April 2010

Ricotta 790 xxx
photo by george billard

4.30.10 Cheese Wiz

You know how biscotti means “twice cooked” in Italian? Well, ricotta means “re-cooked.” I never knew why until I decided to investigate this wonderful light cheese. We associate it with Italian cooking but it's also traditional around Hanukkah, used to stuff blintzes or in cheesecake. It turns turns out that ricotta is made from whey, the low-fat and nutritious liquid that is a by-product of cheese production. Once cheese is made from the curds, a second cooking of the whey results in ricotta. I’ve actually perused quite a few recipes for ricotta, and hardly any mention this. They all call for making it with whole milk, some even adding cream, but this is not the traditional way and results in something quite a bit richer, albeit delicious, that is more along the line of farmer's cheese or fromage blanc. Splitting hairs, you say. And you may be right. If you're not making fresh cheese you probably won't have whey availalbe, so go ahead and make your rich and delicious ricotta from whole milk. (Try the recipe below.) Or buy the sinful version from Salvatore Brooklyn. They also have a smoked one that will make your toes curl under.
Chutney blog 790 xxx
photos by gluttonforlife

4.28.10 Seeing Red 2.0

I adore chutneys, with their wonderfully complex mix of flavors: hot, sour, salty, sweet. They're like a perfect storm for your tastebuds. This one combines tart rhubarb with dark brown sugar, cider vinegar, sour cherries and a host of spices and aromatics: cumin, coriander, garlic, hot chiles, ginger and fresh turmeric. Look for this last in an Indian market, or substitute a teaspoon of ground dried turmeric. It has a wonderfully bitter bite and a rich saffron color that will stain everything in sight.
Tamarind 790 xxx

4.27.10 Cool Quotient

Soon we'll be hot, sweaty and reaching for something refreshing as we push through the swinging door into the screened-in porch, the smell of summer still on us. Another of the thirst-quenchers I'll have on hand is this Tamarind-Lime Cooler. The agave nectar balances the tartness of the lime and tamarind, and the sweet-spicy Chile Salt really kicks it up a notch. These are the flavors of summer in Guadalajara, in Bangkok, in your own backyard...
Maple seltzer 790 xxx

4.26.10 The Anti-Soda

Vermont Sweetwater Bottling Company, a small family-run business, has come out with its own unique soda that contains neither water nor sugar. Vermont Maple Seltzer is made from pure maple sap that is gently carbonated! They also make a sweeter, more mapley soda and some other fruit flavors, but it's really all about the Maple Seltzer. It's lightly sweet, with a barely perceptible hint of maple, and quite refreshing. Even my friend Matthew, who swears by his Coke, was rather intrigued. It's got about a third of the calories of that corporate cola and, with just 8 grams of natural sugar, has none of the high fructose corn syrup. I ordered a couple of cases online (the link is above) and they were just delivered today. I plan to keep icy cold bottles in the fridge all summer long. (I'm imagining some excellent bourbon cocktails topped off with this as well...)

4.26.10 Seeing Red

Red1 790 xxx
photo from the new york times
Run don't walk to see Alfred Molina play Mark Rothko in Red on Broadway. This two-man play, also featuring the young British actor Eddie Redmayne (you may remember him as Matt Damon's son in The Good Shepherd), comes to us from a successful run in London. Written by John Logan (whose screenplays include Sweeney Todd, The Aviator and Gladiator), Red delivers an authentic and complex portrait of Rothko as he works on a series of murals commissioned for—but ultimately never delivered to—the swank Four Seasons restaurant. He is ferocious, pedantic and very funny, and Molina fully inhabits this character, body and soul. Redmayne does a great job of portraying his young assistant, ambitious and brash in his own right. There is no intermission, and the play moves along quite briskly. It received a roaring standing ovation the night I was there.
Ms1 790 xxx

4.24.10 Tragically Hip

I spent the day in Brooklyn today with my friend Alberta. My, have things changed. I lived in Williamsburg from 1990-1993, back when it was still almost entirely populated by working-class Italians and Polish. Now the hipsterati have taken over, with their tattoos, ragged facial hair and allegedly unstudied fashion choices (from steampunk to 80s-redux). I lived upstairs from Georgie's Italian deli on Metropolitan Avenue, and she's still there today, 92 years old and crafting the best smoked mozzarella. We made it to the mecca trifecta that is Diner, Marlow & Sons and Marlow & Daughters, but having already had delicious lunch at Bedouin Tent on Atlantic Avenue (amazing labne, fabulous merguez, so cheap) just had a refreshing aperol spritz and a piece of thyme shortbread at the bar in Marlow & Sons.
Ms2 790 xxx
Marlow & Daughters is a grocery and butcher shop offshoot just up the street. Nice fresh produce. Picked up a lovely wedge of gouda studded with fenugreek, and ogled a Boston butt with an impressive rind of fat. But I think Dickson's still holds the title for best meat porn.Bedford Avenue, where back in the day we went to eat bigos, the Polish hunter's stew of sauerkraut with copious amount of kielbasa (I used to call it bigos fartos), now bears a resemblance to the St. Mark's of yore. It's definitely more raw than Soho (what isn't?) but I'll bet American Apparel will be springing up on every corner any second now. Still, if you've already taken Manhattan, spend the day in Williamsburg, Boerum Hill or Fort Greene. There's lots to see, eat and buy, if you've got a hankering...
Penicillin 790 xxx

