Thursday, May 30, 2013

new at the market.

Baby, it's summer.  

There are still a few lingering streaks of light pink and orange evening light that I can catch over the high-rise buildings behind my apartment.  

The days are finally shifting.  They are longer, lazier.  

The market had a lot of surprises today - quarts of jewel like ruby-red strawberries that with one bite released the most intensely tart-sweet juice (it's jam making time), more tall stalks of purple and green asparagus, and the crispiest, crunchiest sugar snap peas I have ever tasted.  

With the temperature on the rise I see lots of sugar snap pea salads in my future (sliced thin with a spicy chili oil dressing) followed by bowls of strawberries macerated in bourbon smoked sugar and topped with barely sweetened whipped cream.  Recipes coming...

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

brunch at the dutch and more thoughts on subway tile.

They boy and I ate brunch at The Dutch this past weekend.  I've had it on my list for a while now as I adore Locanda Verde but it took a long lazy Memorial Day weekend to come a long for me to finally make a reservation.  The brunch was as I expected - wonderfully delicious especially my roast turkey sandwich which sounds probably incredibly boring but this one was done so well that it was rather extraordinary (creamy avocado and a green aioli stole my heart). (The boy in typical brunch fashion ate french toast.  He always eats french toast.)  The best part of the meal was the honey shoofly pie with green apple ice cream that I have become obsessed with.  So obsessed with that I have tweeted the pastry chef there to see if she will share the secrets.  Sadly I have gotten no response.  She clearly knows to hide a good thing.  

The restaurant shares my love of subway tire.  I've mentioned before my love of off centered tiles but the tiles at The Dutch were different.  It wasn't floor to ceiling white or even tiles of the same shape.  There was some white and some a blue that looked almost black.  Some were large and some were small.  It was cohesive yet intriguing and unique.  It made me think that things don't always need to be symmetrical and perfect.  That perfection can lie somewhere in the realm of imperfection (or maybe just in the eye of the beholder).  

The rest of the restaurant was filled with leather banquets, the kind of French napkins I am eternally searching for but have convinced myself don't exist outside the realm of cute rustic restaurants, butcher block tables, and mismatched photos.  It was basically what I envision my dream kitchen to look like complete with large windows that look out on to a beautiful tree-lined street.  A girl can dream.  Or a girl can go onto Pinterest and try and find more kitchens that steal her heart because she likes to look at inspiration.  This picture is the one I keep going back to.  So chic.  

Image via Pinterest.  

oatmeal pecan cherry chocolate chunk cookies.

With the unofficial arrival of summer, I've found myself in the kitchen a lot this past weekend, whipping up batches of cookies and dishes of fruit crumble.  I'm one of those people that if you invite me to your home or over for a BBQ or to spend the weekend with you at your awesome beach house that you can pretty much guarantee I will show up with a large container of sweets.  It's my way of expressing gratitude and my way of (hopefully) ensuring I always get asked back.  I have recipes for cookies I can whip up in my sleep, recipes that have never ever done me wrong, recipes that I can throw any random dried fruit or chunk of chocolate into and I will always end up with something satisfying which is exactly why I love this recipe.  This is the kind of cookie that makes you nostalgic for childhood and the lunches your Mom would pack for you as you headed off to camp.  It reminds me of beaches and pools and the scent of sunscreen.  It reminds me of summer and the treasures one can find in the cooler after an afternoon of swimming.  This cookie is soft and tender with wonderfully crispy edges and a soft chewy interior.  While it's perfect with just the oats, pecans and chocolate chunks, I find that the addition of the dried cherries is what takes these cookies from good to wonderful.  The cherries add a level of tartness that balances out all the other components and also makes them a little more interesting and a little more special.  And special is always good when you are showing up with gifts.  

Oatmeal Pecan Cherry Chocolate Chunk Cookies
Recipe from Martha Stewart but adapted with the dried cherries from Dinah Baken

Makes about 30 4-inch cookies 

This recipe is as adaptable as can be.  I've thrown pretty much anything and everything into these cookies including toffee bits, raisins, and walnuts.  As long as you keep the ratio the same you can add in whatever you want.  This dough also freezes rather well so I love to make a batch, form them into balls, and throw them in the freezer to bake up as needed (or to eat raw straight from the freezer which I have no shame in admitting I've done before.  Numerous times.).  You can also halve it easily but that would be a foolish thing to do.  

2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda 
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 cup light brown sugar
1 cup granulated sugar
1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
3 tablespoons milk
2 large eggs
3 cups old-fashioned oats
12 ounces semi-sweet or bittersweet chocolate chips or a bar cut into chunks
1 1/3 cups (5 ounces) toasted pecans, coarsely chopped 
3/4 cup dried cherries

In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, salt, baking powder, and baking soda. Set dry ingredients aside.

