Tuesday, October 11, 2011

New blog!

Hi all,

This will be my last post on this blog. For various reasons, I have decided to create a new blog which you can find here:

I hope you will follow me and continue reading!

Monday, September 26, 2011

Dumbo Art Fair

Saturday afternoon was supposed to be rainy and cold. However, lucky for the residents of Brooklyn the Indian summer has held on for another week and Dumbo was humid and hot. I went to the art fair with a few friends, and not only was there plenty of art, food, and things to buy, there were also wrestlers in the style of Lucha Libre. This meant that there was a giant cage and 15 or so large men fought to be the last one standing. While wearing spandex and extremely colorful masks.
However, as it is an art fair there were also many artists who had their studios open for the weekend. My favorite was a photography exhibit in which the artist had traveled for several years throughout the Americas and lived with cowboys, documenting their way of life. The photographs were all black and white, and many were poignant portraits that looked like they were from a different age.
Of course, this is a food blog, so I will have to talk a little about the food. Of several food trucks, I decided on Schnitzel & Things. They have several options of schnitzel, including veal, cod, pork, and chicken. While not exactly traditional, I decided on a chicken schnitzel sandwich with Sriracha mayo. The sandwich wasn't bad, but I wanted more schnitzel and less bread, and the meat was a little on the bland side. This may have been because I ordered chicken. However, the side of french fries was quite delicious, particularly when you eat them standing up watching Mexican wrestling (it was a new experience).
After we had had enough art, we decided to check out Dewey's, a candy store. It reminded me of the candy stores that I used to go to in Park Rapids, MN , every summer as a kid. Jars of colorful jellies, jawbreakers, and licorice lined the walls, and they had a few kinds of old-fashioned chocolate. I opted for peach gummies, and I must say that they were some of the better ones I have had.
After seeing some excellent light projections on the Manhattan bridge, we ended the night at 68 Jay, a bar with live music and big open windows. Good beer, art, and a warm night in September -- the weekend wasn't so bad.

Friday, March 4, 2011

Restaurant Review: Dell'Anima

After hearing many rave reviews, Ari and I decided to go to Dell'Anima in the West Village to celebrate the two year anniversario. I had been here once before to try their apertivo, a lovely Italian tradition in which the price of a drink also buys you free appetizers at the bar. I didn't take advantage of it nearly enough when I was living in Bologna, but luckily New York has a few places with the same tradtion. Dell'Anima offers apertivo from five to seven Friday through Sunday, and at the time I went, they had a lovely salad with a light, acidic vinaigrette and a frittata. Surprisingly, the salad stuck in my mind more than the frittata, which I remember being rather ordinary and room-temperature. The drinks however, were excellent, especially if you are a fan of Aperol, the orange-rhubarb flavored Italian spirit, as I am.
In any case, we had heard fabulous things about the pasta and I had been wanting to try their dinner offerings for a while. Of course, at eight fifteen on a Monday night, the place was packed. Such is New York. We didn't have to wait long for our table, but unfortunately it was sandwiched in the very back corner between the wall and another table. It was actually easier to hear the guys next to us talking than my own voice. Next time, I think I will sit at the pasta bar and be able to see the dining room. However, our server was very affable and I decided to start off with a white lambrusco. I was very fond of lambrusco, the lightly sparkling red wine, while in Bologna, but in the States it is much harder to come by the good stuff. The white however, was like a slightly sweeter prosecco, not quite as dry and just slightly effervescent.
We began with the five types of bruschetta and the quail noci e bacche. The bruschetta came wih a basket of toasted bread and ricotta, lily confit, cannellini bean purée with lemon and aleppo, rapini pesto, and octopus panissa with lemon. Each topping came in little bowls so that you could mix and match or put on as much as you liked. My personal favorites were the octopus and the cannellini beans. The finely-chopped octopus was perfectly seasoned, and had little bits of lemon and spices mixed in. The cannellini purée was slightly smoky and spicy, and was really delicious with the lily confit on top. I thought that the confit was just a bit oily, but had a nice mellow flavor, and neither the onions or the garlic were too overpowering. The rictotta was very creamy, albeit a bit bland, but it complimented the other toppings well. The rapini pesto was a bit bitter for my taste, but I did like it together with the ricotta. We then had the quail with frisée, dried cranberries, and pistachios, which was quite good although I might have liked something a bit lighter after all that bread. I hadn't really tried quail beforehand, and this had a nice, interesting flavor which was set off well by the sweetness of the cranberries and teh acidity of the sherry vinaigrette.
We both then decided that the seafood pastas sounded too good to pass up, even though much of what I have read about Dell'Anima praised their fearlessness of offal. I ordered spaghetti with scallops, sea urchin, chives, and parmigiano reggiano. Ari chose the garganelli neri with rock shrimp, sepia, scallops, tomato and octopus reduction. Mine was divine, if only slighltly fishy. The sauce was lovely, buttery and light and it set off the creamy scallops very well. Ari's was also very good; the seafood wasn't overcooked and the octopus reduction was delicious with the tomato sauce, although I thought that the pasta itself was just slightly tough. We also ordered a side of polenta, which was divine. Creamy, cheesy, and not overseasoned, it probably would have been a better accompaniment to the venison loin, but was delicious nonetheless.
For dessert we ordered the almond cake with caramel sauce and sea-salt ice cream, which I think was my favorite part of the meal. Of course, I have an incurable sweet tooth, but the almond cake was really nice and not overly cloying. The sea salt ice cream was a perfect accompaniment to the sweetness of the caramel, and had a reall interesting flavor on its own as well.
In conclusion, I would reccommend avoiding the crowded tables altogether and going for the pasta bar where you can watch all of the action. Next time, I would like to try the more carnivorous offerings, including a venison tartar which sounds wonderful. On the whole I was quite satisfied with the food, service, and wine selection. It is certainly not a place to go if you are trying to have a real conversation, but hopefully in the summer they will have some tables outside. Overall, Dell'Anima is a great place to enjoy some people watching, a glass of wine, and some serious pasta.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Carrot Cake Cupcakes

