Falling Behind…

June 30, 2010

Miso CSA Stir Fry

It’s only been three weeks, but I’m already falling behind on my CSA. It’s funny because for weeks leading up to my choosing the farm share, I was given plenty of warnings about this “burden”. But it seems pretty silly for me to complain about having such great ingredients for my meals, so I won’t. My fridge is stocked with all this great local organic produce and I’m not going to let it go to waste. 

So to catch up in time for this coming Thursday’s pick up, I grabbed for my wok and got to cooking. I know I seem like a wok over-enthusiast but it’s amazing how quickly you can whip up an amazing meal managing to highlight the crunch and the vibrant flavors of fresh produce. This stir fry had the spring onions, pungent garlic, and the swiss chard from last Thursday’s bundle with a few additions of my own. Chopped portobello, shredded napa cabbage, and some local pork sausage added great heartiness to the meal that was finished off with my new favorite ingredient, miso.

I’ve been trying a bunch of different varieties but the white miso I just found in China town is so rich in flavor. And if you like the soup, there is no reason to not buy some miso for your fridge. It may very well become one of your favorite condiments.

So after a huge plate of the stir fry for dinner, along with some leftovers for lunch I’m getting back on track. And if I needed any more motivation, tonight may be where I find it. For my birthday back in April, Emily gave me the perfect present: a dinner at Blue Hill at Stone Barns. I hate to set unreasonable expectations but to say that I’m excited for this meal would be a ridiculous understatement. At this embodiment of “farm to table”, menu’s are replaced by a list of fresh farmed ingredients that the chefs use to create your meal, one delicious dish at a time. I can’t wait!


FDA Approved for Symptoms of Oppressive Heat

June 29, 2010

Quinoa Salad with Fried Goat Cheese

I am a firm believer in the healing powers of food. Don’t get me wrong; I’m not one of these radicals that denounces all modern medicine and swears by some secret blend of acai and fish oil. And if you need further confirmation, just ask my liver about the levels of ibuprofen it’s filtered for me. But believe it or not , the foods we eat can have a profound impact on reversing or reducing the ill effects of some of our most common health issues. I am sure of it.

Well last night, I was in desperate need of a remedy. A remedy for the lethargy and exhaustion that has been sweeping the Northeast as we suffer through our first real heat wave of the summer. I hate to even complain, particularly since one of my good friends lives in South Carolina where you may need four pairs of underwear to get through the day, but let’s be honest, this heat is oppressive. And although I was oh so close to ordering in, sprawled out in the bedroom where our air conditioner has been running overtime, I decided to brave the heat and cook up a meal that would truly cool us down.

We all crave cold and refreshing foods when we’re overheated. Yet some of the go to cold options will offer only some short term comfort. But fresh fruits and greens that are high in water content offer long lasting relief. And since my tiny gas stove manages to successfully heat my apartment (perfect for the winter, not so much right now), a salad seemed like the perfect place for some fresh greens and onions from the CSA, along with the added punch of fresh corn, sliced balsamic macerated strawberries and some cooked quinoa. 

But even with the filling quinoa, this salad was in need of a little richness. So with the stove running just long enough to cook up some bacon and then immediately pan fry rounds of cornmeal crusted goat cheese we had a salad that had a ton of great fresh flavors and that without a doubt helped alleviate my sluggishness and crankiness; two of my worst symptoms of oppressive heat.


Be Cool, Eat a …

June 24, 2010
 
Rita’s!

Strawberry and Coconut "Rita's" Water Ice

Well not quite, but sometimes you just need a water ice. And not the store-bought, wooden spoon variety or even a Ralph’s Italian Ice; good, but not the same. At this point I feel like Rita’s has made its way far enough outside the Philly area that most people know what I’m talking about. And if you don’t, you should go order a mango gelati with vanilla custard…immediately! 

I have an even deeper connection to Rita’s well beyond my love for the water ice. My first paying job at age 15 was at a Rita’s, scooping water ice and making custard. Oh and eating just about everything in sight. Let’s just say I was still in the “transitioning out of my middle school fat” phase. So it’s not like I’m collecting stock options, but I’m definitely still invested. 

The only Ritas that’s close is in Hoboken and that wasn’t going to cut it last night. But a carton full of fresh strawberries, a bit of coconut sorbet, and a handful of ice later I had made a blended treat that was a perfect stand in. If I had only had a custard machine!


Game Changer

June 22, 2010

Cornmeal Crusted Flounder with Yellow Squash Tartar Sauce

There are two things I am sure of: Mayo is good. Yellow Squash is not. And sure, I’ll give you that there may be shades of gray on this one, but have you ever found yourself saying, “Man, I’m so glad the chef decided on yellow squash!”. Watery, bland, and reminiscent of banquet steamed veggies, I was pretty sure I could go the rest of my life without it. But Mayo on the other hand: dip your fries in it, slather it on a turkey club, or use it as a base for a potato salad. It doesn’t matter. It’s delicious. Well friends, the game has just been changed…

With my clear aversion to all things yellow squash, why on earth did I have one in my fridge? I still don’t have an explanation or a memory of said purchase, but unless this was some mean trick, it must have been me who bought this poor wannabe excuse for a zucchini. Well what’s that saying? You’re better off being lucky than smart? Yeah, that’s the one.

So when we picked up some day boat flounder from the Green Market, I immediately thought of one of my favorites. What goes with a crusted flounder better than tartar sauce? Well (here’s the game changer!); I give you my yellow squash tartar sauce over cornmeal crusted flounder served  with a Hoegarden braised cabbage and roasted broccoli. Truly delicious!