In the bowl of an electric mixer, combine butter with both sugars; beat until light and fluffy. Add vanilla, milk, and eggs; mix well. Add reserved dry ingredients, and beat until just combined. Remove bowl from mixer, and fold in oats, chocolate, pecans, and cherries. Place dough in the refrigerator until firm, at least 2 hours or overnight.

Heat oven to 350 degrees. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper, and set aside. Remove dough from refrigerator. Using an ice-cream scoop, shape into 2-inch-diameter balls. Place six balls on each baking sheet, spaced 4 inches apart.

Transfer to oven. Bake until golden, but still soft in center, 15 to 16 minutes. Remove from oven, and place on a wire rack to cool completely. Repeat with remaining dough. Store in an airtight container up to 2 days.

Saturday, May 25, 2013

buttermilk fried chicken.

I've developed a strong affinity as of late to overalls.  I don't own a pair at the current moment and I haven't owned a pair since I was about 15 and thought light-washed Gap overalls with pastel polo shirts was the way to win a boy's heart (clearly there was a reason why I never won any boy's hearts).  Now I keep yearning to find a pair that will exude the cool girl French look that I spend most days pining for.  Instead, every pair I've tried on as of late exudes a Southern farmer look which isn't necessarily bad it just isn't quite the look I'm going for.  I finally admitted to myself this past week that overalls and I aren't meant to be in that cool way I want them to be and that maybe it's time to embrace the Southern look so I went home that day and made fried chicken.  I have forever had this vision that in the South you eat fried chicken and biscuits and drink ice cold glasses of sweet tea at least once a week.  Maybe it's just that I want to think I would be required to eat fried chicken once a week if I ever head south of the Mason-Dixon line and if this is not the case please don't tell me otherwise.  (I like to think my imagination is always accurate.)  I have a soft spot for fried chicken since in my mind its the quintessential summer dish and now that we have arrived at the unofficial start of Summer (even if the weather didn't yet get that memo) it means that its time to eat cold fried chicken on a blanket in the park.  

The internet is filled with more fried chicken recipes then I could ever count.  I am sure there are some other super good ones out there, but for me the perfect fried chicken recipe comes from Thomas Keller's cookbook Ad Hoc.  Mr. Keller is a perfectionist.  He is one of those people that actually has the patience and foresight to lay out all his ingredients before he sets to work on a recipe.  (He is one of those people who would probably faint if he ever saw me cooking.)  His fried chicken recipe is unbelievable particular and precise  Normally recipes like this make me want to run away but the end result is so damm good that I continuously go back to it time and time again.  The chicken is moist and flavorful   The crust is a most gorgeous golden brown.  It's crunchy and spicy and absolutely perfect.  It's the kind of thing I imagine myself eating all summer long ideally in a pair of overalls.   

Buttermilk Fried Chicken 
Recipe from Ad Hoc by Thomas Keller

This chicken involves a little bit of planning which for someone like me who is super impulsive finds slightly annoying but none the less I try and tell myself this recipe teaches me patience.  The brine should be made the night before you want to make the chicken.  Cool the brine in the fridge overnight and then place the chicken in the brine the next day.  After that the whole thing is as easy as can be.  You can also halve the below if you are only serving 2 people and make 1 bird.
Two 2 1/2- to 3-pound chickens (you can find the smaller sized birds at the farmers markets ) .  You can use normal sized birds from the supermarket but it will take a little longer to cook the pieces. 

For dredging and frying

Peanut or canola oil for deep-frying
1 quart buttermilk
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

For coating

6 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 cup garlic powder
1/4 cup onion powder
1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon paprika
1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon cayenne
1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
Ground fleur de sel or fine sea salt
Rosemary and thyme sprigs for garnish

For the chicken brine

5 lemons, halved
24 bay leaves
1 bunch (4 ounces) flat-leaf parsley
1 bunch (1 ounce) thyme
1/2 cup clover honey
1 head garlic, halved through the equator
3/4 cup black peppercorns2 cups (10 ounces) kosher salt, preferably Diamond Crystal
2 gallons water

For the brine: (makes 2 gallons) The key ingredient here is the lemon, which goes wonderfully with chicken, as do the herbs: bay leaf, parsley and thyme. This amount of brine will be enough for 10 pounds.

Combine all the ingredients in a large pot, cover, and bring to a boil. Boil for 1 minute, stirring to dissolve the salt. Remove from the heat and cool completely, then chill before using. The brine can be refrigerated for up to 3 days.           

For the chicken: Cut each chicken into 10 pieces: 2 legs, 2 thighs, 4 breast quarters, and 2 wings. Pour the brine into a container large enough to hold the chicken pieces, add in the chicken, and refrigerate for 12 hours (no longer, or the chicken may become too salty).

