A few days ago various sites were sharing photos by James and Karla Murray, authors of Store Front: The Disappearing Face of New York as they were doing a ten-year update in which they revisited several iconic mom-and-pop businesses in the city from their book to see if they were still there or had caved to the whims of modern New York and closed. Sadly, many are no longer there, either being replaced with banks and Subway shops (seriously) or sitting as unused and blank spaces. Change and gentrification, especially in a place like New York, are inevitable, but it always hurts a little more when something goofy and unique is replaced with another soulless corporate box of steel and glass.
It’s been a while since I’ve recounted a week sabor de soledad, even though Michael has had several trips taking him all over the place in the last year or so. Two weeks ago he was in the fabulous city of Tokyo on a last-minute trip, and I have to say that I was pleased with the dishes I turned out while he was away. It’s funny—I’ve become more of a salad person over the last few years, but I’m never so prolific in making them until I’m on my own. I can only account the follow reasons as why I’m so Team Salad:
- Easy to scale down to one person.
- Cheese is often involved, especially the cheeses I love but only rarely indulge in.
- They are relatively fast dishes to prepare.
- Oh, I guess they are allegedly healthy too.
I feel like such a traitor to both Leslie Knope and Ron Swanson, but unlike fictional characters, eating vegetables on a regular basis is an unfortunate necessity.
As recently as a few years ago, you would be hard-pressed to find any citrus fruits that went beyond your basic lemons, limes, navel oranges, and grapefruits save for a few short weeks a year. Much like ramps in springtime, you’d be forced to overload on as many blood oranges, Meyer lemons, kumquats, pink lemons, and Cara Cara oranges as you possibly could and figure out ways to use them as quickly as possible. With some of those fruits that limited window of availability is still the case, but I was pleasantly surprised to find some blood oranges not only in stock, but on sale a week or so ago at Fairway. In March, no less!
I had it in my head to make a batch of limoncello (or any other kind of citrus-based digestive) as it’s been years (literally!) since I made polpelmocello back in New York, but I wanted to do something different yet again. Blood orange ‘cello crossed my mind more than once, but I was worried that I had missed that particular train by the time I had the time to give it another try.
And then blood oranges went on sale for $1.99/lb a couple of weeks back, and I knew that it was time to make it.
“We hear of the conversion of water into wine at the marriage in Cana as of a miracle. But this conversion is, through the goodness of God, made every day before our eyes. Behold the rain which descends from heaven upon our vineyards; there it enters the roots of the vines, to be changed into wine; a constant proof that God loves us, and loves to see us happy.”—Benjamin Franklin
With all due respect to (and agreement with) Benjamin Franklin, I’m certain that while wine may be proof that a higher spiritual being loves us and wants us to be happy, I am also convinced that citrus fruits are at their peak in the wintertime to give us some assurance that winter has its place and we shouldn’t hate absolutely everything from January through most of March. While I’m content to use them in salads and eat them as-is on a regular basis, using them in cocktails this year has yielded some pretty delicious results that have entered into my weekend cocktail rotation. In an effort to post more frequently than twice a month, I’m going to share a few different ones over the next few days.
A few weeks ago I acquired a nice stack of Canal House Cooking’s seasonal cookbooks on sale at Williams Sonoma, and a series of recipes that caught my eye in volume six was for the Greyhound—a simple combination of gin and grapefruit juice—and all of its variations. March is perhaps the ideal time to be experimenting with these libations because while signs are pointing to spring, we could just as easily be walloped with a blizzard at any moment. We might as well be sipping a seasonally appropriate cocktail while we await to see if the weather is more akin to lions or lambs, right?
Another day, and more eggs. Only this time they are in a salad, and they are far more pleasing to look at because I took this photo last June when we were enjoying the height of natural light. (Oh natural light, how I miss you.)
But of course, this proves the eternal truth that just because a salad is called such a thing, there is no guarantee that it’s going to be rabbit food, given that friseé is one of those greens that isn’t the most nutritionally dense (at least compared to the ubiquitous kale) and it’s basically coddling a wonderful combination of Gorgonzola, bacon bits, and poached eggs–nary a spa food in the lot save for the greens. But that’s kind of what makes it wonderful: it strikes the right balance between heavy and light that leaves you satisfied without feeling like you have a gut full of food, and it’s also a one-course meal that can come together relatively quickly if your multitasking skills are in peak condition. (Mine vary by how tired I am when I get home from work, but I can still pull this together in about 20 minutes.)
One of the aspects of Spanish food culture that I love is how they eat eggs at any time of day, with no need to cloak it in the really irritating “breakfast for dinner” trope.* The tortilla is perhaps the most famous way they cook eggs–check out Le culs en rows for her rather brilliant mini-tortillas that you can make in a muffin tin, by they way–but I’m convinced that the Spanish version of any egg preparation is the best. When we do have some eggs on Saturday mornings, Michael follows the technique that José Andrés calls for in his scrambled eggs with shallots and scallions recipe and they always are really creamy and tender because he makes sure they are still a little runny when he pulls the pan off of the heat. And then there is the baked egg variation, which I first enjoyed at La Tasqueta de Caldes in Caldes d’Estrac and I’ve been trying to recreate ever since.
Whenever we’re in the Flatiron district, I love to teasingly goad Michael into dropping in on Eataly; lately, his response has been simply “OK, see you at home then.” You may recall our initial impressions of Eataly New York when it first opened over Labor Day weekend in 2010; I’ve made a few visits there since then on my own, and I can’t say that my initial impressions have changed all that much. Any time I’ve purchased ingredients to make dinner I’ve been extremely satisfied with the results, and on my last visit I treated myself to a Neapolitan-style pizza that was easily among the best pizzas I ever had. But on the weekends the place was nearly as claustrophobic as it had been on opening weekend, and for all of the text on the walls celebrating Italian food culture, I was still left rather…cold.
Over Christmas I had heard that there were other Eataly locations opening up in the next few years, with a Chicago location having opened in November and space on a spot in Philadelphia allegedly secured. In chatting with my brother-in-law and his boyfriend about the latter, reflecting on the good and the disappointing, I realized that it had been a while since I went there and maybe, just maybe I had been too hard on the place, that I was trying to make it into something it never set out to be anyway. So when we were in Chicago a few weekends ago and I realized that Eataly Chicago was open and right off of Michigan Avenue, I decided to see if perhaps the second iteration had improved upon the first.