If you can't tell, I am a little obsessed with the Ad Hoc cookbook. Pretty much everything I have made has been amazing, and these cupcakes were certainly no exception. The cake itself is moist and carrotty and not overly sweet, and the frosting is perfection. Now, I am a very strong advocate of cream cheese frosting in any form, and this was certainly no exception. In fact, I would encourage you to go and make these cupcakes as soon as you can.

Carrot Cake Cupcakes (barely adapted from Ad Hoc at Home)

1 cup cake flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 baking powder
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
2 large eggs
1/8 cup milk
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
1 1/2 cups finely shredded carrots

3/4 pound cream cheese, room temperature (I used reduced fat to little difference)
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter at room temperature
3/4 cup powdered sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line 12 cupcake cups with liners. In a large bowl, beat the eggs, milk, vanilla, and both sugars with a mixer until smooth. Add in oil. Slowly add in all dry ingredients and beat until smooth. Mix in carrots.
Divide batter evenly among prepared cupcake cups. Bake for 20 minutes, rotating halfway through, until a tester in the middle comes out clean. Remove cupcakes from tins and let cool on rack.
Meanwhile, with an electric mixer, in a large bowl beat cream cheese at medium speed until smooth. Add butter and mix until smooth. Add powdered sugar, then vanilla and mix until competely incorporated. Scrape excess frosting down sides of bowl and beat for 30 seconds on high.
Spread frosting on cooled cupcakes. These can be refrigerated for up to two days, but will probably be gone by then. Makes 12.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Fazzoletti with Arugula Pesto

I think my mom makes the best pesto I have ever had. Which is surprising, considering our very Scandanavian and distinctly non-Italian heritage. However, I look forward to it every summer without fail, when it dresses up the simplest pasta, or is equally delicious smeared on a slice of crunchy baguette. I had been thinking about pesto for several days when coincidentally, one of the articles in the New York Times happened to include a recipe for "Fazzoletti with Chunky Pesto" and I knew I had to make it that very evening. Of course, my grocery store did not have basil this time of year, but luckily they did have arugula, which is nearly as good. Ari and I also decided to try out the new pasta maker(!), to excellent effect. I don't know that it is all that much faster than rolling out the dough by hand, but with this recipe you could also mix the dough in a food processor, which was fantastic and removed a lot of the kneading.

Fazoletti (Pasta Handkerchiefs) with Arugula Pesto (adapted from Mark Bittman)

For pasta:

2 cups all-purpose flour, plus more as needed

1 teaspoon salt, plus more as needed

2 whole eggs

3 egg yolks

For Pesto:

3 cups loosely packed arugula, rinsed and dried

3 cloves garlic, peeled

1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil, or more as desired

1/4 cup pine nutsor walnuts

1/2 cup grated Parmesan, plus more for garnish


1. Pulse flour and salt in a food processor once or twice. Add the eggs and yolks, and turn the machine on. Process just until a ball begins to form, about 30 seconds. Add a few drops of water if the dough is dry and grainy; add a tablespoon of flour if the dough sticks to the side of the bowl. Turn the dough out of the food processor, sprinkle it with a little flour, cover it with plastic or a cloth, and let it rest for about 30 minutes. (At this point, you may refrigerate the dough, wrapped in plastic, until you’re ready to roll it out, for up to 24 hours.)

2. Meanwhile, in a food processor or blender, combine the arugula with a pinch of salt, the garlic and about half the oil. Process, stopping to scrape down the sides of the container if necessary, and adding the rest of the oil gradually. Add the nuts and cheese, and pulse a few times. The pesto should be well combined but still chunky.

3. Bring a large pot of water to a boil and salt it. Divide the dough in quarters, and follow directions for pasta maker, if you have one, until dough is around 1/8 of an inch thick. Otherwise, to make it by hand, turn one half of the dough onto a lightly floured surface and roll it into a large rectangle no thicker than 1/4 inch and ideally closer to 1/8 inch, adding additional flour sparingly as necessary. Repeat with the rest of the dough.

