Archive for March, 2011

The Twinkie

March 17, 2011

I’ve never been a fan of Twinkies, always preferring chocolate covered Ho Hos or Ring Dings to the bland airiness of yellow sponge cake and suet.  That is, until I had Lulu Bakery’s version of the “twinkie”, which I now crave.  The mini loaf of tender yellow cake is injected with a tart passionfruit custard, with a minimal white chocolate glaze, it’s more like an embellished Tastykake than a Twinkie.  And in these cupcake crazed times, a refreshing change to the overloaded frosting heavy monstrosities.

Lulu Cake Boutique

112 Eighth Avenue, between 15th and 16th Streets



Breakfast Crisis, pt. 2

March 15, 2011

Plodding along with Mark Bittman’s breakfast recipes, I went on to try Polenta “Pizza” with Pancetta and Spinach.  Almost two hours to make a breakfast dish?  Who has that time?  Maybe you could save time by cooking the polenta the night before, spreading it out and chilling it overnight, but I have even less foresight.  Besides, there still involves baking the polenta for a half hour, sauteing onion and pancetta, and then spinach separately, assembling it all with a layer of gorgonzola with a quick two minute bake to melt the cheese.  A lot of work for the first meal of the day, I can barely do the last step at that time.

But is it ever worth it.  Golden polenta as sunny as scrambled eggs, crisps beautifully to provide a plain backdrop to the tangy, smoky, juicy toppings.  I loved it as a quick dinner, reheated in the toaster oven with an egg cracked over it.  My breakfast dilemma hasn’t been solved, but I found a new go to dinner.

Breakfast Crisis, pt. 1

March 10, 2011

I’m having an existential breakfast crisis at the moment.  I usually eat the same thing every day, something simple and calibrated for optimal nutrition.  For a while it was plain yogurt, a dab of jam, and Ezekiel sprouted grain cereal with flax seeds.  After reading New York Magazine’s story on Best Breakfasts and the benefits of a low glycemic breakfast, I switched to ham, gruyere and mustard on an Ezekiel sprouted grain English muffin.  This evolved into a lower in fat version with smoked turkey and avocado.  But now, I’m over it.

Just in time, I pulled Mark Bittman’s breakfast alternatives story from the February 17, 2009 New York Times.  An intriguing mix of recipes to expand the breakfast horizons, it takes the basics of whole grains beyond the sweet and boring.  Steel-cut oats are spiced up with ginger, mustard seeds, red chilies, and cardamom.  Given a couscous-like boil and steam approach, the oats retain their grainy individuality instead of the cement-y mush that I’ve become accustomed.  Toasted coconut contributes to the texture, a bit of parsley for refreshing spots of color.  It’s quite good, even with a splash of milk as I would normally have with oatmeal, but not necessarily what I want for breakfast.

More like for lunch.  Topped with roasted beets and garlic sauteed spinach, the oats take the place of couscous as the grain of the meal.  In fact, it’s better, being more flavorful, and seemingly more healthy – hmm, but didn’t I saute the oats in butter before steaming?  I may not have solved my breakfast situation, but I have a new lunch idea.

Mucho Mac

March 8, 2011

It’s Friday night, I’m walking to the G train from a work event in the outskirts of Greenpoint.  The desolate neighborhood goes from deserted warehouses where no one can hear you scream to single family homes where a few people can hear you scream.  Nary a Korean deli in sight, a sure sign of civilization.  But shining like a beacon (and smelling like bacon) at 10:30pm is the little takeout joint, Brooklyn Mac.

Offering a variety of macaroni and cheese and salads only, it confirms that one only needs the sides for a meal.  Each mac combo is named after a Brooklyn neighborhood incorporating different cheeses and fillings, like the Red Hook, which is bacon and smoked gouda.  I added caramelized onions to create my neighborhood, not on the menu.  Brooklyn Mac steps up the game by baking it all in a pie tin covered in bread crumbs, creating a pleasing ratio of crunchy crust to creamy insides with the increased surface area.  With nowhere to sit, the anticipation of eating my freshly baked macaroni cheese was killing me, the G train couldn’t take me home fast enough.  It lived up to expectation, but the crusted on baked bits stuck to the pan was a bit of a killjoy, I wanted every bite.

Brooklyn Mac

77 Norman Avenue at Manhattan Avenue

Greenpoint, Brooklyn


G to Nassau

Rock the Kasha

March 3, 2011

As a newcomer to New York City x amount of years ago, the introduction to the Polish diner was a gustatory revelation.  Pierogis, kielbasa, and challah french toast pleased my Californian palette and student wallet, but I never quite got Kasha Varnishkes.  Buckwheat on top of pasta?  Isn’t that just starch on starch?

It wasn’t until I made Mark Bittman’s Kasha Varnishkes from an October 22, 2008 New York Times that I understood the beauty of the dish.  Kasha provided a nutty, textural foil to the tender noodles, but the real star was the carmelized onion to tie it all together.  I cooked the onions in olive oil, but I can only imagine how good it would be in schmaltz.  The eminence of the sweet onions and starch reminded me of another delicious starchy starch combo – mujaddarah.  And I’d  be able to find both side by side in the East Village, my old stomping ground.

Breakfast Casserole

March 1, 2011

Years ago,  I had a breakfast casserole at a post-wedding brunch which I haven’t been able to get out of my mind.  Chunks of bread bound together with egg, sausage, and cheese, it was a savory bread pudding for breakfast in a chafing dish.  I’ve longed for it so much that I kept this recipe from a Saveur past, which would seem to be a reasonable facsimile, hoping to recreate that dish in Dallas.

Surprisingly, it was not.  This breakfast casserole was more like a souffle.  Made with cubes of crustless white sandwich bread, soaked with a custard of eggs and milk, the body of the casserole became fluffy and hydrated.  Any trace of bread disappeared into the buoyancy of the custard.  Yummy, especially with the sausage and cheese, but not what I wanted.  I would probably like it more with a sturdier country bread for more substance and structure.  More like bread pudding.  Or more like stuffing.