Remove the chicken from the brine (discard the brine) and rinse under cold water, removing any herbs or spices sticking to the skin. Pat dry with paper towels, or let air-dry. Let rest at room temperature for 1 1/2 hours, or until it comes to room temperature.

If you have two large pots (about 6 inches deep) and a lot of oil, you can cook the dark and white meat at the same time; if not, cook the dark meat first, then turn up the heat and cook the white meat. No matter what size pot you have, the oil should not come more than one-third of the way up the sides of the pot. Fill the pot with at least 2 inches of peanut oil and heat to 320 degrees F. Set a cooling rack over a baking sheet. Line a second baking sheet with parchment paper.

Meanwhile, combine all the coating ingredients in a large bowl. Transfer half the coating to a second large bowl. Pour the buttermilk into a third bowl and season with salt and pepper. Set up a dipping station: the chicken pieces, one bowl of coating, the bowl of buttermilk, the second bowl of coating, and the parchment-lined baking sheet.

Just before frying, dip the chicken thighs into the first bowl of coating, turning to coat and patting off the excess; dip them into the buttermilk, allowing the excess to run back into the bowl; then dip them into the second bowl of coating. Transfer to the parchment-lined pan.

Carefully lower the thighs into the hot oil. Adjust the heat as necessary to return the oil to the proper temperature. Fry for 2 minutes, then carefully move the chicken pieces around in the oil and continue to fry, monitoring the oil temperature and turning the pieces as necessary for even cooking, for 11 to 12 minutes, until the chicken is a deep golden brown, cooked through, and very crisp. Meanwhile, coat the chicken drumsticks and transfer to the parchment-lined baking sheet.

Transfer the cooked thighs to the cooling rack skin-side-up and let rest while you fry the remaining chicken. (Putting the pieces skin-side-up will allow excess fat to drain, whereas leaving them skin-side-down could trap some of the fat.) Make sure that the oil is at the correct temperature, and cook the chicken drumsticks. When the drumsticks are done, lean them meat-side-up against the thighs to drain, then sprinkle the chicken with fine sea salt.

Turn up the heat and heat the oil to 340 degrees F. Meanwhile, coat the chicken breasts and wings. Carefully lower the chicken breasts into the hot oil and fry for 7 minutes, or until golden brown, cooked through, and crisp. Transfer to the rack, sprinkle with salt, and turn skin side up. Cook the wings for 6 minutes, or until golden brown and cooked through. Transfer the wings to the rack and turn off the heat.

Arrange the chicken on a serving platter. Add the herb sprigs to the oil (which will still be hot) and let them cook and crisp for a few seconds, then arrange them over the chicken.

Note: We let the chicken rest for 7 to 10 minutes after it comes out of the fryer so that it has a chance to cool down. If the chicken has rested for longer than 10 minutes, put the tray of chicken in a 400°F oven for a minute or two to ensure that the crust is crisp and the chicken is hot.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

roasted tomato caprese with avocado.

I spent $5.50 the other week on a pound of organic, greenhouse raised, farmer’s market tomatoes.  Every time I think about it, I think of how absurd it is to spend so much on tomatoes (before their official season is even close to starting!) but I couldn’t help it.  I became fixated on a roasted tomato caprese with avocado tartine that I saw on Not Without Salt when I was in California.  It caught my eye and my stomach the second I saw the pictures.  This is the kind of dish that shocked me with it’s simplicity and made me wonder why I never thought of such a combination.  I’ve eaten it about 4 times since getting home (I may have purchased another pound of inordinately priced tomatoes…) and I don’t see my consumption of it stopping any time soon.  It makes for a wonderful light dinner or a superb leisurely rainy afternoon lunch.  It’s salty and creamy and everything comes together perfectly in each and every bite. 

Roasted Tomato Caprese with Avocado
Recipe adapted barely from Not Without Salt (her photos are absurdly beautiful)

1 large beefsteak tomatoes or 2 medium sized tomatoes
1 tablespoon olive oil
¼ teaspoon flaky sea salt plus more to taste
¼ teaspoon freshly cracked black pepper
A pinch of red pepper flakes
4 large leaves fresh basil
3 thick slices of country bread
½ an avocado, peeled and sliced thin
½ large burrata ball (or buffalo mozzarella)

Preheat your oven to 400 degrees. 

Cut the large tomato in 1/4″ inch slices. Lay on a parchment lined sheet tray and drizzle olive oil and sprinkle with the salt, pepper, and red pepper flakes.

Roast for 30 minutes until wilted, wrinkly, and caramelized in parts.  When the tomatoes have roasted, remove them from the oven and set aside to cool. 

Toast the bread in the oven or in the toaster until golden brown.

