I was 20 minutes early meeting the Hubs in Park Slope recently, so I took that opportunity to stop into The Chocolate Room, which I had longingly passed so many times before without stopping in.
I knew I just wanted a hot chocolate, but I happy to see a selection of different types. I could choose between milk chocolate, dark chocolate, or spicy-chile dark chocolate. I must admit that I prefer milk chocolate. I think it tastes better; I just enjoy it more. I once read an interview with the head pastry chef at Momofoku Milk Bar, which is on the cutting edge of dessert fare (which is a ridiculous statement), and she said she preferred milk chocolate too, which perhaps why I feel emboldened enough to admit my preference here, subjecting myself to the ire of people who are “serious” about chocolate. In any case, I digress. After some waiter-annoyingly lengthy deliberation, I ended up choosing the spicy dark chocolate, because I decided my love of chile overrides my preference for milk chocolate. Whipped cream, marshmallow? Why, yes please! Oh. I have to choose one. Whipped cream.
An adorable little amuse bouche arrived on my table before my chocolate did. It was a perfect little cube of cake. It didn’t taste very good. It wasn’t bad, just sort of nondescript. So much so that I have no recollection of what it was except that it wasn’t chocolate. I am not going to complain about a freebie, but I always question the wisdom of giving free samples of something totally mediocre. Like those poor kids they make stand outside the chain cafes, handing out little samples of really sad muffins. A silver tray doesn’t make it taste good, and it certainly doesn’t make me want to pay actual money for a full sized version of the snack. I digress again.
Luckily, the chocolate arrived quickly, taking the heavy load of the widespread lack of good business planning off my mind. I was surprised to see how small the cup of chocolate was. I was expecting a big, steaming mug to wrap myÂ hands around, and this was a dainty little cup of the type one must grasp using only the index finger and thumb–pinky up! (It was bigger than an espresso cup, smaller than a coffee cup. I suppose it was a true chocolate cup.) But it turns out I probably wouldn’t have been able to finish a larger mug anyway as it was so rich, not that I wouldn’t have wanted to! It was really delicious. Luscious, thick, sweet, and with just the precisely right kick of spice at the end of each sip. The whipped cream cut the sweetness the perfect amount and added a softer creamy component to complement the sharpness of the rest of the flavors. (It was a little overwhipped, but I assume that was on purpose, so it would hold up to chocolate better?)
I would definitely return for hot chocolate again, and wouldn’t balk a ordering a cake or other confection either, though I might stick to the chocolate options.
86 5th Avenue
Brooklyn, NY 11217
Last Thanksgiving, I was truly enjoying my new baby as we were just getting past the why-is-she-crying-all-the-time-gah! stage. I was counting down the days (with no small amount of sadness) until my return to work. Looking forward to our first holiday as a family, we went to Trader Joes and bought a Tofurky because we had never had one and thought it would be funny (and it was). I made a green bean casserole with hand-fried shallots for topping and homemade, from scratch, cream-of-mushroom soup as a base (to make amends for the Tofurky). I again appreciated the simplicity of making delicious homemade cranberry sauce and wondered why anyone ever bought it in a can. I insisted on getting up early to watch the parade (on tv) for the first time ever, just because it was our first Thanksgiving as a family, and even though I knew the baby wouldn’t remember it.
But I missed this column by Maira Kalman in the New York Times. Maybe if I hadn’t, I would have skipped Trader Joes and the Tofurky. Even though it was funny.
[photo via Wikipedia]
Posted by: Erin in Recipes
Yes, loads of oil, butter, and salt, it turns out, are the keys to tasty eating.
You know when you watch a cooking show and the host just sautees some stuff and then throws in some pasta and a few ladles-full of pasta water and they have this really delicious looking dish. But then you try something similar at home and you end up with a bowl full of bland sogg? I found out recently that lots of olive oil, butter, and salt are the antidotes to pasty pasta. Oh, and a mountain of Parmesan doesn’t hurt either.
Twice recently I have made a variation on this pasta dish, and both times it was really incredibly delicious. As with many of my “recipes,” what follows are really just general guidelines; please play with proportions to suit your taste, this recipe is hard to mess up. Just be sure to use more salt and fat you are probably comfortable with if you want it to taste really spectacular!
