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appetizers

Heirloom Tomato Salad with Black Garlic and White Balsamic

Heirloom Tomato Salad with Black Garlic and White Balsamic

Eric Ripert, like most of the chefs who end up as judges on Top Chef, intimidates the hell out of me, mainly because he and his restaurant Le Bernadin in New York embody the word “flawless” in the way that few chefs and restaurants can. Simply thinking of the season 5 episode of Top Chef in which the cheftestants visit the restaurant, have an amazing meal there, and then are tasked to recreate a dish they had enjoyed makes my stomach churn with anxiety to this day. I mean, this is the place that employs a guy whose job it is to properly break down whole fish, and he’s so good at it that when he goes on vacation, two people are required to handle the volume of fish he portions by himself and it’s still not enough to meet the demand.

Eric Ripert demands excellence and embodies it on a daily basis, and the rest of us are merely along for the ride. Read More

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

Shrimp with garlic and cava reduction/gambes a l'all amb reducció de cava

Shrimp with garlic and cava reduction/gambes a l’all amb reducció de cava

The last few weeks have not been particularly kind to us here at The Manhattan [food] Project, thanks to a series of injuries, illnesses, and mounting work stress that inevitably comes at the end of the calendar year. While everyone is physically fine (or at least close to it) now, in the last few weeks I had to deal with a husband who had a nasty sinus infection and a father who smacked his head against a curb when he tripped on a slippery ramp in Danbury during a weekend visit. (They are both fine now, but I feel like my sanity was hanging by a thread there for a while.) Even before all of that excitement I had been feeling discouraged, frustrated, and uninspired, and had it not been for an email exchange with a lovely reader, I’d be a lot crankier right now because I wouldn’t have this dish, straight from La Boqueria, in my repertoire. 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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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

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One of the most fascinating aspects about the French Quarter, and New Orleans in general, is the cocktail culture. I mean, this is a place where not only can you find anything from huge-ass beers to wine smoothies to neon-colored daiquiris, but you can walk around with them as you amble down the street to find your next destination. But if giant alcoholic slushies aren’t your particular bag, it’s just as easy to enjoy a well-crafted drink in a gorgeous bar and add a touch of sophistication to your debauchery.

Enter French 75 and the Carousel Bar. Read More

Bresaola-Wrapped Arugula-Pecorino Salad

Bresaola-Wrapped Arugula-Pecorino Salad

I have all of these epic posts in progress right now, but I had to share this half-salad, half-appetizer with you right away as it’s quite possibly the platonic ideal of easy springtime/summer eating. This recipe comes from Polpo‘s cecchetti section as part of a selection of “wraps” that they offer as small plates, and it is absolutely fantastic as an alternative to a big salad when paired with a simple little meat dish. It’s also a great variation of the bresaola carpaccio I assembled a few years ago, albeit a little more substantial and a little more favorable on the meat to salad ratio.

That the meat in question is incredibly lean is merely one more reason to try this little dish; that it’s easy to eat and quite substantial are the primary reasons to do so. It’s not even really fair to call this a recipe, but the inspired presentation, to me at least, is more than enough reason to share it. Just say that you got it from a fabulous Venetian-style restaurant in London.

Bresaola-Wrapped Arugula-Pecorino Salad

adapted from Polpo

serves 2

  • 2 generous handfuls of baby arugula, washed well and spun dry
  • Juice of half a lemon
  • 1/4 cup (max) of grated Pecorino Romano or Parmigiano Reggiano (not fine, if possible–shards are good)
  • Up to 1/2 cup good olive oil
  • 6 slices bresaola
  • Kosher salt to taste (note that the beef is salty, so no heavy hand is needed)

First, dress the salad: take freshly-washed arugula and dress first with lemon juice, then salt, then olive oil, and finally with cheese right before serving. (Any sooner on the cheese and the lemon will break it down too much.) Take a slice of the bresaola, fill with approximately 1/6th of the salad and secure with a skewer. Repeat until you have used up all of the salad. Serve immediately.

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