Assemble the tartine by topping the bread with the sliced avocado.  On top of the avocado place torn pieces of burrata (make sure you get the creamy inside!).  Add a small pile of roasted tomatoes on top.  Finish with some torn leaves of basil and a pinch of flaky sea salt. 

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

summer dress lust.

On a completely unrelated food note, I am currently on the hunt for the quintessential summer dress.  A dress that's simple but special, something that can be both dressed up with nude leather wedges and dressed down with simple flats, a dress that I can wear almost every weekend for the next 3 months and never ever get sick of it (which if I can ever find an item like that then I know I will have found something special since after 2 months I almost always get sick of everything).  Something white and breezy and easy and preferably eyelet.  Basically I want the below dress and I can't find it and if you know where I can I would appreciate you letting me know.  

Image via Pinterest.

Monday, May 20, 2013

green pancakes with lime yogurt sauce.

I am not a vegetarian by any stretch of the imagination  To me, bacon is the greatest food that has ever existed.  I also have an unrequited love affair with Shake Shack cheeseburgers, and roast chicken is one of the simple pleasures in life, but when spring produce arrives with abundance at the farmer's market, I unintentionally ignore meat and give the green stuff the attention it deserves.  (Maybe you can call me a seasonal vegetarian?)  I've basically lived off of vegetables for the past 10 days (I needed a little vacation cleanse) and when there are dishes like this to be made and eaten, it's easy to live off glorious produce.  These pancakes and hearty and satisfying.  The kind of thing that reminds you of being a kid when your mom when try and sneakily hide vegetables in dishes you would eat, accept here the greens are front and center.  Spinach gets to shine and it pairs beautifully with a creamy yogurt sauce.  A little lime zest and cumin adds the appropriate amount of zing.  This is a beautifully elegant spring dinner.  

Green Pancakes with Lime Yogurt Sauce

Recipe adapted (barely) from Plenty by Yotam Ottolenghi

For the Lime Yogurt

1 cup Greek yogurt
Grated zest of 1 lime
1 1/2 tablespoon lime juice
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1 tablespoon chopped cilantro
1/4 teaspoon chile flakes or smoked paprika 

1/4 teaspoon cumin

For the Pancakes

1/2 lb (about 8 cups) spinach, washed
3/4 cup self-rising flour 
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 egg
4 tablespoon unsalted butter, melted
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teasspoon ground cumin
2/3 cup milk
6 medium green onions, finely sliced
2 fresh green chiles, thinly sliced
1 egg white
Olive oil for frying

To make the lime yogurt sauce. Combine the yogurt, lime zest, lime juice, salt, pepper, cilantro, and chile flakes.  Taste and adjust seasonings as necessary. 

Wilt the spinach in a pan with a splash of water. Drain in a sieve and, when cool, squeeze hard with your hands to remove as much moisture as possible. Roughly chop and put aside.

Put the flour, baking powder, whole egg, melted butter, salt, cumin and milk in a large mixing bowl and whisk until smooth. Add the green onions, chiles and spinach and mix with a fork. Whisk the egg white to soft peaks and gently fold it into the batter.

Pour a small amount of olive oil into a heavy frying pan and place on medium-high heat. For each pancake, ladle 2 tablespoons of batter into the pan and press down gently. You should get smallish pancakes, about 3 inches in diameter and 3/8 inch thick. Cook for about 2 minutes on each side, or until you get a good golden-green color. Transfer to paper towels and keep warm. Continue making pancakes, adding oil to the pan as needed, until the batter is used up.

To serve, pile up three warm pancakes per person and add a dollop of yogurt sauce on top.  

Saturday, May 18, 2013

shaved asparagus pizza is back.

Asparagus have arrived at the farmer's markets in droves and I have found myself consuming them at almost every meal.  They are wonderful in warm salads of diced eggs and crunchy croutons with a sherry vinaigrette    They are also superb when diced into bite size pieces and folded into scrambled eggs with goat cheese.  I also will always fall hard for roasted asparagus that require nothing more then a sprinkle of sea salt, fresh pepper, and olive oil.   While all of those are great there may be nothing better then eating them shredded atop (white) pizza.  I discussed the merits of this dish last year and if you didn't make it then I highly suggest you make it now while they are still in season.  This is beautiful dish (it always feels like the Jackson Pollack of food to me) with the mingling of sweet, salty, and spicy.  It's creamy and crunch and all around perfect.  I made it once this week and you can pretty much guarantee it will be made once a week until asparagus are gone.   Oh and the honey I tell you to sprinkle on top is completely necessary.  You can always use regular honey but as a super proponent (and it also being one of my most used ingredients) I highly recommend buying Mikes Hot Honey.  You will find yourself using it all the time.  

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

yogurt panna cotta with roasted rhubarb compote and maple caramelized nuts.