I can’t promise this method will convince you to forego mayo the rest of your life but it does seem like an extremely viable healthy alternative that is dairy-free. And all it takes to get the recipe is a comment letting me know how you love your mayo! And don’t be ashamed if your honest answer is “in a spoon”. You won’t be the only one…


Our Green Room Party

June 21, 2010

Not Really, but… 

Salmon BLTs

Our good friends in The Canon Logic headlined the Bowery Ballroom this past Saturday and really put on a show. Playing a large chunk of their debut album, FM Arcade, along with some amazing renditions of Arcade Fire’s “Tunnels” and Radiohead’s “There, There”, the guys continued to impress with their upbeat and in your face sets. If you haven’t checked them out before, I strongly encourage you to do so… 

But I, am not a musician. My singing voice stinks and at best I can play the first few notes of Mary Had a Little Lamb on the piano. So it’s a damn good thing I can cook! 

Before we and a few of our friends cabbed it down to the Bowery, I cooked up a bunch of appetizers and paired them with a slamming cocktail and some great wine. Earlier in the day I baked a bunch of whole wheat baguettes that came out really well. Honestly, I know the whole wheat craze is a bit annoying but I’ve been adding in the nuttier “healthier” flour for it’s taste, not it’s health benefits. I really love the heartier flavor and if done in the right proportions (in this case only part of the total flour was whole wheat), you’d be surprised how good the outcome is. 

Whole Wheat Baguettes

So with my fresh bread sliced and baked off, I assembled some roasted salmon BLTs. Simply roasted salmon over a basil aioli, fresh tomatoes, romaine lettuce (from the CSA), and thick cut bacon sounds delicious enough, but with the fresh baked bread these open faced sandwiches were off the charts. Along with a chickpea dip and pita chips and zucchini and corn quesadillas we really ate well. 

Oh yeah, and drank really well. When Carrie suggested I re-create a Basil Lemon Mojito (WITH VODKA) that she had tried out, I figured  I had some artistic freedom. I’m not sure if mine turned out the same as the one’s she had tried before, but I can assure you they were good. I made a lemon basil simple syrup and added in vodka, and a splash of lemon lime seltzer; refreshing, delicious and strong. Just like a cocktail should be! 

Also thanks to Dave for messing around with my crappy point and shoot and taking a bunch of pictures for me! 

Salmon BLTs Take Two


CSALAD

June 17, 2010

Grilled Romaine Salad w/ Sweet Potato Croutons

So how do you follow up the best meal of your life?

Trust me it was on my mind as I came up with this dish from more items of my CSA bundle. But cooking isn’t a competition…outside of reality tv that is. So when I thought about how to use those garlic scapes and romaine lettuce, I thought back to that grilled caesar salad I had last summer. If you grill lettuce well, you end up with just enough carmelization without the “hot lettuce” syndrome.

I paired my grilled romaine with a garlic scape pesto dressing and some sliced CSA radishes. And to add that balance of sweetness, “croutons” made of diced sweet potatoes really completed the meal. The grilled chicken made this a full entree but without it, this dish could have been a fantastic side or appetizer. One week down and I’m already loving this CSA!


The Best Meal I’ve Ever Eaten…

June 16, 2010

Please bear with me on this one. Because as one of the bazillion food lovers, and one of the katrillion food bloggers, speaking in superlatives is as common as that god damn Jay Z song playing during a New York sporting event. So when can we say that the best is truly the best? When does an exclamation of excellence warrant the full attention bestowed on the honoree? And when does a meal transcend the words we use to describe it?

Simply put, it’s about passion. I know, it seems dramatic. After all, I’m talking about food. But no matter what the source is, we never forget the moments when “chills” sweep over us. Maybe you’re falling in love, maybe you’ve made an artistic breakthrough, or maybe you’ve found your calling. Or maybe you’re eating at Maialino.

I have written about my previous dining experiences at Danny Meyer’s recently opened Roman Trattoria but it was this past experience that I can not get out of my every thought. In fact it has taken me an additional day to digest the experience in order to attempt this description. My love for this restaurant has not changed. The design, ambiance, and service are exceptional; right in my wheelhouse. But the food is where the passion really lies.

I could easily write on and on about the crispy and comforting fried artichokes or the bold yet delicate tripe with fresh mint and tomatoes or the perfectly pan seared sea bass served over a bed of pancetta and asparagus. All three dishes were delicious. But when I took my first bite of the Pollo all Diavola, a half chicken roasted with black pepper and pickled chili, everything I had thought I knew about food was frozen in time, replaced by one thing: chills.

At this point you may think I’m nuts. After all, I am talking about roasted chicken. An overplayed, often boring rendition of a meal we’ve been eating forever. Well, I urge you to try Maialino’s. The chicken is expertly cooked providing a crispy exterior wrapping a melt in your mouth breast and thigh. But the sauce, a delicate broth of pickled chili is where the dish really shines. I have followed the rule, in my own cooking along with my own eating, that acidity pairs with richness like no other combination of flavors; the proof, none better than this chicken.

I know this is a meal that will forever change my outlook on food and the emotion it can evoke. I still find myself salivating in attempts to re-taste this chicken; to find those chills. And yes, I plan on heading back to Maialino for another meal, but not quite yet. Because the best moments in your life are meant to be cherished, not replayed into submission…

“…Concrete jungle where dreams are made of…”


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