Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Tomato and Lentil Soup -A hearty soup for a cold winter night

This hearty vegetarian soup derives a kick from some balsamic vinegar and feta cheese. It takes only about 45 minutes to prepare from cupboard ingredients and will warm (and fill) you up on a night like tonight.

Tomato and Lentil Soup
Adapted from Cooking light

2 tablespoons olive oil
1 1/2 cups finely chopped onion
1/2 cup finely chopped celery
1 tablespoon bottled minced garlic
5 1/2 cups water
1 1/2 cups dried lentils
2 tablespoons dried dill, divided
2 bay leaves
1/2 teaspoon chile powder
1 teaspoon dried red pepper flakes
1 (8-ounce) can tomato sauce
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
3/4 cup (3 ounces) crumbled feta cheese

Heat oil in a large Dutch oven over medium heat. Add onion, celery, and garlic; cook 10 minutes or until the vegetables are tender, stirring frequently. Add water, dried lentils, 1 tablespoon dill, bay leaves, chile powder, red epper flakes and tomato sauce. Bring to a boil; reduce heat, and simmer 30 minutes or until lentils are tender. Stir in remaining 1 tablespoon dill, vinegar, salt, and black pepper; discard bay leaves. Sprinkle with cheese.

Yield: 6 servings (serving size: about 1 cup soup and 2 tablespoons cheese)

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Fort Greene Eats in the New York Times

Over the weekend The New York Times listed a few good-bet restaurants located in Fort Greene, Brooklyn. I visited one of the spots listed (67 Burger -quick, delicious, cheap and good beer on tap) before seeing The Cherry Orchard at BAM two weeks ago. I was so surprised and impressed at the cluster of good restaurants around Lafayette Avenue that I've been looking at real estate in the area ever since. I've also heard GREAT things about The General Greene -that'll be the next place on the list for me to visit.

Good Eating Fort Greene

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Perfect Poached Eggs

Last night while pondering the remaining steak on my husband's plate (we ate at Porter House which turns out one of the best filets I've ever tasted) I heard him say "I want this tomorrow morning with a poached egg with a runny center." Well, coming right up.

Though over-easy or scrambled eggs are a little quicker and easier, a good poached egg is priceless and worth the slightly increased effort of waiting for water to boil.

I like Martha Stewart's method for poaching eggs. I've adapted it below.

Perfect Poached Eggs

Bring a saucepan of water and 1 tablespoon of vinegar (any flavor) to a boil. Break one egg at a time into a small heatproof bowl or ramekin. Reduce heat so that the water is just simmering. Slightly immerse the bowl in the water, and gently slide in the egg. After all eggs are added, cover pot, turn off heat, and let stand 2 minutes. Using a slotted spoon and working quickly remove eggs and set on a kitchen towel or paper towel. Serve immediately.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Yes We Can ... eat cupcakes to celebrate the inaguration

This is my go-to recipe for cupcakes - always gets raves. That's why I offered to bring a bunch to an inauguration party. I'd estimate that, depending on the amount of batter you pour into each cup, the recipe makes about 36 cupcakes -the perfect amount for my new toy, the cupcake courier.

Gold Cake
by Alton Brown
3/4 cup butter flavored vegetable shortening, 140 grams
1 1/4 cup sugar, 300 grams
2 1/2 cups cake flour, sifted, 300 grams
3 teaspoons baking powder, 14 grams
1/4 teaspoon salt
8 egg yolks, beaten, 130 grams
3/4 cup milk, 180 grams
1 teaspoon vanilla

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Prep muffin pans with paper cups, cooking spray or butter.
Cream together the shortening and the sugar.

Combine the flour, baking powder, and salt.

Slowly alternate adding the egg yolks and milk with the dry ingredients and mix until well combined. Add the vanilla and mix well.

Pour batter in cups, filling each halfway.

Bake 10-15 minutes until edges are golden brown and tester comes out clean. Remove from oven and pans and cool on a rack.

Fudge Frosting

Adapted from Bon Appétit

Yield: Makes 4 cups

3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter
3/4 cup sugar
3/4 cup half and half
1 teaspoon instant espresso powder
6 ounces unsweetened chocolate, chopped
4 ounces semisweet chocolate, chopped
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 1/2 cups powdered sugar

Combine butter, 3/4 cup sugar, half and half and espresso powder in large saucepan. Stir over medium heat until sugar and powder dissolve and mixture simmers. Remove from heat.

Add both chocolates; whisk until smooth. Whisk in vanilla.

Pour chocolate mixture into large bowl. Sift in powdered sugar; whisk to blend.

Press plastic onto surface of frosting. Chill just until firm enough to spread, stirring occasionally, about 1 1/2 hours. Frost your cupcakes generously!

Sorry about the dim lighting here, it was a party.

Inaugural Luncheon -with recipes!

After taking the oath of office tomorrow, our 44th president, Barack Obama, will eat this luncheon in Statuary Hall.