4.24.10 Take the Cure

Fresh off another stellar dinner at Momofuku Ssam (twice in one week!), I feel compelled to re-post the recipe for one of my favorite cocktails this year: the Penicillin. Originally created by Sam Ross at Milk & Honey in New York City, it is beautifully executed by the stellar barkeeps at David Chang's gastro-temple. Do try this at home. You'll feel so much better...PENICILLINby Sam Ross, as adapted for Momofuku Ssam, and translated by me2 ounces Asyla Scotch (a delicate and dry blended whiskey, with a smoky vanilla taste)¾ ounce fresh lemon juice¾ ounce ginger-honey syrup (recipe follows)Combine ingredients and shake with ice. Strain into a chilled rocks glass, over a few large cubes of ice or, as at Momofuku, one enormous hand-carved cube. Optional garnish with a piece of candied ginger.GINGER-HONEY SYRUPCombine ½ cup honey and ½ cup water in a small saucepan over medium heat and whisk until well combined. Add a 1-2” knob of peeled, sliced fresh ginger and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and gently simmer for 10 minutes. Cover and allow to cool completely, then strain. Keep refrigerated.
Winterrye 790 xxx
photos by george billard

4.23.10 How Does Your Garden Grow?

I wanted to give you a quick gander at what's happening in our garden, before things really start taking shape. That way you'll get the whole before/after perspective. We're making some changes, putting in several meandering stone paths, a meadow in the front, maybe even a shade garden in back, and a new raised bed for more vegetables. G got it together to plant this winter rye in our existing raised beds, sometime in early December I think, and as the weather warmed he plowed it under. It's a cover crop, sometimes called "green compost" because it feeds and enriches the soil. I'm getting excited thinking about what to plant—kale, lovage, cucumbers, lettuces, carrots. And more medicinal herbs; my bee balm and hyssop and lady's mantle are all coming back, and even the lavender made it through the winter. G will be babying his tomatoes again, I'm sure, and praying that last year's horrendous blight won't be returning. Any ideas from you, gentle reader, on what we should sow?
Raisedbed 790 xxx

Moss1 790 xxx
photos by george billard

4.22.10 Two With Nature

Today is Earth Day. I remember the first one, back in 1970. We planted trees at Delaveaga Elementary School. Mock plum, if I'm not mistaken; something with lots of pink blossoms. Do you feel at home in the great outdoors or, like Woody Allen, are you "two with nature"? If you don't live in the country, I encourage you to head out to the biggest park you can find and take a walk, or just sit for a while. Open your senses and take in the beauty. In this consumer society, we are continually made to feel as though we (and our fat thighs, stringy hair, deficient pecs and shabby clothes) are the center of the universe. The opportunity to see where we actually fit in—our place in relation to the vastness of the ocean and sky—is truly invaluable. Show this to your children (live, not on TV).
Room 790 xxx
11 madison park

4.22.10 Lady Who Lunches

Can I tell you a little secret? I absolutely love eating lunch out by myself. As much as I enjoy meeting friends, I really like taking an hour out, relaxing with a book (on my Kindle!) or just taking in the sights. It doesn't have to be a fancy place—I'm a huge fan of the very low-key City Bakery—but I'll confess to having a weakness for fine dining. (What, you didn't know?!) I was in the Madison Square Park area, scarcely having recovered from dinner the previous night at Momofuku Ssam (where I accidentally ate a big piece of kimchi and had the WORST garlic breath for about 12 hours; OK, and I ate the MOST delicious lo mein noodles with trout roe and the skinniest ramps all afloat in pools of butter), and I had an hour or so to kill before a meeting, so I decided to duck into 11 Madison Park for a little luncheon. I knew I could eat at the bar there, having done so in the past, and I often prefer that when I'm alone. It's a very beautiful room, as you can see above, and pretty much everything about the place is perfection. The service, as at all of Danny Meyer's restaurants, is very friendly, but it's also rather formal here.