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Bluepoint oysters with cava, shallot, lemon, and basil vinaigrette with pa amb tomàquet (bread with tomato).

I’m pleased to announce that The Manhattan [food] Project has become a blogging partner of The Sustainable Seafood Blog Project, and as such you’ll start seeing more content around sustainably-sourced seafood and ways to enjoy it at home. Both Michael and I do what we can to buy as much sustainable seafood as we can and during the week we stick with tried-and-true favorites like trout, skipjack tuna, striped bass, and Pacific cod, while on weekends we may also indulge in some bivalve action. Since our move we’ve also been eating quite a bit of local rockfish and though it is a bit of a strange fish to get used to from a cooking perspective, it’s extremely delicious.

The mission of the Project is to band together bloggers who want to help promote the message of sustainability when it comes to seafood, and moreover inform and encourage consumers to be asking for more sustainably-sourced seafood at their local stores. The market is an extremely confusing one, because it isn’t so simple as buying certain fish and avoiding others; sustainable fishing practices are also scrutinized to ensure that the surrounding aquaculture is disturbed as little as possible. Monterrey Bay’s Seafood Watch is an exhaustive source on identifying the best fish choices out there, while Greenpeace publishes an annual scorecard listing the best and worst retailers to buy seafood across the country. The latter has wrought some serious changes over the years regarding what consumers have available to them in-store; most notably, Trader Joe’s earned a ranking of 17th out of 20 chains evaluated back in 2008 while as of 2014 they have moved up to fourth on the list and have a “Good” rating. Read More

Blackberry Chicken

A few weeks ago I stumbled across a fantastic article in which a writer for Vice’s food site invited a French sommelier to test out some wines that are blatantly and shamelessly targeted at women. The results are exactly what you think they would be, as the tasting notes from both Perrine Prieur (the sommelier) and Gray Chapman (the writer) are hysterical. Prieur has no qualms in declaring one red “like a bad tank that hasn’t been cleaned, that they’re just throwing shit into,” while Chapman slayed me with several quips that I won’t spoil for you here.

It might seem like an easy premise for a bunch of laughs–ooo, the fancy French sommelier doesn’t like mass-produced wine–but it’s pretty clear that Prieur came to this experiment with an extremely open mind and was just crestfallen every time the alleged varietal was revealed to her. More importantly, she made a point of showing Chapman several wines in her own shop that were less expensive and more complex than any of the ones that were part of the taste test, and that’s the reason why Prieur has rocketed onto my list of favorite lady sommeliers along with Gretchen Thomas of the Barteca restaurant group.*

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Roasted Chicken with Safflower and Lemons

While I know it’s easy to hate the switchover to Daylight Savings Time because of losing an hour of sleep, I have to admit that I don’t hate it at all and now that we’ve moved back into the Mid-Atlantic, I kind of love it. Sunset on Sunday following the change was after 7:00 which is nothing short of extraordinary. Admittedly I am usually very in favor of this change because as a food blogger who likes to take pictures of the food we eat in natural light (and much preferring to do so when we actually cook it), being able to do so in the beginning of March feels downright heady. I can’t wait to see how bright it gets here in the summertime.

It’s fitting, then, that on the first day of extended daylight we make a roasted chicken that’s so bright and sunny itself thanks to the use of saffron and lemon. It’s a recipe from Saveur that’s incredibly simple with an extremely short ingredient list, but it creates such a savory and juicy chicken that even adding some potatoes to the roasting pan made them delicious by association. Read More

Blackberry-Rosemary Compote with Crottin goat cheese

If you follow me on Instagram (you should! I post there sometimes!) you may have noticed that over the course of February I was posting shots of various tableaux, usually featuring wine and/or cheese and tagging a local wine shop in all of them. It was part of a promotion they were running in which they would randomly select a winner and give them a $50 gift card, and while winning would obviously be awesome (a winner hasn’t been announced yet as of posting this), I also really liked the chance to exercise some creativity and take some interesting photos. Moreover, it also gave me an excellent reason to experiment some more in making some flavorful accompaniments to cheeses, and while the contest itself may be over, I’m looking forward to expanding my repertoire.

First up on the list: blackberry compote. Read More

Bacon-wrapped shrimp: Ron Swanson’s favorite food wrapped around his third-favorite food.

(Ed: I’m going to write about Parks and Recreation and make some references to events that unfolded in this most recent season, but there are are no spoilers about the actual finale here as I wrote this prior to it being aired.)

