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Spinach Salad with Prosciutto and Valdeón

Spinach Salad with Warm Bacon Vinaigrette, Prosciutto, and Valdeón

It’s been a while since I’ve recounted a week sabor de soledad, even though Michael has had several trips taking him all over the place in the last year or so. Two weeks ago he was in the fabulous city of Tokyo on a last-minute trip, and I have to say that I was pleased with the dishes I turned out while he was away. It’s funny—I’ve become more of a salad person over the last few years, but I’m never so prolific in making them until I’m on my own. I can only account the follow reasons as why I’m so Team Salad:

  • Easy to scale down to one person.
  • Cheese is often involved, especially the cheeses I love but only rarely indulge in.
  • They are relatively fast dishes to prepare.
  • Oh, I guess they are allegedly healthy too.

I feel like such a traitor to both Leslie Knope and Ron Swanson, but unlike fictional characters, eating vegetables on a regular basis is an unfortunate necessity.

amy-17

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Arancitacello/blood orange 'cello

Arancitacello/blood orange ‘cello

As recently as a few years ago, you would be hard-pressed to find any citrus fruits that went beyond your basic lemons, limes, navel oranges, and grapefruits save for a few short weeks a year. Much like ramps in springtime, you’d be forced to overload on as many blood oranges, Meyer lemons, kumquats, pink lemons, and Cara Cara oranges as you possibly could and figure out ways to use them as quickly as possible. With some of those fruits that limited window of availability is still the case, but I was pleasantly surprised to find some blood oranges not only in stock, but on sale a week or so ago at Fairway. In March, no less!

I had it in my head to make a batch of limoncello (or any other kind of citrus-based digestive) as it’s been years (literally!) since I made polpelmocello back in New York, but I wanted to do something different yet again. Blood orange ‘cello crossed my mind more than once, but I was worried that I had missed that particular train by the time I had the time to give it another try.

And then blood oranges went on sale for $1.99/lb a couple of weeks back, and I knew that it was time to make it.

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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

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

Shrimp with garlic and cava reduction/gambes a l'all amb reducció de cava

Shrimp with garlic and cava reduction/gambes a l’all amb reducció de cava

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

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

Our plate at Bar Pastoral:  Casatica with roasted garlic, Manchego with horseradish (I think), Caveman Blue with honey, and some prosciutto di San Daniele and chorizo.

Our plate at Bar Pastoral: Casatica with roasted garlic, Manchego with horseradish (I think), Caveman Blue with honey, and some prosciutto di San Daniele and chorizo.

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.

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Barbecue Shrimp, New Orleans Style

Barbecue Shrimp, New Orleans Style

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

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