A few days ago various sites were sharing photos by James and Karla Murray, authors of Store Front: The Disappearing Face of New York as they were doing a ten-year update in which they revisited several iconic mom-and-pop businesses in the city from their book to see if they were still there or had caved to the whims of modern New York and closed. Sadly, many are no longer there, either being replaced with banks and Subway shops (seriously) or sitting as unused and blank spaces. Change and gentrification, especially in a place like New York, are inevitable, but it always hurts a little more when something goofy and unique is replaced with another soulless corporate box of steel and glass.
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
With the gifting season in full swing (Happy Hanukkah to those who celebrate!), one of the most frustrating things I tend to encounter in shopping for gifts is finding things that stick to a certain budget. My team at work, for example, tends to stick to a $20 limit for its gift exchange, and it’s difficult to think of things that satisfy the following gift criteria that I have in my head:
- Unexpectedness (as in, it should satisfy the above two and also be a genuine surprise, if possible.)
So I’m going to share some of the things I really like and/or purchased and some of the things I think would make awesome presents for those who you want to provide something nice, but something useful. Read More
I had high hopes for this tortilla, and while it was delicious and did a pretty good job of matching the idea of the final product that was in my head, there’s also much room for improvement. But that’s how cooking goes some days. The key is, of course, is to crack a few more eggs and try it again.
My initial vision was to make a Spanish-style tribute to one of the best omelettes I’ve ever had: the omelette aux fines herbes at Pastis.* It’s enormous and fluffy and comes with a side of frites, and paired with a good French 75 it’s my platonic ideal of brunch these days. While the dish as-is would be a wonderful dinner, I’m not one for making frites at home, much less on a weekday. Here’s where the Spanish inspiration came in: crumble in some high-quality potato chips (in our case, the house-made chips from Fairway) along with the herbs into the eggs, and cook it all as a tortilla, served with a big salad.
Because really: if really tasty potato chips are good enough for both Feran Adrià and José Andrés to make the tortilla process a little faster, then they are good for all of us. While the resultant tortilla was tasty, it wasn’t perfectly cooked: the middle was a little runny while the exterior was just a touch too done. This didn’t bother me personally as I like runny eggs, but I’d really like to master the balance of exterior to interior doneness and make a tortilla that is as pretty as it is tasty one of these days. I’ve read that smaller pans are best, so I’ve placed a smaller nonstick on my birthday wishlist and hopefully in a few weeks I’ll be able to report on my success or lack thereof.
So let’s call this the “before” photo, and the “after” will come when I have less pan to work with and the same number of eggs. Pending that experiment, a recipe will soon follow.
*I wasn’t into eggs, much less an omelette, until a few years ago and therefore I have a very limited data set for reference. Feel free to instruct me on where to find better omelettes in the comments.
A few months ago I went to my grandmother’s house to help with the cleaning out of her things. After a tumultuous January in which many scenarios were possible but very few actually took place, my mom was finally tasked with the onerous job of cleaning out and selling my grandmother’s house, as she is now in a very nice nursing home. My parents wanted me to have the chance to get some things from her house, and among the vintage Pyrex, old books, some truly beautiful crystal glasses, and the furs that belonged to my great-great aunt, I inherited a little set of lovely sherbet glasses that my grandmom used to serve shrimp cocktail during holiday dinners.
When I saw them for the first time in years, my mind flashed to the strawberries in orange juice and sugar that I made last year, and how lovely the dish would look in these gorgeous little glassesand vowed to wait until spring hit to give this a try. But then I was flipping through Made In Spain for the umpteenth time a few weeks later, and my eye was drawn to the yogurt spherification recipe that I had earlier discounted for its perceived inherent fussiness..and an idea struck.
In addition to the macerated berries, how neat would it be to reference the dots in the glasses with little spherical blobs of yogurt? And more importantly, how much fun would it be to just try making these blobs at all?
You see, this whole notion of spherification (or, in this case, reverse spherification) first came about by the minds at Unilever in the 1950s, but it was well over 30 years later when it was employed into fine dining by Ferran Adria and his crew of chefs at elBulli. Reverse spherification is perhaps best known for creating the elBulli spherical olives made from olive juice and various pasta-less raviolis; turning yogurt into spheres is a less complicated endeavor because the only special ingredient you need to do it is sodium alginate.
The difference between straight spherification and reverse spherification is the kind of bath used to create the spheres. In straight spherificatoin, sodium alginate is mixed with the liquid you want to use, and then that is piped into a water bath spiked with calcium chloride. In reverse spherification, the bath is made from sodium alginate and the liquid you want to turn into spheres needs to have calcium in it–and yogurt has enough calcium naturally to make this possible.
