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Arancitacello/blood orange 'cello

Arancitacello/blood orange ‘cello

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.

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Italian Greyhound cocktail

Italian Greyhound cocktail

“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?

The reason why you see this image everywhere is because it’s accurate.

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Smoked salmon and ricotta wraps

Smoked salmon and ricotta wraps

New Year’s Eve is my favorite food holiday, full stop. We don’t have to follow any specific food traditions, and instead we can make a number of small bites that follow whatever whims we may have in mind that particular year. In reality, the only rules that we do have around the holiday are simple:

  • No leaving the apartment, even to do this same thing at someone else’s house, because that never ends well.
  • Loungey clothes are necessary, if not required.
  • Games will be played
  • Wine, especially bubbly wines, will be consumed.

When our friend W asked what our plans were, I explained that we were pretty rigid on the not-leaving-the-apartment thing (seriously, the last time we tried to do this on New Year’s Eve, I ended up with a stomach virus) but that they were welcome to join us. As soon as she said that they would love to come, out came the cookbooks to brainstorm some ideas on what to make. I may have also put the El Bulli episode of No Reservations on while I browsed, and ultimately came up with more ideas for this dinner than I did for the dinners I was supposed to be planning for…because that’s how things tend to go.

Besides: a meal of this scale requires several days of brainstorming, and I ended up finding some fine meals to have on Sunday and Monday shortly thereafter. So there, husband. Read More

Our plate at Bar Pastoral:  Casatica with roasted garlic, Manchego with horseradish (I think), Caveman Blue with honey, and some prosciutto di San Daniele and chorizo.

Our plate at Bar Pastoral: Casatica with roasted garlic, Manchego with horseradish (I think), Caveman Blue with honey, and some prosciutto di San Daniele and chorizo.

Not long after our friend T moved out to Chicago, he sent me a link to a wine bar/cheese shop that wasn’t far from his apartment that he thought I’d like, all but promising to go there when I eventually paid him a visit. I hadn’t forgotten about the place in the intervening months that followed, so when I was finally able to head out to the Windy City a few weeks ago to finally see him, going to Pastoral (the wine/cheese shop) and its sister bistro next door Bar Pastoral was one of the few definitive plans I had for the trip, and perhaps the only disappointment I had was that I only was able to eat there once.

But oh, was that one time a memorable one!

T was completely wiped from a particularly grueling work week, so by the time we sat down at the bar he was more than happy to let me run the show. Since this was my first time there, I decided to cede control to our very helpful bartender, who recommended a nice selection of cheeses: a soft cheese made with water buffalo milk, a lovely blue cheese, and a firm cheese that I’m pretty sure was Manchego. (This bad food blogger forgot to write them all down. Boo.) Some slices of chorizo and prosciutto di San Daniele finished the plate, along with a little loaf of crusty bread and a nice glass of red wine. Even better was that each cheese came with its own specific garnish, ensuring that when you loaded up a piece of bread with your cheese of choice, you were going to get a complex, complete bite.

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English Tomato Salad from Hawksmoor at Home (The Manhattan [food] Project)

English Tomato Salad from Hawksmoor at Home (The Manhattan [food] Project)

In my continuing campaign to prolong summer while it is still summer and protect us from Fall Creep, I humbly submit this salad as evidence that it’s far too soon to be wishing for pumpkin lattes and fucking sweaters. This salad is summer. It’s delicious and nourishing and it will not taste nearly as good at any other time of year as it does now, and therefore you should make it immediately. Incidentally, since today is the last Wednesday in August, it is officially La Tomatina: a festival in Buñol, Spain that is essentially a town-wide tomato fight. Most of us can’t be there in person to participate in the festivities, so why not use it instead as an excuse to splurge on some fantastic heirloom tomatoes?

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Strawberry-Basil Caipirinha with the first issue of Cherry Bombe.

Strawberry-Basil Caipirinha with the first issue of Cherry Bombe.

OK, so I feel a little guilty. I’ve been sitting on these cocktails for most of the summer, but because I couldn’t write my way to a coherent blog post until now, these recipes have gone unpublished and therefore not enjoyed by anyone who hasn’t had the chance to hang out with us in the intervening weeks. But Fall Creep has started to rear its ugly head, so I need to share these post-haste before the it comes to wipe out what’s left of summer.

Let me be clear: I love the fall, but I HATE Fall Creep. Thanks to platforms such as Tumblr and Pinterest, people can indulge their desire for cooler weather practically year-round; unfortunately, CPG companies have realized that they can start pushing things like pumpkin-flavored lattes and Halloween candy even earlier than they ever thought possible as a result of said anticipation. It’s one thing when malls are decked out for Christmas before Thanksgiving–it is quite another when images of sweaters and pumpkins and dead leaves pop up on my feeds before the peak tomato season has even hit the Northeast. Tomato season is SPECIAL, you guys, and it is far too short to be passed over for fall-flavored syrups without a second thought.