I ate a large amount of sweets while out west.  Homemade ice cream sandwiches from State Bird Provisions, root beer floats and chocolate ginger cookies at Ad Hoc, and bacon chocolate bars from Animal.  I was a gluttonous pig feasting on sweets and I have no shame in admitting that (I can also justify it with the fact that we walked and hiked a great deal which is why I actually came home in better shape than when I left.  I love when that happens.)  Of all the desserts we ate the standout one was the yogurt panna cotta with wild blueberry compote and caramelized nuts from Baco Mercat.  (I labeled this one of my top 10 dishes!)  The flavors were superb – tart, tangy, and sweet.  The texture was equally excellent - creamy and crunchy.  They boy and I were both smitten with the dish probably because it tasted like a pie and pudding mash-up (and who doesn’t love a good dessert mash-up).  Upon returning home, it was on the top of the list of things to make but with a more seasonal spin.  Rhubarb seemed appropriately tart and a perfect counterpart to crunchy maple caramelized walnuts.  This is one of those super fancy looking desserts that cause people to ohh and ahh over it but really it couldn’t be easier.  While it’s perfect for a fancy dinner party, I prefer serving it just because since it elevates the everyday into something special (it also makes for a lovely if slightly indulgent breakfast). 

Yogurt Panna Cotta
Recipe via Smitten Kitchen

Makes 1 9-inch round panna cotta or 6 4-inch ramekins with about 2/3-cup servings

Let’s talk about sugar for a second.  I went with ½ cup since I thought with the tart rhubarb the sugar would be necessary, but I would personally prefer it a little tarter.  My suggestion is 1/3 of a cup, I think that would be ideal, but ¼ cup would also work well with a sweeter compote (or even with the rhubarb if you prefer tart!)  Expect more compote recipes as the season progresses.  Maybe this will be the summer of compote!

Neutral oil such as canola or safflower
4 tablespoons (60ml) water
2 ½ teaspoons (1 packet or ¼ ounce or 7 grams) unflavored gelatin
2 cups (460 grams) plain whole-milk Greek yogurt
2 cups (475 ml) milk, heavy cream, or some combination of the two (want about ½ cup of cream)
¼ - ½ cup (50 – 100 grams) sugar (see my comments above)
2 tablespoons (30ml) freshly squeezed lemon juice from about ½ lemon

If you plan to unmold the panna cotta later, lightly coat the inside of a 9-inch round cake pan or smaller dessert cups with the oil. (No need to if you will scoop it from its cups.)

Place water in a small bowl. Stir in gelatin and set aside until the gelatin softens, about 15 minutes.
In a large bowl, whisk all of yogurt and 1 cup of milk, cream or a mixture thereof. In a small saucepan, bring remaining milk or cream and sugar to a simmer. Stir in water-gelatin mixture (it will dissolve immediately) and remove from heat. Whisk this mixture into the yogurt mixture, then stir in lemon juice at the end. Pour mixture into cake pan or smaller cups and chill in fridge for at least 2 hours for small cups and up to 8 for a large pan. It’s best to do this the night before you need it, to be safe.

To unmold the cake pan, fill a larger baking dish with 1-inch boiling water. Dip panna cotta cake pan in it for 10 seconds, then flip it out onto a flat round platter. (A curved one will cause the panna cotta to appear sunken in the middle.)

To unmold smaller dishes, bring a small saucepan of water to a simmer and dip the bottom of a small panna cotta cup in one for five seconds, then invert it onto a plate. Repeat with remaining cups.

To serve – Top with rhubarb compote (recipe below) and 2 tablespoons chopped maple candied walnuts (recipe also below). 

Roasted Rhubarb Compote
Recipe adapted from Chow

Makes about 2 cups (for each ramekin to get 1/3 cup)

1 pound rhubarb
2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice (juice of 1 lemon)
½ cup granulated sugar

Heat the oven to 350 degrees and arrange a rack in the middle.  Rinse rhubarb under cold water, trim ends, and remove any leaves.  Slice each stalk in half lengthwise, then cut each half crosswise into 1-inch pieces. 

Combine rhubarb, lemon juice, and sugar in an 8-by-8-inch glass baking dish; toss together until rhubarb is well coated with sugar. 

Cover the dish with aluminum foil and bake until the rhubarb has released a lot of juice and the mixture is bubbling, about 35 minutes. 

Remove the foil and continue baking until the juices are slightly thickened, about 20 minutes.  Remove from the oven and let cool. 

Maple Candied Walnuts
Recipe adapted from Martha Stewart

2  teaspoons unsalted butter
¼ cup pure maple syrup
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
½ teaspoon ground ginger
Coarse salt
1 cup walnuts (3 ounces)

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.  Melt butter in a large skillet over medium heat.  Stir in maple syrup, cinnamon, ginger, and ½ teaspoons salt.  Bring to a simmer (mixture should be frothy), about 3 minutes.  Add walnuts, and toss to coat using a rubber spatula.  Cook, stirring, until sauce is syrupy and bubbly, about 3 minutes. 

Transfer walnut mixture to a parchment-lined baking sheet and spread into a single layer.  Bake until walnuts are caramelized, about 10 minutes.  Transfer sheet to a wire rack.  Stir, and let stand until cool and hardened, about 30 minutes. 

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

white and a pop of gold.

My current kitchen obsessions seem to mirror my latest clothing obsessions.

I am loving clean lines, lots of bright white, and pops of gold (which is pretty much what I always love but I especially love it now that summer is coming).  

How do people keep their kitchens so clean?  Do people with kitchens like this even cook?  I like to think they do because what's the point of having such utterly adorable tools if you aren't going to use them (those cutting boards!).  Maybe the whole world is just far neater and cleaner then I am.  I am jealous.  

(People with kitchen's like this can probably also wear white pants and not dirty them immediately.  I am jealous of that too.)  

Image via Pinterest

Monday, May 13, 2013

egg and lemon soup with ramps.

If you didn't know then i am here to tell you that the food blogosphere is obsessed with ramps. No ingredient seems to elicit more commentary and all around obsession then ramps do mostly because its the first non root vegetable to show up in the east coast after months of seeing only root vegetables. They are a beautiful sight to see. They are also damm near impossible to find outside the world of farmers markets (though Whole Foods seems to be selling them currently) which makes them all the more special.  I finally got my hands on some this past week and I raced home to finally make ramp pizza and this egg and lemon soup.  This soup is amazingly complex despite having just a handful (literally a handful) of pantry staple ingredients.  The lemon juice brings a beautiful brightness and lightness to the dish which makes it taste like the epitome of spring.  The ramps bring in a lovely garlicky bite to the dish  that plays well with the lemon.  This would make for a wonderfully elegant appetizer for a fancy dinner party but I prefer it as a light Sunday evening dinner served with a side of crusty bread and fancy cheese.  It will make your Sunday evenings feel utterly French (which is what I strive for all my meals to feel like!)

Egg and Lemon Soup with Ramps
Recipe adapted from the NYTimes

A couple of things to note here – homemade chicken broth is the only way to go in this recipe.  Canned chicken broth while easy and cheap lacks the flavor that is necessary to make this dish shine. 

If you can’t get ramps or if you want to make this after ramp season is over, I think a combination of leeks and spinach would be pretty spectacular (or spinach and spring garlic).  Cook the leeks/spring garlic as you would the ramp bulbs in the below and chop the spinach as if it were the ramp leaves. 

5 cups homemade, well-seasoned chicken broth
1 tablespoon olive oil
4 large eggs at room temperature
¼ cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
Salt and pepper to taste
6 – 8 ramps (or about half a bundle)

Trim hairy ends off ramp bulbs.  Separate ramp bulbs/stems from darker leafy ends.  Thinly slice the stem ends; cut the leafier ends into 1/2 – inch thick ribbons. 

In a large stock/soup pot, heat the tablespoon of oil over medium heat.  When hot add the ramp sliced ramp stems/bulb only to the pot.  Cook, stirring occasionally for about 4 -5 minutes until the ramp have softened and turned light brown. 

Pour the broth into the soup pot with the sautéed ramps and bring to a simmer.  With a whisk, beat the eggs and lemon juice together in a medium bowl.  Season to taste with salt and pepper. 

Ladle 2 cups of hot broth slowly into the egg mixture, whisking to temper.  Pour the tempered egg mixture back into the pot, whisk well, and turn the heat to low.  Add the chopped ramp leaves. 

Continue whisking over low heat until the soup is ever so slightly thickened.  (Do not allow to simmer, or soup will curdle.)  Ladle the soup into bowls and serve immediately with crusty bread and fancy cheeses. 

Friday, May 10, 2013

new at the market.

Today marked the (official) arrival of spring for me since asparagus were finally at the farmer's market.  Nothing says spring like them.  I see a shaved asparagus pizza in my future as well as a slew of other dishes.  

Rhubarb was also found! Rhubarb if you are unfamiliar with it is a tart and crunchy vegetable that is traditionally used in sweet dishes.  I love rhubarb jam and strawberry rhubarb pie but I am envisioning this first crop to be used for a compote for a yogurt panna cotta (reminiscent of the one I had a Baco Mercat) and also in a muffin.  

Spring garlic looks like a scallion but don't be fooled because it is not a scallion!  This is garlic before the bulb is formed.  It's milder and sweeter and delicious   You can eat it raw on salads but it would also be wonderful on top of pizza (but really what isn't wonderful on pizza).

Last but not least I finally got my hands on some ramps.  I've been searching for them for a while now and low and behold I found them at the Union Square Greenmarket this morning.  The ramp pizza the entire food blog world raves about will finally be something I can make.  Words can't describe my excitement.  

Thursday, May 9, 2013

top ten california eats.

I've been away from work for over a week now and I now have a little bit of a sunkissed glow and seemingly look more alive.  (Or maybe it's that I just feel a little more alive).  We've driven down the coast from Napa to the City of Angles aka Los Angeles aka the City of the Scariest Drivers (I swear driving in Los Angeles should be an Olympic Sport and I question if anyone outside of LA would win the medal) and now I am sitting on the floor of LAX waiting for our flight back to reality to board.  I realize now as I think back to the past 12 days that it took a week for me to finally feel calm.  To be able to sit and enjoy a meal and not think about anything but how good the food tasted and good the company was.  It took me a week to feel content.  To feel utterly happy.  To realize that it's OK to savor my food and be disconnected from my e-mail.  To get lost and to lie in the grass for an hour just because the sun was shinning and the warmth felt wonderful.  I've thought a lot this past week - about what I want next and where I want to go and how the hell I am going to get there.  I've thought about what I really see myself doing for a career and where I see myself living and who I want by my side forever.  I've gotten perspective which is what I think a vacation is all about, to be reflective on things and to actually take the time to have random yet cohesive thoughts.

I've also thought a lot about the food I eat and the food I would like to eat.  Driving through California, I saw fields of vegetables grown in a very nontraditional and unnatural environment   It made me think about where I want my food to come from and I don't want it to come from farms where the food is grown with pesticides and the only goal is to get the food to market as soon as possible.  Food should be a labor of love and factory farms are not a labor of love.  I was lucky to eat a lot of dishes that were local and seasonal and were labors of love by the chefs and bakers that prepared them (these were not factory farmed dishes!).  I ate a lot of things that tasted like sunshine.  I ate a lot of things that made me rethink how ingredients get paired.  That dishes should be about different textures and flavors and the melding of all these random things into a single bite of food that is all encompassing.  I leave California thinking about when I can next make it back here.  When I can next sit at the beach starring out at the Pacific Ocean with not a care in the world.  I leave thinking about how I can break West Coast eating into my East Coast kitchen.

Below is a list of the top 10 things I ate while out here.  This is in no order of favorites (that would be far too difficult) but instead the list encompasses a lot of the food that left me thinking and wanting to return to the kitchen.  Expect to see my own twists on a lot of these dishes in the coming weeks.

1- Papalote (San Francisco, California) Roasted Tomato Salsa - There are salsa's in this world and then there is roasted tomato salsa and once you have that nothing else compares.  This is super flavorful, the kind of thing you would pour on just about anything to elevate it.  I am dreaming about it on a breakfast burrito.  

2 - Tartine Bakery (San Francisco, California) Walnut Bread - Basically this blog post says all there is to say about it.  It's the perfect loaf of bread and all others I eat will be compared to it.

3 - Craftsman and Wolves (San Francisco, California) Passionfruit Croissant - Buttery and tart and absolutely perfect.  It's the hip West Coast cousin to the almond croissant and it's the perfect accompaniment to iced coffee.  The kind of thing I would love to eat every Sunday morning.

4 - State Bird Provisions (San Francisco, California) Hamachi and Avocado - This restaurant just won the James Beard Awards for Best New Restaurant and it deserves it.  The dishes are inventive and American with an Asian twist.  We ate a lot of small plates while we were there but this was hands down the best.  A crispy piece of seaweed was topped with chunks of hamachi, avocado, slivered radish, sesame seeds and a spicy aioli.  It was deconstructed sushi or rather their own version of sushi and the intermingling of the flavors and textures was extraordinary.

5 - Kiji Sushi (San Francisco, California) Zuke Sashimi - Zuke is a traditional method of preparing sushi from the old days when refrigerators weren't around.  The sushi is soaked ahead of time in soy sauce to prevent it from spoiling.  The soaking causes the texture of the fish to change and it's really remarkable how different it tastes especially with the combination of wasabi and warm rice.  I ordered this twice because I was so in awe of it.  This was also the first sushi experience I had where someone actually let us know what was fresh and what the chef wanted to use.  A vastly different sushi experience then what you get on the east coast.  
6 - Ad Hoc (Yontville, California) Pennyroyal Farm Tomme Reserve - Ad Hoc is a Thomas Keller restaurant that has a different 4 course set menu every night.  The meal is always playful (homemade rootbeer floats!) and very seasonal.  While the meal was outstanding (I mean what Thomas Keller meal would be less then outstanding) it was the cheese that stole the show.  A locally made goats milk cheese was crumbly and nutty and absolute perfection under a drizzle of honey.  