4. Cut into squares no larger than 4 inches across. Drop the squares into the water and cook until tender, 2 to 3 minutes. Drain, reserving a little of the cooking water. Toss the handkerchiefs with the pesto, some salt and pepper, and a spoonful of cooking water, if necessary, to thin the pesto. Serve immediately, garnished with Parmesan.

Yield: 4 servings.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Buttermilk Fried Chicken

This post is a bit overdue, but for Thanksgiving this year, Ari and I decided to make fried chicken rather than the traditional turkey. Of course, who could we turn to for guidance on fried chicken but the master, Thomas Keller? I was first introduced to him when I stumbled upon the French Laundry Cookbook when I was 13, and I had never seen anything like it. It was more like art than a cookbook, with massive pictures of stunning fruits and vegetables and sculptural plates. His Ad Hoc cookbook is a little more accessible, but just as beautiful and the recipes are always incredible.
Making fried chicken included a few firsts for me, like cutting up a whole chicken, brining, and deep frying, but luckily Chef Keller was with me every step of the way. Mostly. The cutting up was a little tricky, but it worked out in the end; and though very time consuming, the brining made a huge difference in the flavor and moistness of the chicken. I also didn't have a candy thermometer, so the fried exterior got a bit darker than I would have liked, but overall this is a really excellent, albeit extensive, recipe.

Buttermilk Fried Chicken (adapted, just barely, from Ad Hoc at Home by Thomas Keller)

Chicken Brine
2 1/2 lemons, halved
6 bay leaves
1/2 bunch parsley

1/2 bunch thyme, or 1/4 cup dried thyme
1/4 cup honey
1/2 head garlic
1/8 cup black peppercorns
1 cup kosher salt
1 gallon water

Combine all ingredients in a large pot and bring to a boil. Boil 1 minute, and stir to dissolve salt. Remove from heat and cool completely before using. Can be made up to 3 days ahead.

For Chicken:
One 3-pound chicken

For Dredging and frying:
Canola oil for deep-frying
1/2 quart buttermilk

kosher salt and black pepper

3 cups all-purpose flour
1/8 cup garlic powder
1/8 cup onion powder

2 teaspoons paprika
2 teaspoons cayenne (or more for more spice)

1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper

Cut chicken into 10 pieces: 2 legs, 2 thighs, 4 breast quarters, and 2 wings. If you are not practiced at cutting up birds, I would highly reccommend looking at a diagram or how-to video. I had a bit of difficulty, especially separating the breasts from the ribs, but it worked out alright, even though it wasn't as nice as it could have been. Add the chicken to the cooled brine, and refrigerate for 10-12 hours (no more, or it will get too salty).

Remove chicken from brine, discard brine, and rinse chicken under cold water, removing all of the herbs and spices. Let rest at room temp for an hour or so.

Fill a large pot with at least 2 inches of oil (no more than 1/3 o
f the way up the side) and heat to 320 degrees. Set a cooling rack over a baking sheet.

Combine all coating ingredients in a large bowl.
Transfer half to a second bowl. Pour buttermilk into a third bowl and season with salt and pepper. Just before frying, dip chicken thighs into first bowl of coating, shake off excess, then dip in buttermilk, then dip into second bowl of coating.
Carefully lower thighs into hot oil. Fry for two minutes, then carefully move around and continue to fry, monitoring oil temperature, and turning pieces to ensure even cooking, 10-11 minutes, until chicken is deep golden brown and crispy.
Transfer to wire rack, and sprinkle with salt. Continue cooking pieces two at a time, 10-12 minutes per piece. For breasts, turn up heat to 340 degrees and fry for 7-8 minutes until cooked through. For wings, cook at 340 degrees for 6-7 minutes. Let chicken rest for ten minutes before serving. Arrange chicken on a serving platter and enjoy!
We liked this with a little sriracha sauce on the side, but it is pretty delicious all on its own as well.

Magic Bars

These bars may actually be magic. Also known as dream bars or seven-layer bars, they are extremely easy to make and DELICIOUS. I had been craving them for months, and turns out that they are very hard to find in New York City. Thus, I had to take matters into my own hands. These are best straight out of the oven, when the chocolate and butterscotch are all melted together, but they keep in the fridge for a few days as well.

Magic Bars (adapted from Allrecipes.com)

1/2 cup butter, melted
1 1/2 cups graham cracker crumbs
1 (14 oz) can of sweetened condensed milk
1 cup semisweet chocolate chips
1 cup butterscotch chips
1 1/3 cups flaked coconut
1/2 cup chopped walnuts or pecans

Heat oven to 350 degrees. Coat a 13x9-inch baking pan with butter. Combine graham cracker crumbs and butter. Press into bottom of prepared pan. Pour sweetened condensed milk evenly over crumb mixture. Layer evenly with chocolate chips, coconut and nuts. Press down firmly with a fork. Bake for 25 minutes or until lightly browned. Cool. Cut into bars or diamonds. Store covered at room temperature.