Firstly, you need to pretty heavily salt the pasta water. The water should be salty, not merely salted. Use whatever type of pasta you’d like. The first time I made it I used spinach rotini, the second time I used whole wheat linguini. You can also use various different types of vegetables, but ones that cook relatively quickly probably work best (think green and leafy/flowery). The first time I used broccolini (or, broccoli: the good parts), which I sliced into long, thin pieces. The second time I used Brussels sprouts, which I sliced into c. 1/8-inch disks lengthwise (ie, on the axis of the stem).
Due to all the fat in this recipe, you probably shouldn’t eat it too often, but considering how easy to make and tasty it is, you might want to!
Pasta with Garlicky Green-leafies in an Oil and Butter Sauce
as many cloves of garlic as you want, sliced very thin
veggie of choice (I suggest broccoli, broccolini, brussels sprouts)
a few sprinkles of dried/powdered sage
red pepper flakes, if you want them
Parmesan or Romano cheese, shredded (with a microplane if you have one)
While your salty water is heating, do all your cleaning, chopping, and prep (including putting your sautee pan on the stove). When you put your pasta in the water, work quickly:Â Heat up a good amount, at least two tablespoons, of olive oil in a sautee pan over high heat. Add your veggie of choice, along with some thinly sliced garlic (don’t add the garlic first, it will burn). Cook for a few minutes, stirring constantly, then turn the heat down to medium. Add some salt, pepper, sage, and hot pepper flakes if you want ‘em. Cook for a few more minutes.
The pasta should be almost done now. Ignore package cooking instructions. Cook until almost al dente (if you cook according to package instructions, the pasta will be over-done). Add pasta to the veggies, along with a couple of big pats of butter and a couple of ladles of pasta water. Cook until butter is melted and a thick-ish sauce is formed. By this time the pasta will be perfectly chewy and tender. Turn off the heat and dump in a bunch of cheese. I mention a microplane grater above because when you grate Parmesan with one, you create this luscious salty cloud of cheese that just melts immediately upon hitting the soft pasta. Toss and enjoy!
And, seriously, you will enjoy.
Posted by: Erin in Feeder
You know I love Mark Bittman’s Bitten. I say so all the time. But, really–I’m not just saying this–you MUST watch the video for this Minimalist column. It is about a fried rice recipe by Jean-Georges Vongerichten. It looks like a great (and simple) recipe, and I will definitely try it next time I have leftover rice from takeout. But the real reason to click the link is to watch video in which the role of the spirit of JGV is played by Bittman himself. The best part is the accent MB uses, which sounds not French at all, but like a combination of German and Japanese, and yet somehow completely endearing. I love that MB is not afraid to act as if he has a split personality and the other half represents two of the three axis powers. [photo via Bitten/NYT]
Hello, Eat It!, old friend! I see that while I have been gone you have had many a memorable dining adventure. Most recently, Tacos Matamoros was reviewed. It was apparently good enough, and incredibly cheap, which, now that I have a spendy baby, is the foremost factor in my choosing a restaurant!
I am probably not going to watch the Super Bowl (when is it, again?), but don’t think that will stop me from making Cajun Caramel Corn! Thanks, Serious Eats!
Finally!! A half-decent Thai restaurant is coming to my neighborhood, Brownstoner reports. The last time we ordered Thai food, three of the four dishes we ordered tasted seriously funky, as in ingredients in them had gone bad.Â We threw the menu out or I’d tell you the name. It was one of the places on Myrtle. Awful. Some say that Joya, which is opening a Fort Greene branch, has done down hill, but considering the current choices in the neighborhood, I’ll take it. I wonder if they will deliver on opening day??
Gasp! The founder of Midtown Lunch is leaving the site! Well, at least until he starts Midtown Lunch: Los Angeles. New York will miss you, Zach!
My baby loves apples and just dove right in when we received a slew of them in a recent CSA share. The real story: I was horrified to walk into the kitchen to find my husband burying our precious baby in apples for the purpose of this photo. Ha!
Apologies for the absence, but I had a baby in early September! I have been kept much busier than I anticipated. I have had some culinary adventures, but little time to share them. Most of note that I have eaten lately is sweet–after denying myself sweets during the pregnancy because of the gestational diabetes, I have been making up for lost time! Of special mention: A pressed croissant, filled with dulche de leche and homemade marshmallow, at the City Bakery recently. We enjoyed it along with some of their famous pretzel croissants and of course their hot chocolate (no photos, sorry!)
I will try to update more often from now on. Thanks for your patience!
Posted by: Erin in Feeder
Some people are apparently furious about TGIFridays moving into the old Zen Palate space on Union Square. While not a particular fan of Friday’s cuisine, I might be more up in arms about the opening if it weren’t located right next door to the giant Baby’s R Us (formerly Toys R Us), which ruined the east side of the park ages ago. The Gothamist post also mentions that TGI Fridays began on the Upper East Side, so we have only ourselves to blame.
This year’s Vendy Award finalists have been announced. Two in the dessert entries I have never heard of: the Cupcake Stop and the Big, Gay, Ice Cream Truck, which is obviously worth seeking out. Complete list of finalists here. [via Midtown Lunch]
Serious Eats reports on the First Annual Vermont Cheesemakers Festival. 50 cheese makers! (Not to mention 20 wineries/breweries and 14 artisan food producers.) It sounds like it was dairy heaven! If the Second Annual VCF comes to pass, I might just have to take a trip up to Burlington. I hope while there I can hug a baby goat, as demonstrated on the VCF website homepage. So cute!
It looks like the new Upper West Side Whole Foods offers many ammenities that other NYC locations do not, including compostable packaging, a gelato bar, and wine store! It isn’t enough that UWS’ers get Zabars and a Fairway, now they have to have the best Whole Foods too? What’s up with that? And where is the love for Brooklyn, WF? Maybe I’ll join the boycott. [via The Kitchn]
Earlier this summer, I received an email asking if I would like to review this book. If I would, the publisher would send me a gratis copy. After reading the press release, I must admit I was intrigued, mostly because I had no idea what this book was. The press release takes pains to point out that this is not a cookbook–indeed, there is not a single recipe among its pages. But it also didn’t seem to be a book on technique (which might show me how to, e.g., properly debone a fish or sharpen a knife). Instead, the book was a collection of notes, a “primer” that offers “insights that will help anyone become a better cook.” Going on this vague information, I am not sure I would have paid for the book, but as they were sending one for free, I decided to indulge my curiosity.
It is a good looking little book, with a robin’s egg blue, white, and gray dust jacket. It is quite a slim volume at 143 pages, and would take mere hours to read if you wanted to just plow through it. But it really isn’t meant to be plowed through. The authors clearly intend it as a thoughtful little tome meant to make you pause and reflect on not just the way you do (or should) cook, but why you cook.
The first six chapters are full of some basic suggestions about what one should and shouldn’t do as a cook. The pithy bits of information range from common sense (read the recipe before you start cooking) to good sense (read at least three other recipes for the same dish to get a sense what variations on the recipe might be) to uncommonly good sense (use the highest quality [but not necessarily most expensive] ingredients you can. This produced perhaps my favorite phrase from the book: “Garbage in, garbage out.” Awesome!). There are some BS-y mantras thrown in for good measure (“The cook’s first job is to delight” or how about “Feel the sounds. Taste the smells [n.b. shouldn't that be "aromas," anyway?]. Touch the flavors.” Sounds like The Who song as covered by tribute band The Who’s Hungry). The book excels where it offers true advice, but it doesn’t where it offers words without value–e.g., I don’t need a book to tell me what constitutes a compliment on my cooking.
Chapter 7 is where the serious learnin’ begins. The notes on how to best implement heat and cold when cooking, and advice on the use of different categories of ingredients (pantry items, meat, stocks, dairy, etc.) are for the most part quite valuable. One of the most important notes opens up the “Pantry” section on p. 51: “Don’t fear salt.” Hallelujah! Under-salting is the most widespread offense among cooks, I do believe. Over-salting may be the more serious crime in that it is harder to correct, but under-salting is much more pervasive and insidious, leading to many more disappointing meals. An interesting exception to the salting rule, according to this book, is stock, to which apparently one should never add salt (or pepper). Someone should alert Swansons. I had never heard this before, but it makes sense. Since stock is one ingredient in a larger dish, a salted stock risks over seasoning the final result.
There are interesting little tidbits of information to improve your kitchen skills, along with some basic information that you probably already do, or should, know, scattered throughout the rest of the book. I eagerly anticipated getting to the “Repairing Food” section–who hasn’t disastrously over salted a stew or broken a sauce, and not known what to do to rescue it? This chapter, though, was disappointingly brief. Their repairs for acidic, spicy, or bitter food are helpful, but the repair for over-saltiness was a letdown. For something liquidy, the suggestion is to add more liquid. But of course that affects the consistency, and also dilutes the other flavors of the dish, so it is not really an ideal option. My mom always said that adding a potato to such a dish helps absorb some of the salt, but I have never tried this out myself. There are endless things that can go wrong in the kitchen, and this book couldn’t possibly address them all, but it would have been nice to have a bit fuller coverage in this chapter.
