Archive for February, 2010

Yorkville Express

February 25, 2010

For as long as I’ve lived in New York, which is a very long time, I’ve never been into exploring the Upper East Side.  It’s boring, staid, moneyed, static – my least favorite qualities about New York.  My experience has been limited to going to museums and leaving.  There’s never been a reason to stay.

On this trip, I made a conscious effort to get to know Yorkville  by way of its thrift/consignment stores and its food.  The thrift/consignment stores down Third Avenue and then 81st Street confirmed my impression of the UES – expensive and boring.  No Gossip Girl cast offs from Serena’s closet, Dorota wouldn’t shop here either.    Housewares were non-existent, nary a discarded Le Creuset in sight.

The UES didn’t win me over with its stores, maybe it could with food.  A former German enclave, there could be glimmers of its old self before Pinkberry took over the neighborhood.  Andre’s, an old school Hungarian bakery and cafe, offers a unique savory and super butter-y cabbage streudel.  A block up, Two Little Red Hens is an outpost of the Park Slope bakery, overflowing with cupcakes and cookies.  Two places worth going to after the museums.  

Winning my heart was Schaller & Weber, the German sausage and import grocery store.  I could be in there for hours, checking out every European product in its tightly packed aisles.  I came home with a bratwurst and bockwurst combo, making for a worthy uptown adventure.

Martha’s Meal

February 23, 2010

Plucked from the files, was a set of Martha Stewart Living cards born of another century (1994!).  A four course square meal, I made the main course and the side – Halibut with Puttanesca Sauce and Roasted Fennel and Potatoes – which is more than enough for me.  

 

Now that I’ve committed myself to expensive fish, I’m almost done in by halibut’s hefty $23/pound price tag.  I could only afford a fraction of the recipe’s four servings, throwing my measurements into disarray.  I mean, how do I quarter 1/3 cup of parsley?  Throwing fussy measurements aside, I embraced the messy robustness of the puttanesca, creating the quick sauce by eye and proportion.  It was a chance to practice generosity, what I believe the best cooks that I know (you know who you are) do.  More is better in this case, and more is more over my meager pan roasted filet.

  

The fennel and potatoes were a perfect complement to the fish, balancing the spicy brininess with mellow sweetness and starch.  A neat roasting trick by preheating the roasting pan prior to placing the vegetables on it browns them beautifully.  A nice meal, making it worth hanging on to for 15 years.

Oh The Drama

February 18, 2010

The most spellbinding food show isn’t on the Food Network, but on Drama Fever – Dae Jang Geum or Jewel in the Palace.  Cutthroat competition, food action shots, political intrigue, all set in Korea’s royal court of the 1500s.  Our heroine, Dae Jang Geum, sets out to become the Highest Kitchen Lady upon the dying wishes of her mother.  Through hard work, curiosity, and general good luck, she succeeds in working her way through the royal kitchen.  With each episode, she is on the verge of getting kicked out of the palace but subsequently prevails, being talented and pure of heart.

Soap opera drama aside, it is breathtaking to watch the army of period dressed women prepare glorious meals for the king and his court.  The precise and rhythmic chopping, the parsing of mysterious powders and sauces, agility and knowledge coming together in beautifully orchestrated feasts.  There is much talk of the healing purposes and properties of food, elevating cooking beyond a basic necessity – it is entertaining and intoxicating.

More Salmon Tandoori

February 16, 2010

  

Ripped from the page of the same 1998 New York Times Magazine as the Malay Beef Satay, is the Salmon Tandoori.  Invoking the flavors of a tandoori oven, the salmon is marinated overnight in yogurt, tomatoes, onions, lime, ginger, garlic, and spices.  The whole thing is then baked at 400 degrees for 15 minutes, an instant meal of fish and vegetables.  I learned my lesson from the beef satay and bought the best, line caught, marine society approved, politically correct, expensive, wild coho salmon that I could find.  Money makes a difference, the salmon was tasty, moist, and not fishy.  I couldn’t say that I have the same flattery for the tomato-onion marinade.

When it comes down to it, I just don’t like onions unless they’re cooked through and caramelized, which they were not in this case.  Sure they added flavor, I just don’t like eating them.   Assessing my likes and dislikes, I fashioned the dish into fish tacos.  Since it is the texture of onions that I opposed to, I decided to make the mix into a salsa by pureeing it in the blender, an exotic salsa with garam masala and ginger.  Salmon, salsa, avocado, and radishes wrapped in a warm corn tortilla, I made the most of my salmon tandoori.

Saving Beef Satay

February 9, 2010

  

From the files, I pulled out a recipe for Malay Beef Satay from a 1998 issue of the New York Times Magazine.  Simple enough to make on a week night, the satay marinates for an hour in spice-infused coconut milk, and broils up in minutes.  That is, if you have the right kind of beef.  The recipe calls for rump steak, or boneless sirloin, and being money-minded, aka cheap, I bought the rump.  Bad idea, it was tough and chewy, the wrong kind of meat for the flash broiling of a satay.  I couldn’t eat it as is.

 

To redeem the meat, it needed a long stew to soften the tough collagen.  A nice curry to incorporate the spices and braise the beef, should improve matters greatly.  Based on Cook’s Illustrated’s curry recipe, I stewed the beef with potatoes, tomatoes, greens, peas, and more spices.  Forty-five minutes of heat made a world of difference in the beef, making it tender, and, em, edible.

Baked Kale

February 4, 2010

  

It sounds absolutely uninviting or intriguingly good.  Most of all, completely unexpected.  Dark, cruciferous, rubbery leaves transform into light as air crisps in a 250 degree oven for half an hour.  The trick is to get the kale bone dry, and a light mist of olive oil.  Dehydrated, and almost nori-esque, it’s a healthy alternative to potato chips.

Baked Kale

-preheat oven 250 degrees

-wash and thoroughly dry a bunch of kale, via salad spinner, kitchen towels, whatever it takes

-take out the large stems, leaves can be left in big pieces

-lightly coat kale with olive oil, about 1T, and sprinkle with salt or shichimi togarashi (Japanese seven spice chili)

-spread a single layer of kale on a cookie sheet, bake for 30 minutes, until crisp

-let cool for 5 minutes

Glass Attack

February 2, 2010

I love glass.  If I could, everything in the kitchen would be glass or Pyrex.  It cleans well, it’s not porous, it’s honest.  Problem is, my subconscious doesn’t seem to love glass and I break it more than I should.  This month’s casualties include my french press carafe and my lone glass food container.  I don’t know what’s worse, being coffee-less or poisoning myself with reheated plastic.

Addressing the coffee first, I was happy to find that you can buy the carafe separately at Sur La Table.  I must not be the only unfortunate klutz on the planet.  The carafe was only $14, as opposed to buying a whole new one for $35.  A relief indeed.

The food container was a cheap and easy replacement from Crate and Barrel.  For an object that gets as much handling as my lunch container, I knew that I couldn’t get a precious vintage irreplaceable.  For $1.99, I could crash and carry as many as I want, but only one at a time.

Since I can’t leave Crate and Barrel with only one item, I also bought a second sieve/sifter.   I question my actual need for another sieve, especially when it wasn’t any finer meshed than my current one, and it’s not that smaller.  The one big difference is the concave wide rim that helps to funnel down, really a small detail.  But I want it, because I make tzatziki all the time and need two strainers.  Not a necessity like my glass essentials, but handy nevertheless.