Monday, November 23, 2009

Restaurant Review: Pylos

If asked to go out to a restaurant, I would probably choose French or Italian. However, I am always up for new things, and on Saturday night I got to go to a great Greek place on the Lower East Side called Pylos. Ari and his friend Will have been there a couple times and said great things, so we all went there with his parents to celebrate various birthdays and visits. The first thing you see when you walk in is that the ceiling is covered in clay pots, which look rather like they are about to crash onto your table.
Will's dad John is very knowledgeable about wine, so he took over talking to the waiter and asked for a medium dry red, something similar to a burgundy. He presented us with a Megapanos Nevea Peloponese from 2005, which was lovely -- dry and a little fruity, with just a hint of honey and an almost grassy taste. We then entrusted the waiter to order a variety of hot and cold appetizers for the table. However, as a preliminary appetizer, we got pita bread with hummus. The pita bread was excellent, hot and a little crispy but not dry. The hummus, however was a bit bland and didn't have a lot of flavor. Luckily, the cold appetizers came shortly. We began with a trio of dipping sauces -- moussaka, tzatziki, and some sort of fish sauce. The moussaka was my favorite, garlicky and perfectly seasoned. We also had a delicious Greek salad consisting of fresh tomatoes, capers, red onions, olives, feta cheese, and cucumber. The other salad I found a little odd, which was made of romaine lettuce and small pieces of feta tossed in a very acidic vinaigrette.
We then moved on to the hot appetizers, which were overall incredible. The first was grilled octopus, which I had never had and was not expecting to like. It was firm, a little fishy, and not at all chewy, and the grilled barbecue flavor set it off wonderfully. We also got calamari, which I love, and was excellent. It was prefefctly fried and crispy, and great with just a little lemon juice over the top. Next was fried eggplant, sliced extremely thin and crispy. Then came a mixture of three Greek cheeses, melted and mixed with a little tomato sauce. That was followed by squares of puff pastry filled with beef, tomatos, and a mild cheese.
After all of that, I was beginning to feel a little full, but the entrées were still to come. I ordered a pistachio-crusted wild sea bass, topped with a little feta cheese and served over a bed of kale and tomatoes. It was an excellent choice, well seasoned and crispy on the outside. The kale perfectly complemented the fish, which was flaky and mild. Ari had the braised short ribs, which I tried a little of and have to say, even though I am not a big red meat eater, it was delicious. The meat practically fell off the bone, and it was served with a potato and porcini mushroom mash, which gets me every time. Actually, I am pretty much guaranteed to like anything with porcini mushrooms, especially when butter is added.
Even though we were all extremely full at this point, dessert was a necessity. Ari and I split an almond honey cake with flakes of chocolate and espresso mixed in, accompanied by a Greek yogurt ice cream. At this point I was so full of food and wine that I could only manage a few bites (a rarity, I promise, as I always have room for dessert). Will and John also tried 100 year old dessert wine, which was incredibly rich and almost syrupy. I tried a sip and while it was very sweet, it also had hints of spice and an almost maple flavor. I don't know if I could handle a whole glass of it, but just a sip was lovely. A perfect end to a wonderful meal.

Photo from
For more information, go to

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Spaghetti alla Ricotta

This is an incredibly simple recipe that I learned while studying in Bologna last fall. We were lucky enough to take cooking lessons from a woman named Rita Mazzoli, an incredible person and a fantastic cook. These lessons were the some of the highlights of my semester, and we learned how to make everything from homemade pasta to tiramisù. However, this was one of the simplest recipes and holds true to the saying that if you use great ingredients, the simplest preparation is all you need.
However, I like to have pasta with some vegetables, so I usually add peas or other vegetables. I ate this pretty much every week in Bologna, so this time I decided to change it up a little and add some sauteed mushrooms and toasted pine nuts. However, the original preparation is beautiful in its simplicity, and makes a great first course or light dinner. The ricotta makes a deliciously creamy sauce, and the lemon zest adds just the right amount of tang.

Spaghetti alla Ricotta (serves 2)

4 oz spaghetti
1/3 cup ricotta cheese (if you can, get the real Italian kind from a deli, but the supermarket brand will do)
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon lemon zest
1/4 cup Parmiggiano Reggiano, grated (you can also use cheaper parmesan, but I think that the real stuff is worth the investment)
2-3 tablespoons water
salt and pepper to taste

Cook the spaghetti al dente in a pot of boiling water, 8-10 minutes. Meanwhile, mix all other ingredients in a medium bowl, taking care to mix thoroughly and season well. When the pasta is done boiling, add to sauce and mix. Top with more parmiggiano reggiano.