There are three appendices following the afterword. The first is a list of food adjectives, which is very helpful to food bloggers(!), though perhaps not many others. The second is a list of “Classic Combinations,” which is also of limited usefulness, mostly because of its organization: “duck & orange; orange & fennel; fennel & arugula….” Maybe if the ingredients were listed alphabetically, and say I had a Japanese eggplant and didn’t know what to pair it with (miso, btw), then I could look alphabetically under “J” to find the authors’ suggestion. As it is, though, I am just not clear on what the practical use of this is. The last appendix, however, is very helpful indeed. It is a list of the most essential tools needed in the kitchen. I feel like a bit of a sham now for not owning a proper saute pan or thermometer (I know!), and for not having cheesecloth on hand. But the list is something to aspire to, and not so lengthy that it seems unattainable. The book ends with an annotated list of recommended reading, which is also very helpful.
Overall, I would definitely recommend this book as a gift for that foodie friend who has everything and is impossible to buy for.Â It is an attractive volume, perfect for gifting. Your foodie will enjoy the quick read, and probably refer back to some of the more helpful advice in the book again (there is an index, which will help guide said foodie). I wouldn’t call this book indispensable, but it is a quick, enjoyable read that will likely teach you something to improve your game in the kitchen.
Lauren Braun Costello and Russell Reich, Notes on Cooking: A Short Guide to an Essential Craft (New York: RCR Creative Press) 2009. [$21.95 from the publisher or $14.95 from amazon.com]
Posted by: Erin in Feeder
Frank Bruni hasn’t quit reviewing altogether. Nightline convinced him to review the Choco-Taco, and Serious Eats has the video. Frank Bruni is not what I expected. I sort of imagined him to be an older man with a huge pot belly and a thick thatch of salt and pepper locks (Don’t ask me why I thought he had thick hair; perhaps I imagined him to be like an Italianate Jeffrey Steingarten). He is actually svelte and relatively young, but just as witty and pithy as you want him to be. By the way, Choco-Taco: zero stars. Maybe you should try making your own. Serious Eats showed us how earlier this year. [photo via icecreamusa.com]
Speaking of tacos, I had been hoping to go to the permanent outpost of Calexico, the celebrated taco cart, post-haste, post-pregnancy, but after seeing Eat It: Brooklyn’s disappointed review, I might just skip it.
After finally reading the Amateur Gourmet‘s entertaining-as-usual post on eating at El Bulli, I definitely don’t want to skip the most famous Spanish restaurant. Now if only I could get a reservation…and a trip to Spain. You must read his review, just to get a sense of what a meal at El Bulli is like. It looks like an amazing experience.
I love the idea of a Cambodian version of mayonnaise-smothered mexican corn, made with siracha and coconut, over at Food Mayhem. I would definitely grill my corn rather than microwave it, though–I think the charriness really adds to the flavor. This is even something I can try during my gestational-diabetes debilitated pregnancy–I ate a farm fresh ear of corn last night and my blood sugar was fine afterward! Starchy summer bliss!
Ever heard of caramelized white chocolate? Neither had I, but now I am longing to try it. David Lebovitz gives you the recipe, and then makes it into an ice cream. Ya killing me!! This is yet another wait-for-mid-September must-try recipe.
I am not even sure I can call this a ratatouille, conformiste ou non-, seeing as I totally made up the recipe without reference to a single recipe for actual ratatouille. [Quelle dommage!] Oh, and this was my first attempt at making ratatouille. [Zut!] But we all know what the basic components of ratatouille are, right? Luckily for me, it is a forgiving dish, and this whatever-it-was that I made and am calling ratatouille was delicious.
I was inspired by our lot of goods from the CSA last week, where there was buzz that all the veggies that day screamed to be made into a ratatouille. So, susceptible to suggestion as I am, I decided to make it. In the box were: yellow crookneck squash, zucchini, eggplant, onions, and garlic, among other things. Not included in our CSA lot were tomatoes, so I had to go buy some of those.