First Course
Seafood Stew
paired with Duckhorn Vineyards 2007 Sauvignon Blanc, Napa Valley

Second Course
A Brace of American Birds (pheasant and duck) served with Sour Cherry Chutney and Molasses Sweet Potatoes
paired with Goldeneye, 2005 Pinot Noir, Anderson Valley

Third Course
Apple Cinnamon Sponge Cake and Sweet Cream Glace
paired with Korbel Natural "Special Inauguration Cuvee," California Champagne

Also on the website: images of the china the President will eat from, the picture he will eat under, flowers that will adorn the tables, and, best of all for us, detailed recipes for each course. Don't you just love the term "Brace" meaning a tied bundle? It certainly imbues the menu with a bit of the dusty history of the event, which dates from 1897.

Sunday, January 18, 2009


I love to make these french cheese puffs when we have a few people over for cocktails. I make the dough before anyone arrives and then easily spoon and bake fresh batches to serve hot without missing much conversation. They're simple, airy and delightful. If you don't have fresh scallions, chives will do -or change it up using herbs of your choice.


Yield: Makes 25-30 gougères

1 cup hot water
1/2 cup butter, cut up into pieces
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon sugar
1 cup flour
4 large eggs
1 cup grated Gruyère cheese
1 teaspoon dry mustard
3 tablespoons diced scallions (green part only)

Pre-heat oven to

Make the pâte à choux. Combine the water, butter, salt and sugar and heat in a saucepan until the butter is melted. Add the flour and stir vigorously until the dough forms a firm ball and breaks away from the edges of the pan. Remove the pan from heat and beat in the eggs, one by one until the pâte à choux is firm, smooth and waxy.

Add the cheese, mustard, cayenne and scallions to the pâte à choux and blend thoroughly. Spoon small piles of dough mixture onto a non-stick baking sheet as you would cookies. Using a fine microplane grater, grate a little additional cheese on top of each pile.

Bake in a 375°F oven for 25 to 40 minutes until they are beginning to brown and cooked through. Timing will depend on the size of the gougères. Eat and enjoy!

Friday, January 16, 2009

Spiced Scallops with Red Cabbage. A perfect light dish for winter!

I made this simple, colorful supper last night. It's a great winter recipe for sea scallops -and the red cabbage is a great, much lighter alternative to a celery root puree or potato mash.

To lessen waste, I braised an entire head of cabbage (about 2 lbs) using the butter and balsamic measurements given for 1 lb. Also, if you're making this for two, I'd recommend spice rub-ing and cooking half the scallops and saving the other half to coat and cook fresh with re-heated leftover cabbage.

Spiced Scallops with Balsamic-Braised Red Cabbage

Gourmet December 2008

by Andrea Albin

Yield: Makes 4 servings
Active Time: 10 min
Total Time: 30 min

3 tablespoons unsalted butter, divided
1 pound red cabbage, cored and thinly sliced
2 Turkish bay leaves or 1 California
3/4 cup water, divided
3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar, divided
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric
1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
2 pinches ground cloves
1 1/2 pounds large sea scallops, tough ligament removed from side of each if attached

Melt 2 tablespoons butter in a 12-inch nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add cabbage, bay leaves, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 1/4 teaspoon pepper and toss to coat.

Stir in 1/2 cup water and 2 tablespoon vinegar and simmer, covered, stirring occasionally, until cabbage is tender, 10 to 15 minutes. Transfer to a platter and keep warm, covered.

Stir together spices, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Pat scallops dry and season both sides with spice mixture.

Wipe out skillet, then heat remaining tablespoon butter over medium-high heat until foam subsides. Sauté scallops, turning once, until golden brown and just cooked through, about 5 minutes total. Add to cabbage.

Add remaining 1/4 cup water and tablespoon vinegar to skillet and boil, stirring, until slightly thickened, 1 to 2 minutes. Pour over scallops and cabbage. Eat and enjoy.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Thin Mints, Samoas, Tag-a-longs! Get your Girl Scout Cookies

I'm guessing you don't know your local girl scout. Perhaps a desperate parent is collecting cookie orders at your place of business, but if not, don't freak! Thin Mints can still be yours! Check out Enter your email address and zip code and your local chapter will get in touch. If you are a New Yorker and intend on ordering 12 boxes or more, you can order by mail with this form.

Elegy for Fiamma

A 'surprise box' that I bid on and won at the Lincoln Center Theater's young patrons benefit contained a $150 gift certificate to B.R. Guest Restaurants. This group includes many popular restaurants in NYC including Blue Water Grill, Dos Caminos and Isabella's as well as sister restaurants in Vegas and Chicago. It is also the parent restaurant of the New York Times 3 star and Michelin 1 star fancy Italian, Fiamma, arguably the group's flagship.