The photos above are from the second time I made yogurt balls, and I’m going to try to make some more over Memorial Day weekend, only this time I want to incorporate some more flavor into the yogurt: some a little sweet, others more savory.
This technique definitely has some fun possibilities and I can’t wait to explore more of them.
Happy New Year! ¡Feliz Año Nuevo! Feliç Any Nou! I hope you all enjoyed a wonderful holiday season and that the return to real life is as painless as possible.
One of the things on my Christmas wishlist was a copy of Decoding Ferran Adrià because it had been years—literally—since I had seen it; cooking through Ferran Adrià At Home and The Family Meal over the last few years had gradually built up my interest once again and I wanted to revisit the special that turned this chef into more of a household name. In the age of Pinterest and the revival of recipes featuring canned cream-of-whatever soup mixed with cream cheese and boneless, skinless chicken breasts in the name of comfort food, revisiting the world of mango caviar and carrot foams feels delightfully subversive. It’s also ever-so-slightly more accessible to me these days, mainly thanks to Adrià acolyte José Andrés. (He’s my latest culinary crush, after all.) Read More
My blog-friend Kim recently mused on what makes a good cookbook, and for her it’s one that can be a big cookbook that’s not only chock full of recipes, but also of guidance. I’m inclined to agree, but I don’t necessarily need a “big” cookbook to do the job–just one that gets the importance of header notes and can provide direction on what level of heat to use during the cooking process. I think the absence of the latter is the single-most important reason why so many people I know like slow-cookers so much: they don’t have to worry that they’re going to mess something up by not heating the pan up enough or too much or cook it for too long or not long enough, and they don’t have to stand sentinel over a pan to gauge something like doneness. I can’t say that I love that uncertainty myself, but I’ve made peace with it over the years as I’ve practiced and asked M and others for advice and pored over the most helpful cookbooks.
Meat thermometers help, too.
So when I allowed myself to go off a months-long, self-imposed cookbook purchase ban a few weeks ago, I had it in my head that any substantial purchase had to fit the bill of being useful as well as inspiring. The two little cookbooks I bought in Spain technically count as recent purchases but were gotten as souvenirs rather than to be folded into a regular cookbook rotation–that is, until my Spanish improves–but the three larger books pictured above were acquired under more rigorous standards. Read More
Ever since we got back from Spain, the number of grey, rainy, and unseasonably cold days we’ve had at home has been significantly higher than we usually get this time of year. I think it temporarily stymied all of that wonderful inspiration that accompanied me home from Barcelona and Caldetes because last Tuesday I mulling over what I wanted to make for dinner that night and had absolutely no ideas whatsoever. Remembering that I now had the first season of Made in Spain on DVD, I immediately went to the website to see if any of the recipes posted would provide a bit of inspiration.
And then I found this recipe and resolved to pop a DVD in while I made dinner and waited for Michael to get home. Suddenly, my grey and chilly Tuesday looked so much brighter. Read More
It was with very mixed emotions I said goodbye to Michael a few Saturdays ago—I was off to Pennsylvania for some early-birthday celebrations with my family, while he was getting ready to head to England for a near-week-long trip. This wasn’t the longest he’s ever been away, but it is the furthest, and not having him handy when I was cooking, even remotely, meant that I was really on my own when it came to meal planning that week. And unlike the last time he was away for a long stretch, I wouldn’t have nearly enough time as I have in the past to plan my meals; after all, there was a Clásico to watch, and a barbell to lift, and groceries to buy on Sunday once I returned home from the Stamford train station. Fortunately, I was wise enough to ask for Made in Sicily for my birthday from my family, so I had a quiet ride on the Keystone to flip through its sizable pages.
It’s a pretty exhaustive tome on all things Sicilian that’s heavy on the vegetable, pasta, and seafood dishes, and it made me wish a few times at least that my birthday was a little earlier on the calendar so I’d have more time to take advantage of the many delicious tomato dishes on display. Other recipes definitely intrigued me until I realized the called for bottarga or uni (i.e. sea urchin roe), two ingredients that aren’t exactly cheap here in the U.S., but perhaps if I’m feeling particularly adventurous (and flush with cash), there may come a time to treat myself if only to try it in the future. I settled on a recipe that I had seen before, but never made from this book: a pesto trapanese that was exactly what I wanted: a fresh sauce made thicker by the inclusion of almonds and more refreshing with a healthy addition of mint. It may not need the processing I put it through via the blender, but I prefer a blended pesto over a very rustic one, and I loved how it coated every strand of the bucatini. Read More