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


Pan-Fried Striped Bass with Pancetta and Parsley

A few months ago, right around Valentine’s Day, one of my coworkers asked me for some advice on making paella, and if I’d mind lending him a cookbook with a recipe in it. That night found me pulling my various Spanish cookbooks and reviewing the paella recipes contained therein; I wanted to give him one that was authentic but presented in an accessible way. I ended up bringing in my copies of The Barcelona Cookbook and Made in Spain for him to peruse, and between the two he was able to cobble together a recipe that would work for him.

My point of this story? When I went and pulled all of those cookbooks off the shelves, I realized I had upwards of at least fifteen dedicated to Spanish and//or Catalonian cooking. And that only counts the books we keep downstairs–the less-often used go upstairs in our loft “library.”

Common sense, recollection, and this blog’s archives tell me that I shouldn’t be so surprised by this, but I am all the same. Read More

Pan-seared trout with prosciutto and garlic-chile oil

Whole fish rank pretty high on the list of ingredients that are intimidating to work with when I’m cooking by myself. This isn’t the first time fresh whole fish have been featured here–when in New York we had more than our fair share of sardines and mackerel–but this was the first time I went at it on my own, using a new-to-me recipe because I’ve been on this ambitious cooking streak since we’ve gotten back from Spain. My trepidation in making this dish was actually three-fold:

  1. Was one fish enough for two people?
  2. The fish I did buy would not fit well into our only nonstick pan.
  3. I would overcook the fish. I prefer an ever-so-slightly underdone fish to overdone fish, because if it’s really an issue it can be reheated again. Overcooked fish tastes like cat food to me, and I really wasn’t in a mood to waste the $9 or so I spent on this lovely trout.

For the most part, my fears were unfounded as I was not only able to successfully cook this fish, Michael even declared it to be the best whole fish he’s ever had. I don’t credit my skills on that front, but rather the ingeniousness of the preparation.

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Copper River Sockeye Gravlax with Goat Cheese on a a Pumpernickel Bagel

Much like any supermarket around the country, ordering anything from the deli department at Fairway can require a wait of some duration on the weekends, and you just have to roll with the punches and try not to shoot too many death glares at the hapless dad ordering half the case’s contents a quarter pound at a time. Being a New York supermarket, though, Fairway also has a smoked fish counter right next to the deli where you don’t have to take a number and usually it’s a very simple in-and-out process…until you get stuck behind the mom ordering two pounds of smoked salmon for her brunch that day, and they don’t bring in another person to help alleviate the growing line behind her as the slicer stands there methodically making her way through the enormous salmon fillet (and then another fillet because one was not enough). I guess it was to be expected–it was Saturday morning on the Upper West Side, after all–but when you only need someone to spoon some alici into a plastic dish and hand it over to you, your patience wears ever thinner as each expertly-cut slice of pink fish is added to the pile.

The mom turned to us with an apologetic smile on her face–at least she waited with us, I suppose–and remarked that maybe she should have just gotten some pizzas or sandwiches after all. I silently grumbled that Fairway has a catering office so she could have at least called ahead, but by then it was a  cow’s opinion so it didn’t matter either way. (Incidentally, one way I entertain myself while waiting for such things is mentally flipping through my internal encyclopedia of pop-culture references. That leads me to giggle for no reason, but at least that ‘s better than giving strangers the stink-eye, right?)

That particular shopping trip came to mind when I was slicing through our little piece of gravlax last week, as I was only trying to slice enough to top half a bagel each for Michael and I as a mid-afternoon snack. Getting those gorgeous slices is not nearly as easy as it looks–no wonder the pros slice at the pace they do. Read More

Quasi-Bouillabaisse with Copper River King Salmon, Pacific Cod and Littleneck Clams with Rouille-Sathered Croutons)

People used to stare at fires. Now they watch TV. We need to see moving images, especially after dinner.

–Francois Truffaut, Day for Night.

Day for Night (click through for source)

Day for Night, simply put, is an amazing film. It’s joyous, hilarious, sad, and absurd. It’s a triumph of love and dedication and personal expression, and true to its tagline,  it really is a film for people who love films. The narcissism of the actors, the bullshit propelling the crew–it’s so incredibly timeless that you can easily ignore the fact that it was filmed in the 70s and therefore looks immediately dated. But it was also one of those films that I hadn’t thought about in a while until I shoved a random CD into my car’s player (yes, I have a zillion mix CDs in my ’04 Jetta, shut up) and its wondrous theme by Georges Delarue filled my car as I was making my way to the Westport train station, and suddenly I was craving to see it again, preferably after eating a big bowl of bouillabaisse.

This thought struck me in early May. I wasn’t able to actually give in to the craving until Saturday, and it ended up being an apt pairing of food and film, what with the reminder of the importance of rolling with the punches. Read More

Sea Breeze Fish Market

I lived in New Haven, Connecticut for five years while I went to graduate school. Although some of my friends might balk at this, and certainly time and distance has given me a shot glass of perspective, I enjoyed living there–most of the time, anyway. New Haven is an old city with a surprisingly rich food culture and filled with enthusiastic people. Also they let me cook on TV a bunch of times. Anyway. We wrote a post for our old blog last year extolling the wonders of the #1 Fish Market in North Haven, and until recently I have been hurting for a replacement, even though I moved to the supposed center of the universe. Read More

Fideuà (Noodles with Clams, Perch and Vegetables)

Michael has been teasing me lately that I’m turning into quite the talented Spanish cook due to so many weekends filled with gazpacho, bocadillos, chorizo and the like. This dinner came at the height of my preoccupation with all things Spain, otherwise known as the last weekend of the WC. Michael wanted to head downtown to the Strand to pick up a book for an upcoming trip (the details which will be revealed sooner rather than later), and being that it was the Strand I could not help but browsing through the cookbook section, seeing if there were any decent Spanish cookbooks for sale that I hadn’t seen before.

Clearly, because I went there not interested in buying anything that day, the most intriguing book that either Michael or I found was a cookbook highlighting dishes from Barcelona compiled by the editors at Williams & Sonoma being sold at half-price, calling to me with recipes that even on a cursory flip piqued my hunger. Evil bastards. Naturally I had to own this and even though it took another visit to a competing bookstore to get Michael what he wanted, we both left Union Square satisfied and smiling. Read More

Boston Mackerel, ready to go into the pouch

Usually, once the weather turns balmy my appetite tends to wane a bit and there are days where I don’t crave for much more than a cup of Rita’s Italian Water Ice (mango, wild black cherry or passionfruit, please) and my mind turns to grazing on random, small foodstuffs. The exception to this is whenever I am able to spend time in a body of water, be that a pool–or on very lucky days, the ocean–as when I emerge after a few hours of frolicking, I tend to become positively ravenous.

Memorial Day weekend did not present any swimming opportunities (that came a week later when we visited my parents to celebrate my mom’s birthday), but we ended up doing the walking equivalent on our Met excursion on Sunday, turning me into what Charles Schultz famously called Lucy van Pelt: a fussbudget. Read More

Mostaccioli con Salsa al Peperoni

Ever since Michael has found multiple sources for squid near our home, he has looked for any excuse whatsoever to make it, usually as a starter course or even a snack for himself during the week.  His new plan is to get a whole bunch of it, portion it out in half-pound servings, and make it for himself so he has something to much on while making dinner for us.  I’m not going to go as far and say that it’s his absolutely favorite food, but it’s pretty high up there.

Fortunately, this knowledge has become a very useful bargaining chip when I’ve proposed some of my favorite pasta dishes to him:  I’ll even buy him some squid to make as a first course if that means he’ll yield to my pasta cravings.  Read More

Fresh Sardines with Garlic-Pecorino Polenta

What can I say, my wife loves sardines.  This is how we discovered the majesty of Norwegian mackerel–the fish market near us doesn’t carry them, but they suggested the mackerel as an oily, albeit larger, substitute.   I love sardines because they’re so small that you’re not confronted with a lot of complicated preparation options, just grill ‘em and eat ‘em, bones and all (once Elizabeth asked me about eating the bones and I responded with “why do you think they’re so high in calcium?”).  If you’re on the West Side, you can grab fresh sardines at the Whole Food on 97th and Columbus and at the Fairway in Harlem.  Two fabulous establishments, simply put.

Lately, we’ve been exploring polenta.  I think Elizabeth must have northern Italian blood somewhere in her lineage because she likes it so much.  The instant kind is very easy to prepare, second in simplicity maybe to couscous.  It goes so well with grated Pecorino and garlic, it’s easy to mix together, less than 10 minutes all told.  We like onions on pretty much everything, so of course, I sautéed a bunch and coated the fishies and polenta.  In Costa Rica, they put ‘onion gravy’ on plantains and this is pretty close to that.  Whole fish are nothing to be afraid of friends, nor strange side dishes.  Even with these little sardies, ask your fishmonger to clean them to make your life easier, because gutting them is a bit much–but ask them to keep the heads intact.  Until then, friends, cook on!

Sardine on Foodista

Polenta on Foodista


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