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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

This is not going to be a normal post with a pithy (ha!) little story about this particular meal, because I have been staring at this photo of ceviche for a few weeks now and still can’t come up with something about Labor Day that isn’t completely banal. I mean, I could go all “bla bla bla, no grilling here because we were craving something light” or some crap, but I can only imagine how boring it would be to read it given how dull I found every various narrative bent.

So I am going to ask for your forbearance while I write about some of the various stream-of-conscious thoughts that have been running through my head. Read More

Pollo al pimentos

I’ve never liked the lamentations that often accompany Labor Day, all bemoaning the end of the summer. First of all, summer is not over; September 20th marks the beginning of fall.  And it’s not as if the weather immediately resets itself to autumn mode, either–the mere act of going into my closet Sunday morning to contemplate sweaters was causing me to break out in a sweat. Just because coffee shops are champing at the bit to push their pumpkin pie spice lattes doesn’t mean it’s time to put away the sandals. You can try to pry those off my feet, but I don’t think you’d be successful.

Besides: this is the best time of year to enjoy the best of what summer has to offer. Making your way down to the Union Square Greenmarket via subway comes with the best reward: the overwhelming aroma of peak-time tomatoes and herbs enveloping your senses as you emerge from the subway station. Even if you can’t make it to that particular market, you are afforded a similar sensation as you shop for tomatoes in your local supermarket, because if they don’t smell amazing now, they likely never will.

(I realize with the previous statement that I am showing my proximity-to-Jersey-tomatoes-privilege, but they are seriously the best tomatoes ever so I apologize for nothing.) Read More

Spicy Tuna and Shrimp-Chipotle Ceviche

I think it’s safe to say that spring has finally arrived in New York City. We were very lucky to have a gorgeous couple-a days last two weekends, and we decided that our Saturday dinner should reflect the sunlight and the final departure of the cold. When I think delicious dishes in warmer weather, ceviche is one of my most beloved go-to recipes because there’s so much room for variation that you never have to repeat a combination (unless you want to). It reminds me of one of my other favorite dishes, one that’s also an unending source of variable deliciousness, pizza.

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Rigatoni with Pancetta, Red Onion and Pecorino

Rome is on my list of places to visit sooner than later for many reasons (but then again the same could be said for Barcelona, Madrid, and San Juan), in part because I have this recurring wistful yearning to sit in a charming cafe, preferably outside in some piazza and have the perfect plate of any of the four basic Roman pasta dishes: alla gricia, amatriciana, carbornara or cacio e pepe. I credit this to too many viewings of The Talented Mr. Ripley and the season 3 episode of Mad Men that finds Don and Betty spending a sexy night in Rome. As much as I’d like to give my passport a workout and go to all of those places whenever I want to–those times often being when I’m in the midst of my commute and see ads for those destinations all over buses, taxis and trains–real life doesn’t always permit those whims, so I content myself with a nice plate or bowl of food that can at least take me there in my imagination.

I credit Gina de Palma for helping me appreciate the nuances in making basic Roman pasta dishes, thanks to her step-by-step tutorial on Serious Eats some time ago that walks you through the precise cooking method of pasta alla gricia. It’s a delicate dance of a dish, and we followed her instructions to the letter, even to the point of pulling out the scale and measuring the cheese and pasta based on the amount of guanciale we had at our disposal. It was an exercise in precision, to be sure, but it was useful in understanding the basics of Roman pasta-cooking because only when the fundamentals are strong can experimentation really take place.

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Avocado and Jalapeno Salsa and Tuna and Avocado Ceviche

There are days when I really, really miss New Haven. Up until we found an amazing fish shop in Hell’s Kitchen I fiercely lamented not having a shop like #1 Fish Market in North Haven, and of course I longed for a nice glass of wine and some tapas at Barcelona. But Barcelona was not the only place that I missed; you see, New Haven is a little treasure trove of culinary delights, boasting more quality restaurants in its tiny footprint than one would ever expect. You want Cuban, Japanese, New American, French, Italian or Spanish food? New Haven got you. Want pizza? You better believe that New Haven got you. Want decadent, delicious, and gut-busting brunches? Well, do we see a pattern forming here? Read More

Gazpacho y una tortilla de patatas

This meal started out with the best of intentions: we were going to be arriving home from Pennsylvania earlier that day, we had a delivery coming from Fresh Direct with most of the week’s groceries and all I had to worry about was the impending drive to work the following morning. A quick perusal on Serious Eats Thursday morning had put me face-to-face with a delectable-looking tortilla, so I had decided then and there that we would enjoy the Spanish staple Monday night thinking it would simple, fun and a break from all of the heavy food we had over the weekend. Ensuring that we had all of the ingredients readily available, save perhaps having to run downstairs to pick up some extra eggs I thought I’d make gazpacho, we’d have a little wine and perhaps some cheese and we would toast to making it to and from Pennsylvania by car (our first major car trip in the last year) no worse for the wear.

Did that happen? Well…sort of. Read More

Peruvian Steak Salad

Another installment in our OMG IT’S TOO HOT TO COOK series. Today, a seemingly simple salad that’s about as far beyond steak on lettuce as pit tickets are from camera phone concert footage uploaded to youtube. This is from the Barcelona Cookbook once more, which has been a constant source of culinary strength during this particularly trying summer.  I thought for sure the wife would have a problem with the dressing of this salad: a departure from the traditional vinaigrette in that it contains no oil or other fat [Ed.--Olive oil does come into play at the very end, in all fairness.].  It’s little more than a blend of vinegar with soy sauce, honey, red pepper flakes and black pepper that leaves you with more of a pickling liquid for your veggies than a proper dressing. And yet, it works. Oh, does it work. It covers romaine, cucumber, poblano, red pepper, and red onion (I think jicama was also called for, but I didn’t have any, oh well. I imagine chayote would be nice as well). Read More

Tilapia Ceviche with Three-Cheese Quesadillas

Sometimes I wonder if our readers take note of single commentary words in the title of the posts.  Ceviche “finally emerges”?  I have made this a few times now, and each time the wife dutifully photographs it and waits for me to wax philosophical on the majesty of macerated fish. The problem is that I was never fully taken with the picture, or the meal I made… something was always just not quite right.

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