7 - Baco Mercat (Los Angeles, California) Sugar Snap Pea and Grapefruit Dish - Like the Tartine Bread, I already discussed this beauty of a dish.  I've fallen hard for vegetable based dishes and this is one of the best.  

8 - Baco Mercat (Los Angeles, California) Yogurt Panna Cotta - The boy and I both swooned for this dish. A creamy, tangy panna cotta was topped with candied pecans and a wild blueberry compote.  It was tart and sweet and like a re-imagined blueberry pie. I'm already dreaming about making a version of this and serving it as a finale to a summer dinner party.  

9 - Animal (Los Angeles, California) Local Burrata with Baby Broccoli - This dish was pure perfection.  I literally have not stopped thinking about it.  Creamy burrata was topped with blanched baby broccoli.  A creamy green garlic and leek mixture was drizzled around the plate and then there were slices of the freshest pickled jalapenos to provide a little heat to the dish.  Crumbled on top was chicharones and garlic chips.  This dish was everything crunchy  spicy, creamy.  I don't know how they managed to do it but all I know is I want to eat it everyday.  

10 - Animal (Los Angeles, California) Barbeque Pork Belly Sandwiches with Slaw - This is the sandwich to end all sandwiches. Decadent pork belly is topped with a creamy, crunchy slaw.  This is a well balanced but very messy sandwich.  The kind of thing you should only eat with someone you know, but boy is it good.  

I will be returning to recipe posts tomorrow.  My first stop today was at the farmers market and there was some good stuff to be found!

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

sugar snap peas and grapefruit at baco mercat.

California is spoiled by it's abundance of citrus.  It amazes me that you can walk down a street here and see lemon trees and orange trees on just about every block (I've refrained from picking any fruit mostly because I fear some man will jump out of the bushes and arrest me for stealing.  This isn't to say that I am not really tempted.)  This plethora of citrus seems to find it's way into almost every dish we've eaten here.  It shows up in avocado salads and as a sauce for sashimi (the boy is now a huge proponent of raw fish and citrus) and it showed up in this dish you can see at left that we ate on our first night in Los Angeles at Baco Mercat (which is an absurdly amazing restaurant that focuses on vegetables and small plates like the mercat sandwich that they created which I love).  This is one of those dishes that after I ate it I kept thinking about it and thinking about it and thinking about it.  The variety of flavors and textures is spectacular - crispy sugar snap peas, creamy burrata, crunchy croutons, sweet pear, and tart grapefruit.  You imagine it will be overwhelming, that everything will overwhelm everything else.  You imagine this will be an epic fail but then you have one bite and you swoon.  Everything works perfectly especially when covered in a dusting of chives and a sharp vinaigrette   This is the dish I plan on eating all summer.  The dish I plan on making the second sugar snap peas show up at the east coast farmer's markets because if I learned anything in California it's that citrus makes everything better.  

(Sorry about the sub-par photo which doesn't do the dish the justice it deserves.  All of the restaurants love dim lighting and using a flash is not something I will ever do when out to eat!)  

Thursday, May 2, 2013

tartine walnut bread.

There is bread in this world.  Bread that can be bought at supermarkets and bodegas and pharmacies and this  loaf serves no purpose except as a vehicle to deliver some form of protein into your mouth.  It's starchy and the furthest thing from special and after you finish your sandwich you can't really recall what it even tasted like.  Then there is bread.  The transcendent variety that tastes like fresh milled flour and salt and sourdough starter.  The crust is thick and crunchy.  The inside is chewy and dense and rich.  These are the types of loaves that with one bite it tastes as if you are eating bread for the first time.  The flavor is pronounced and the bread can be enjoyed plain (although a spread of homemade jam or creamy cheese often elevates things).  These are the kind of loaves you devour whole, warm from the oven, and you wonder after how you will ever eat any other bread again.  This is how I felt after I ate my first bite of Tartine Walnut Bread while standing on the corner of 18th and Guerreo Street in San Francisco.  I wont say I made us go to San Francisco solely for this bread (I made us go for this bread and for the burritos and for dinner at State Bird Provisions) but this bread is magical and it's worth the journey because eating bread warm from the oven while on vacation with the guy you love is one of those unbelievable experiences.  It reminds you that purity and craftsmanship still exist in this world.  It reminds you that people want to put put a product that defies expectations. It reminds you that things can be made the old fashioned way and that in this world of modern technologies we should embrace the past to try and figure out how to improve the future.

All of these thoughts came from one bite of bread.  And yes I am a bit crazy about food but this is something that is worth getting crazy over.  When in San Francisco stop at Tartine after 4:30 to buy a loaf and then share with me your thoughts.