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
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
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.
A few Sundays ago, when we were waiting for our flight back to New York from Chicago, Michael and I were wandering through the United Express terminal at O’Hare and saw that there was a flight to New Orleans was on the board, and while it was full…we saw two seats were open. For all of two minutes we toyed with the fantasy of getting a flight there instead of back home, but alas–practicality won the day. (Also helping: those two seats were gone by the time we came back from getting a bite to eat.)
So while there are no immediate plans to take in the NOLA food and music in person, at least we have this season of Top Chef to live vicariously and recipes from Saveur to transport us there…if only for a meal. Read More
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
OK, so I feel a little guilty. I’ve been sitting on these cocktails for most of the summer, but because I couldn’t write my way to a coherent blog post until now, these recipes have gone unpublished and therefore not enjoyed by anyone who hasn’t had the chance to hang out with us in the intervening weeks. But Fall Creep has started to rear its ugly head, so I need to share these post-haste before the it comes to wipe out what’s left of summer.
Let me be clear: I love the fall, but I HATE Fall Creep. Thanks to platforms such as Tumblr and Pinterest, people can indulge their desire for cooler weather practically year-round; unfortunately, CPG companies have realized that they can start pushing things like pumpkin-flavored lattes and Halloween candy even earlier than they ever thought possible as a result of said anticipation. It’s one thing when malls are decked out for Christmas before Thanksgiving–it is quite another when images of sweaters and pumpkins and dead leaves pop up on my feeds before the peak tomato season has even hit the Northeast. Tomato season is SPECIAL, you guys, and it is far too short to be passed over for fall-flavored syrups without a second thought.
So before you go and ruin the many weeks we still have left of summer with your fall cravings, may I suggest making at least one of these cocktails? I promise you won’t be disappointed. Read More
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.
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
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.