So before you go and ruin the many weeks we still have left of summer with your fall cravings, may I suggest making at least one of these cocktails? I promise you won’t be disappointed.  Read More

Peach, gorgonzola, and honey crostini

Garlic-rubbed crostini with peaches, gorgonzola, and honey

Because it has been very hot over the last few weeks and will probably get very hot again before the end of the summer, I’m going to continue to discuss easy foods that could easily double as dinner if you just make enough of it. The peaches have been particularly good this year, happily, and so I’ve enjoyed placing it on slices of garlic-rubbed bread along with some meat, some cheese, or both. I made these as an early evening appetizer, and given that we hadn’t had much to eat that day (because it was hot) I ended up making quite a few pieces, which is to say that probably had too many but I don’t really care because they were that delicious. Read More

Gazpacho andaluz/gazpaxo andalus

Gazpacho andaluz/gazpaxo andalús

One of the things that was challenging during our trip to Barcelona last year was trying to stay well-hydrated. We’d be the obnoxious Americans carrying around the giant 1.5 liter bottles of mineral water (sin gas) while we walked and went sightseeing, but the weather was warm, even for the first day of fall. Even then, nothing ever felt like it was properly slaking our thirst; that is, until I realized that the key to hydration, at least for me, was eating (drinking?) lots and lots of gazpacho.

It seemed odd at first–given its Andalusian provenance, I wasn’t expecting to find it as readily as I did in Barcelona–but I’m pretty sure the restaurateurs knew that few other foods are as fully restorative during hot weather as even a small serving of this soup. Thanks to unseasonably cool weather once we came home, though, my craving for gazpacho completely vanished and I didn’t think of making it again until a few weeks ago when we were in the middle of the first of a series of unpleasant heatwaves. Loosely following a recipe from José Andrés, I immediately remembered the appeal of this dish: an abundance of water-logged vegetables that help you stay hydrated, but do so while also helping you feel full. (Thanks, fiber!) That it requires minimal prep work and that a blender does all the work is icing on the cake.

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Burnt tomatoes with anchovies, goat cheese, and parsley-garlic-oil sauce.

Burnt tomatoes with anchovies, goat cheese, and parsley-garlic-oil sauce.

I have all of these posts in mind with all of these wonderful salads and drinks and the like in mind, but all that occupies my mind right now is the savage beating my beloved Spanish national team endured at the hands of the Brazilians. To be frank, the latter deserved the win; I don’t really understand what Vincente del Bosque’s strategy was during the match, particularly when it concerned not playing Cesc Fabregas at all and David Villa only a minimal amount of playing time. It will certainly make the qualifying matches much more interesting to see what he’s trying to do this time around, at least, but at least this Confederations Cup final has me intrigued by Neymar but I’m also very much waiting for him to be an overdramatic diver. Meanwhile, it was particularly horrific to see a great side completely fall apart during this game. I mean, who approved Sergio Ramos to take a penalty kick?? Xavi spoke for all of us with his facepalm:

We are all Xavi here. Image via @barcastuff

We are all Xavi here. Image via @barcastuff

One stat that popped up at the end noted that the winners of the Confederations Cup never go on to win the World Cup, but I feel like Brazil winning this and then hosting the World Cup next year is all but setting them up for a triumphant return to global football supremacy. I’m optimistic Spain can put a big old wedge in that plan, but in the meantime I should stop bitching about football and instead talk about the fantastic meal we made ourselves during the course of the match. Read More

Moules à la grecque

Moules à la grecque, from The Les Halles Cookbook

This one’s a nice departure from the summer-style mussel recipes so far, a dish more suited to fall or winter, or post-Labor Day New England. You know, fluffy sweaters and shorts, tourists all gone…that crisp, cool, Cape Cod light. Okay, I don’t live that way either. But it sounds good, right?

Anthony Bourdain, The Les Halles Cookbook

There are days in August especially when all I want is a nice, rich bowl of pasta; fortunately for me, I can make us a pan of Amatriciana sauce with fresh tomatoes and still count it as seasonally-appropriate cooking. It’s much more difficult to find an analogous dish in the wintertime, one that is made with seasonal produce but won’t weigh you down in its density.

Shellfish dishes have been filling this need fairly well so far this season, but moules à la grecque is quite possibly the ne plus ultra of the bunch. Relatively fast to make, easy to cook, and riddled with fennel, this is everything that Bourdain promises above: a wintertime alternative to the bright, summery dishes that beg for freshly-trimmed herbs and fresh tomatoes from the garden. If you can get it made by 5PM in late February, you can also enjoy it in the crisp, cool New England light, though shorts would only be recommended if dining indoors with good central heating. Read More

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