To thoroughly transpose a line from Shakespeare, I come not to bury Parks and Recreation, but to praise it. After all, It was truly the little sitcom that could–much like its spiritual predecessor, it started out with a shaky and short first season and then quickly found its footing with its second–but for whatever reason it never was able to break out to a huge audience despite being one of the smartest and funniest comedies on TV. To be an ardent fan meant knowing the show was constantly on the brink of cancellation year after year (with few exceptions), so while I’m annoyed that NBC has decided to burn off this final season by airing episodes back-to-back for seven weeks, I’m grateful that the series was able to make it to 125 episodes in the first place.

There are so many things to love about this show, but I think what may stay with me the most is that no other show, certainly in recent memory, used food to comedic effect better than Parks.* (30 Rock came close with its night cheese and a dogs taking steaks and Cheesy Blasters, though.) Whether it was grandiose set pieces like the Snake-Juice-fueled disaster from “The Fight” to the simple act of Tom Haverford singing “this is how you eat it” before diving into a hot pepper, food so often served as a springboard for fantastic comedic moments but also showed that it could forge bonds between even the most unlikeliest of people. In a recent interview Michael Schur noted that food (and specifically breakfast food) was a way for Leslie Knope and Ron Swanson specifically to come to an accord despite deeply different political viewpoints:

They are such different people, and we independently arrived at Leslie + waffles and Ron + bacon, so suddenly it seemed like a point of overlap. I always thought of it as hopeful. There is an old trick of diplomacy, where if you have two warring factions who agree to sit down at a table, you first choose something very simple and uncontroversial that they can agree on. You say, “What does everyone want to drink, water or motor oil?” When they all say water, you have begun the session with a point of mutual agreement. For Leslie and Ron, a 19th-century libertarian and a 21st-century progressive, that thing is breakfast food.

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Spaghetti with Mixed Citrus and Parsley

Well, I hope you’re happy, you who yearn for fall and start pinning pictures of pumpkins and sweaters and boots on Pinterest in JUNE and/or have excited countdowns for the start of football season. It might seem irrational to blame a certain group of people for the bitter cold and varying degrees of snow outside, but someone has to take the blame for this and I’m going to aim it at anyone who hopes for summer to come and go quickly and for fall to start immediately after Labor Day. Because the more hype there is around all things autumnal, the more likely we seem to be destined to get a brutal winter. I know I really shouldn’t complain because for the most part we’ve only been dealing with brutal cold while our friends in New England have been getting terrifying/downright absurd levels of snow, but the average high here for this time of year is supposed to be in the mid-forties.

As I write this, the current temperature is SEVENTEEN, and we’ll be lucky if we get into the high twenties today. I’m all for hygge and coziness and the like, but at some point I’d also like us to move closer in the direction of springtime. Read More

Eggs in pots/ouefs en cocotte

It’s kind of surreal when I consider how much I used to hate eggs given that I’ll have them any time of day nowadays, but I think that my former distaste for them is rooted in the fact that I prefer my eggs on the slightly runnier side rather than cooked to oblivion, and growing up the latter is what we usually had at breakfast on the weekends. (The fact that I would also eat them with pancake syrup–and yes, pancake syrup and not real maple syrup–probably had something to do with it too.) I’m glad that I eventually came to this realization because otherwise I would be missing out on so many fast and relatively inexpensive dishes as well as the health benefits of the egg itself.

Of all the ways I love them–softly scrambled, poached, in an omelette or tortilla, or even baked in a sauce–I think my absolute favorite is the French classic ouefs en cocotte. It’s so easy to make, can be endlessly modified to one’s own taste, and unlike omelette cookery requires very little actual cooking skill aside from safely removing the ramekin from the hot water bath (or bain marie) when it’s done. Rachel Khoo’s take on this dish was what finally got me on board with it as she employed some creme fraiche and salmon roe along with nutmeg and dill to bring it together, and then later when I was flipping through Mimi Thorrison’s cookbook I found her version that employed mushrooms and onions cooked in a red wine sauce to also pique my interest. I tried Rachel’s first during a stint when Michael was away on business, and initially I was really frustrated with it because when I would check in after twelve minutes, then fifteen, and then twenty, it didn’t seem like anything was actually happening. I think I let it stay in there for twenty-five minutes altogether and was preparing myself to spoon into a fully-cooked egg yolk, but happily it was far runnier than I expected. When Michael and I tried Mimi’s version a few months later we also let the eggs go for longer than prescribed and yet the results were similar. It was then when it dawned on Michael where the disconnect lay: given that both of these women are European, they are naturally accustomed to using eggs that aren’t refrigerated. No refrigeration means that egg-cooking times are going to be much shorter as a rule. Read More

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