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.
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?
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
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 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.
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
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, 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
Roasted Grape and Goat Cheese Bruschette
As a rule, I try not to be too precious about my cookbooks. They’re meant to be practical, after all, and the best ones should bear the stains of cooking: the pages a little warped from sauce splatters, little smudges here and there on the edges, even pages escaping the binding after years and years of use. When I pull a book from the shelf and sit down on the couch to browse it, those little signs of wear and tear remind me of successful (and even the less-than-successful) meals.
My practical outlook was almost turned upside down when I unwrapped a copy of Polpo on Christmas Day, because in my hands was quite possibly the most aesthetically pleasing cookbook I ever had the pleasure of owning. I instantly loved everything about it: the typeface, the photography, the paper used for the pages. But the absolute neatest visual aspect about this book is the spine::
How cool is that? And then I found this fantastic article from The Paris Review a few days later on the evolution of the bookshelf and that back in the days when books were primarily found in monasteries they would be placed with the front edges out, all ornately illustrated. But I digress.
Roasted Bone Marrow with Caramelized Onions
[Editor's note: it should go without saying that what happened in Newtown, CT, this past Friday was deplorable, horrific, abominable, heinous, and many more synonyms that could be employed to describe it as such. I hesitated on whether I should mention anything at all on the subject as this doesn't feel like the appropriate forum, but then my friends at Saugatuck Grain and Grape announced that they would donate 10% of their sales from their Bubbles, Bubbles and More Bubbles event to The Sandy Hook School Support Fund, so if you're in the Westport, CT area on Saturday the 22nd between 3 and 6PM, stop on by and enjoy some bubbles while giving back to a worthy cause. If you're like me and will be traveling, their phone orders will also count towards their final donation and they offer free delivery (but I would inquire within on specifics, of course). They haven't asked me to publicize this, but I thought it had a nice sentiment: a small business toasting its customers while wanting to give back to the greater community during a time of intense sorrow. Full explanation of the photograph above after the jump.] Read More
So this coming weekend marks another Super Bowl (can I call it that even though I’m not affiliated with the NFL?) and another occasion when you might be called upon to make appetizers and “game day snacks” for your guests to mindlessly nosh as they watch said big game. It basically means that if you go anywhere near food media between now and Sunday, you’ll be inundated with recipes for chili and various x-layer dips and everything gluttonous and frankly, done to death. So I’d like to present you with two options that aren’t revolutionary in their construct, but are delicious and really easy to prepare and perfectly suited to slipping in with the usual suspects if you have guests with more discerning palates or you just want something slightly more sophisticated for yourself while watching the game.