Tomato-Peach-Basil Salad with Burrata
Despite it being his birthday month, Michael hates the month of August. He’s also not that much of a fan of his birthday, come to think of it—the last few years we’ve gone down to Keen’s in Midtown so he could avail himself of a giant steak, but even that isn’t appealing to his senses this year. I have plans to take him to Momofuku this year, as we’ve never been but we are completely obsessed with Momofuku. I want to make sure it’s fully in the spirit of Treat Yo Self Day and we spend the day frequenting as many of his favorite places as possible.
It needs to be a good one, too, as this particular August had an..interesting beginning but I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the bright spots here and there. We were able to celebrate a friend’s milestone birthday down at his new home in Maryland and had a mini-reunion of sorts with so many of our friends from the New Haven years which was a real treat. I also haven’t been south of Delaware for years, so it was a lot of fun to see places like Baltimore for the first time in so long—the last reason that brought me to that particular area was when I was scoping out colleges and Loyola was on my shortlist.
Hawksmoor at Home’s simple tomato-cucumber salad
The other bright spot, as silly as it sounds, has been the fact that heirloom tomatoes have been on sale at Fairway all month. Organic heirloom tomatoes, I should add. Every week I’ve ventured over to the organic section to pick up a few for weekend salads, and every purchase has yielded delicious results. Whether it’s the tomato-cucumber salad from Hawksmoor at Home or a lunchtime arrangement with peaches, basil, and burrata, I haven’ had to fret much over eating enough lycopene. Taking a cue from Ina Garten I also made a fresh pasta sauce by marinating some chopped heirloom tomatoes in olive oil, mint, and garlic and then stirred it into fedelini with some fresh mozzarella. The leftovers I had the following week were excellent, as each day it smelled like a margherita pizza was cooking in the work microwave.
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.
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.
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.)
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.
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
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