man-sized tea sandwich practically melt in your mouth.

-malbec – so good, so cheap, I’m a fan.

-chimichurri – the chunky parsley pesto makes the good (lomo), even better.   I could drink it.

-dulce de leche – okay, it got a brief nod in the alfajores, but it deserves its own shout out.   What peanut butter is to America, dulce de leche is to Argentina.  Grocery store aisles are filled with jars, row after row.  I brought back El Salamandra for a mere pittance.  Along with so much more to weigh down my luggage.

I can have a taste of Argentina any time, but I’d be happy to go back.