The non-conformiste part of the recipe comes mostly from the treatment of the eggplant, which was grilled before being added to the dish. I did this because I thought it would add some smokey interest to the pot, but also because the eggplant we had added to stir frys past had turned out unpleasantly oil-logged; I thought grilling the ‘plant first would keep this from happening. Another element that might seem odd to you is the addition of the poached egg. I did this to add some protein to the dish, but it was actually inspired by a long-ago lunch in Paris I enjoyed: a ratatouille crepe with an egg cracked on top, gently cooked only by the heat of the ratatouille.
This is not the most flattering photo possible, mostly due to the inelegantly shaved cheese that was allowed to sweat from the heat a bit before I snapped the pic. But ratatouille is a humble dish, not meant to impress the eyes, but only the mouth. And at that, at least, this succeeded.
What follows is more of a technique than an actual recipe. As with most non-baking kitchen endeavors, I encourage you to play with proportion of flavor and texture to suit your taste. I love a lot of garlic, but you may not. You might have a glut of zucchini in your garden, but no crooknecks. Or maybe you have some mushrooms or other non-conformiste vegetable you need to use. Go with that!
white or yellow onions
and/or summer squash
dried or powdered thyme
tomato paste or powder
balsamic vinegar [or wine]
Put thick eggplant slices on a piping hot grill (or cast iron griddle if you are stuck indoors). Brush with a little olive oil, flip slices, brush with more olive oil. Cook until browned and charred in spots, drain on paper towels.
Heat a good amount of olive oil, add some sliced onions (at least one medium), saute until softened a bit. Add a few sliced squash (I did a half-moon shape) and a couple cloves of minced garlic. Sautee for a few minutes until the squash is beginning to soften and the mixture is aromatic. Do not let brown. Add a few tomatoes, roughly chopped, along with some basil, oregano, thyme, salt, and black pepper, to taste. Your eggplant should be cool enough to handle by now, so chop that roughly and add it to the pot and give it a good stir. Add some water, a bit of tomato paste or tomato powder, and a splash of (white or traditional) balsamic vinegar [You can instead add some white or red wine here, but I elected not to as I am preggers]. It couldn’t hurt to add a little more olive oil at this point, too. Stir, and then cover.
Let simmer for 15 minutes or so until the squash is soft and the flavors have mingled. Taste and adjust seasonings as usual. If it is too thick, add a touch of water (you need it to be pretty liquidy to poach the eggs). Now, crack an egg into a little bowl or ramekin and transfer gently to the simmering mixture. Repeat until you have one egg per mouth to feed. Try not to let the eggs touch each other. Use a ladle to spoon some of the hot liquid from the ratatouille over each egg. Cover again and let cook until desired doneness. An almost raw yolk would be the most appropriate, but as I am pregnant, and the Hubs doesn’t like raw yolks, I must confess I cooked the hell out of these eggs. But, do as you wish!
Spoon the ratatouille into bowls, placing an egg in the center of each bowl. Top with shaved parmesean, and voila! Dinner is served.
When I got married a couple years ago, I put on the registry this adorable turquoise enameled steel colander. It was bequeathed upon me by my friend Micha, and I was so grateful, because, look how cute! I adored this colander as much as one can adore a draining mechanism. The honeymoon wore off, though, as soon as I made a long thin pasta and watched helplessly as too much of it slipped through the large holes of the colander and down the drain. Later, rust spots started forming around the perimeter of the holes, and eventually the red blight infected the entire floor of the apparatus.
Armed with a gift certificate received at Christmas (yes, as in over half a year ago!), we recently visited Sur la Table with an aim to spend all of it. The first order of business was to find a colander. SLT had a collapsible silicone jobby that seemed ideal for our small kitchen, and I liked the legginess of it, but upon examination, we deemed the bowl, when extended, was not large enough to accommodate a half-pound of penne or even a full head of lettuce.
Then the OXO Good Grips Stainless Steel Convertible Colander caught our eye. It is not as pretty as the enameled one, and takes up more space than the collapsible one, but is so much more practical in use. It has handles that act as a stand when folded down, but can be unfolded to stretch across your sink, so no more worries about pasta water backing up the drain and mingling with the pasta sitting in the colander on the floor of your sink (ick). We have only had it for a few weeks now, but are very pleased so far. The holes are nice and small, so no pasta will be lost, and being stainless steel, it won’t rust. It stretches easily across our standard sink, making rinsing veggies a breeze.
The only possible caveat is that it is a little pricey for a colander (though we were immune to the price tag due to the magic of our gift certificate), but overall, I give it a thumbs up! [$37.99 at Amazon; $35 at Sur la Table]