That's it. I typically add 1/4-1/3 cup of frozen peas (boiled for 2-3 minutes), and this time added some sauteed mushrooms and pine nuts, which were a nice addition. The mushrooms should be sliced thinly and sauteed in 1 tablespoon of olive oil with a little salt and pepper, for about seven minutes. The pine nuts can be toasted in a sauté pan over medium heat for 5 minutes or so, or roasted in the oven at 375 for 7-8 minutes.


Thursday, November 5, 2009

Carmelized-Onion Pizza with Mushrooms

I used to hate onions and mushrooms, so it was a pretty big step for me to try this, but now it is one of my favorite dinners of all time. My mom found this a few years ago in Gourmet (which I still can't believe is closed), and makes it pretty often. I decided to make it for Ari and my housemates, to rave reviews, so I'm sure we will be making it again. The longest part is carmelizing the onions, but it is worth it to get them that deep golden color. As usual, my notes are in italics.

Carmelized-Onion Pizza with Mushrooms (from Gourmet Magazine, March 2006)

  • 5 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 1/2 lb onions (3 large), thinly sliced
  • 1 lb frozen pizza dough, thawed
  • 6 oz fresh cremini mushrooms, trimmed and thinly sliced (or regular button mushrooms, although they have a milder taste)
  • 1 (5-oz) package Boursin garlic-herb cheese (or Alouette cheese, which we eat A LOT of in my apartment)


Heat 3 tablespoons oil in a 12-inch heavy skillet over moderately high heat until hot but not smoking, then cook onions with 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper, uncovered, stirring occasionally, until softened and beginning to brown, about 10 minutes. Reduce heat to moderate and continue to cook, stirring occasionally, until tender and golden, about 15 minutes more. Reduce heat to low and continue to cook, stirring occasionally, until very soft and deep golden brown, about 15 minutes more. Remove from heat and cool to warm, about 10 minutes. This usually takes me longer, around 45 minutes total.

Put oven rack in middle position and preheat oven to 475°F.

While onions cool, coat pizza dough with 1 tablespoon oil in a 17- by 12-inch shallow baking pan and stretch and press dough to cover bottom (dough may be resistant to stretching at first, but it will soon relax). Spread onions evenly over dough. Toss mushrooms with 1/4 teaspoon salt, 1/8 teaspoon pepper, and remaining tablespoon oil in a bowl, then spread evenly over onions. Crumble cheese evenly over mushrooms.

Bake pizza until underside of dough is golden and cheese is beginning to brown, 14 to 16 minutes.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Restaurant Review: Adrienne's Pizza

Wall Street is not a place you would expect to find great restaurants. Of course, there are a lot of good lunch places, but many of them close around seven, sort of contradicting the idea that everything is open in New York until late. However, just down from the Stock Exchange is a little cobblestoned street that looks as if you could be in Europe. Stone Street boasts several restaurants of all different cuisines, most of which have tables outside. Being Scandanavian, I was immediately excited about the Norwegian /Swedish restaurant (it is impossible to find good Swedish meatballs outside of Minnesota), but I'll have to save that for another time.
Instead, Ari and I decided to try Adrienne's Pizza across the street. A friend of his had been there and said that it was excellent. We didn't have to wait for a table, even on a Saturday night, and the interior is modern and dimly lit, with candles at each table. It is not overly romantic though, with techno music blasting from the speakers (which actually reminded me of Italy and their fondness for techno). The menu is short (always a good sign for me), with about eight different kinds of pizza, some antipasti and salads, and a few pastas. The wine list was pretty extensive, but a little on the expensive side with the cheapest bottle of wine starting at $30. I still wanted a glass of wine, however, so I ordered one of Sangiovese for $9. It was pretty good, dry and a nice accompaniment to the meal. If I go back, however, I will probably see if they have a corkage fee and bring my own.
To eat, we decided on an antipasto of four different cheeses and a pizza with prosciutto, potatoes, and scallions ($15). The antipasto was perfect -- we ordered the smaller size ($8), which was perfect and came with a piece of bruschetta, topped with a mixture of tomatos, basil, and onions, as well as some olives. The cheese was a perfect accompaniment to my glass of wine. Then, the pizza came. This was definitely one of the best pizzas I have had since returning from Italy. The prosciutto was salty and crispy, the potatoes balanced it perfectly, and the scallions were a great addition. The crust might have been the best part, not at all soggy and perfectly seasoned. My only complaint would be that both Ari and I needed to add pepper.
The service was also only so-so. We received everything very quickly, but almost too quickly. It felt more like we were rushed through the whole meal, rather than being able to savor it. However, I want to go back and try more of their pizzas, so I guess I can just put up with the service. Unfortunately, I don't have any pictures, but for more information you can go to: