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Shrimp and Orange Salad with Arugula and Fennel

It’s not even August and apparently stores are stocking their shelves for Hallow-freaking-ween. I’m very much aware that holiday creep is a huge thing in retail (back-to-school seems to go back on the shelves around the Fourth) but especially after the winter so many of us had to endure this year, well, cheering on the arrival of the season of inevitable misery seems abominably cruel. It’s not like this summer has been particularly arduous here in the Northeast—we’ve had some periods of hot and/or humid weather, but we’ve been pretty lucky so far: a day or two of intense humidity have beckoned a cold front blowing through almost immediately thereafter, and otherwise we’ve had pretty pleasant weather. There have been many a weekend afternoon spent on the local beaches, and even an evening or two listening to the rain while we sit on our balcony.

In short, I’m doing everything I can to appreciate the summer while it’s here, and I will be loath to give it up because gauzy clothes and cool drinks are superior to wooly socks, fun-size candies and hot toddies, no matter what anyone says. Read More

Obligatory beauty shot of  ramps.

Obligatory beauty shot of ramps.

A few months ago when we were in the throes of absolutely miserable weather, I had this feeling that ramp season would be embraced even more fervently than before, if only because it was definitive proof that spring was finally here and the long tyranny of this winter had come to an end. There had been some backlash against the ramp’s trendiness over the last few years, with some sniffing that while good, the hype surrounding them had ballooned out of control. Even by the time I had first gotten my hands on a few bunches back in 2010 the eye-rolling had already begun, but thankfully that hasn’t stopped the influx of ramps into the Union Square Greenmarket. As J. Kenji López-Alt rightly pointed out in 2011, part of what makes the ramp special is that we do have to wait for them to come every year and when they are available we have to make the most of them—in our increasingly on-demand society, it’s kind of refreshing to exercise some patience when it comes to food.

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Frisee Aux Lardons avec Ouefs Pochés et Gorgonzola/Frisee Aux Lardons with Poached Eggs and Gorgonzola

Frisee Aux Lardons with Poached Eggs and Gorgonzola

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.)

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Baked eggs with sobrasada at La Tasqueta de Caldes.

Baked eggs with sobrasada at La Tasqueta de Caldes

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.

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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

Oregano Pesto with Chicken Thighs

Oregano Pesto with Chicken Thighs

Welp. Well, I guess it’s really fall, even if the temperatures have crept close to the 70s a few days ago, and threaten to do so later this week. You know how I know this? The darkness has been making a hasty return sooner and sooner every day, and as someone who lives in the Northeast and prefers taking pictures of my food in natural light, I hate it. So please bear with me as I once again readjust to the awful artificial light in our apartment. Clearly, I will never take this transition well.

One of the few bright spots about this transition to colder weather is feeling the need to take the shears to my pots of herbs while they are still lush and vibrant. My oregano plant has been left to its own devices all season and has gotten positively unruly; because it’s considered to be really strong in taste, the only amount I’ve needed to use are a few sprigs here and there in recipes all summer. I despaired of finding a proper way to dispatch of it until I found this lovely pesto recipe from Saveur, which called for one and a half cups of packed oregano leaves and only half a cup of basil leaves. A little more than a week ago I trimmed back my plant to make the sauce to pour over pasta, and the results were not only really satisfying, but this pesto felt more autumnal compared to the ones I’ve been making all summer. Read More

Tomato Pesto over Gnocchi

Tomato Pesto over Gnocchi

I spent the last few days in Chicago visiting a dear friend, and those days were surprisingly warm. I was all ready to embrace the fall and I even packed two sweaters to combat against the wind tunnel effect, but they and the jacket I packed were completely unnecessary. It was sunny, and warm, and largely reminiscent of not only the last third of this past summer, but also of our time last year in Barcelona. Between Thursday and Friday, I walked all over Lincoln Park, and the Loop, and revisited West Loop which was the neighborhood I stayed in the first time I was in Chicago ever. As a belated housewarming gift to my friend I brought him an immersion blender, and ever since then I was kind of preoccupied with making my favorite tomato pesto because it always comes out better using that than the traditional blender.

If I also wanted an excuse to post this recipe again to tempt T into making it before the tomatoes are lousy, well, I’ll never tell. Read More

Squid with Burst Tomatoes

Squid with Burst Tomatoes

Last week was not particularly enjoyable: besides being grey and kind of cold for August, a succession of events left me feeling pretty damn defeated by the end of the week. In an effort to boost our spirits halfway through, I did what I usually do when in need of some self-care: I poked around on the internet for some recipe ideas. I didn’t need to look for that long, as a fellow blogger had that day posted a recipe from Tom Colicchio for a salad of squid with burst tomatoes from the latest Food + Wine. 

Michael was all for it when I sent him the link. But to be completely honest, I kind of didn’t care at that point, because in my mind I was determined to make it. (Given his love of squid, I really didn’t think this would be much of a hard sell in any case.)

There isn’t much to this dish, aside from chopping garlic, slicing squid, and plucking about a cup’s worth of basil leaves. The tomatoes you leave whole, as they will slowly cook with the garlic in the oil and begin to fall apart, and then the squid follows and cooks for another five minutes. Michael expressed some concern that the heat needed to go up to avoid it turning tough, but honestly, it really didn’t: the squid was perfectly tender when served. Chef Colicchio finishes the dish with the basil and some white wine vinegar, but I was in the mood for a splash of white wine instead. I also upped the garlic amount specified because it’s what I like.

On its own, it’s spectacular, but I think it would make an excellent summer pasta sauce if you were so inclined.

Squid with Burst Cherry Tomatoes

adapted slightly from Tom Colicchio’s recipe for Food + Wine

Serves 2-4, depending on how hungry

  • 1/3 cup olive oil
  • 1 1/2 pounds cherry tomatoes
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • Kosher salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 lb cleaned squid, with ears removed from bodies and tentacles sliced in half
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons white wine
  • 1 cup basil leaves, washed and dried

Add the olive oil to a large, heavy skillet and bring the olive oil to moderate heat. Add the garlic and tomatoes, and cook for about 4 minutes or until they begin to burst. Add the squid and cook over moderately low heat for an additional 5 minutes. Add the white wine and cook for another minute or so, and then stir in the basil. Season well with salt and pepper and serve immediately.

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

Spaghetti tagliuzzati con zuppa di aragosta

Spaghetti tagliuzzati con zuppa di aragosta

Lobster and pasta: it sounds so simple, doesn’t it? And doesn’t it sound like the epitome of the springtime or summer meal, something to enjoy after a nice day at the beach, perhaps served with a refreshing beer or glass of white wine?

Oh, were it so simple. The truth of the matter is that this is a dish that demands patience. Not only does it take some work to get all of the components ready, but it’s one that requires you to wait until the ingredients are in season because anything otherwise would result in a less-than-stellar meal. I knew this when I first saw the recipe in Made In Sicily months ago, so I abstained from even thinking about it. But then Memorial Day weekend came, and Michael was home after a long week in England, and Fairway had lobster on sale. Even the tomatoes smelled delicious, despite it not quite being peak tomato season just yet in our neck of the woods.

In short: I waited long enough to have this, and to borrow a phrase from Alton Brown, my patience was going to be rewarded. Read More

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