I have very fond memories of dinners at Fiamma, which is located over three floors of a beautiful brick townhouse in SoHo. An evening in November about 5 years ago I gathered there with three of my best girl friends to send off one of our group to a life in sunny California. Because she had been a much-loved server at Blue Water Grill, we got ultimate insider treatment: extra dishes at every course and more desserts than a group of 10 could handle. The food was both luxurious and comforting. Memories of that meal still cast a warm glow in my mind. Since then I've gone back -often just to the quiet second floor bar to sip an excellent glass of prosecco. It was a culinary oasis to rest from battling SoHo shopping tourists or a perfect place to wait for your table at nearby Blue Ribbon to be ready.

My husband had never eaten at Fiamma, so we resolved to spend our B.R Guest cash there for Valentine's Day. The menu listed on the website was full of the rich and aphrodesiacal: oysters, kobe beef, lobster. Mouth-watering. So, like the obsessive New York restaurant goer that I am, I called yesterday morning (they open reservations one month prior to the calendar date) and got an early seating time. The one hitch being that I didn't have a credit card on me -I'd have to call back later to give that to them, but they'd hold my time. I called back at 2pm, 4 hours after I had reserved my table, and a different reservationist told me, "I'm so sorry, ma'am, but in the time between your call this morning and this call, our restaurant has been closed." "What?" I exclaimed. "That was exactly our reaction," he replied.

So sad. I was instantly in mourning, not just for our Valentine's Day dinner that will not be, but for an excellent and acclaimed restaurant that is suddenly no more and all its employees who are abruptly out of a job at a terrible time to be unemployed. Another casualty of the plummeting economy, I guess. If you read retail sales reports from December, you noticed that luxury goods were suffering the most. It does follow that luxury restaurants would be experiencing the same deficits -especially downtown restaurants that relied somewhat on Wall Street's (no longer) deep pockets.

I will miss you, Fiamma. Meanwhile, we will be visiting Primehouse for V-day. Perhaps we can still sastify that Kobe craving.

For more on this, Fiamma's chef, Fabio Trabocchi spoke to Frank Bruni about the closing.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Re-creating Freemans Signature Cocktail

Back when I had free time between New Year's and the resumption of the business calendar, I decided to journey down to the Lower East Side for lunch at Freemans. An adorable, cozy restaurant located at the end of Freemans Alley, the restaurant is populated by taxidermied heads and hipsters. In addition to the best baked artichoke dip I've ever tasted, Freemans serves an extremely memorable tart brown cocktail. A week later I found myself craving another, but lacking pomegranate molasses and orange bitters, I decided to improvise and came up with the recipe below. In the spirit of using what you have, blood orange or tangerine would work in place of the pink grapefruit. Happy drinking!

Fakemans Cocktail
3 oz rye
1 1/2 oz fresh squeezed pink grapefruit juice
a few dashes of angostura bitters

Shake in cocktail shaker with ice and pour into a chilled martini glass

Freemans is so cute!

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Out with the old, in with the...better

The Minimalist, Mark Bittman, has a good article in today's New York Times Dining Section about stocking your pantry with ingredients to help you cook quickly (and also tossing ingredients that may be not quite good enough). I especially like his recommendation to buy tomato paste in a tube, not a can. I've switched over a few years ago and love that it keeps so well and that I can roll up the tube like toothpaste to get every last bit. However, I don't think I'll be trashing my beloved, non-caloric PAM anytime soon, additives or no.

Take away what you can use and ignore anything you deem too onerous.

Fresh Start for a New Year? Let's Begin in the Kitchen

Trying to use what I have

I'm not a fan of New Year's Resolutions. I'm especially not a fan of the hordes of people who did make them now crowding up my gym. But I will admit the start of a new calendar year is not a bad time to think about how to improve one's life. So, call it what you will. Food-wise I'd really like to reduce waste. This means eating all leftovers or re purposing them and also creating recipes around unused ingredients from other dishes and items from the pantry and fridge. So, in the spirit of, I bring you a dinner made from ingredients I already had in the kitchen. These recipes are all a little loose to give you options to use what you have.

Deer Meatloaf

Yes, we're still working away at the deer meat in our freezer. So instead of using the traditional beef or pork-veal-beef mixture, a deer-loaf it was.

approximately 24 ounces ground deer
1 1/2 cups grated onion
1 cup breadcrumbs soaked in 1/2 cup milk (any kind) until milk is absorbed
2/3 cup ketchup (or bbq sauce or a mix)
a few dashes of Worcestershire sauce
1 cup chopped fresh parsley (plus any other herbs you might have, I used a few tablespoons of thyme)
3 large eggs, lightly beaten
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray a 9x5 inch loaf pan with Pam or other cooking spray. Combine all ingredients in a large bowl, using your hands to completely mix (this is really the fun part). Press meat mixture in loaf pan and place in oven, uncovered. Bake approximately 1 hour or until meat pulls away from sides of pan or thermometer read 160 degrees. Pour of excess fat and let sit for 15 minutes before slicing and serving.

Roasted Potatoes and Red Onions

I've never roasted my potatoes with red onions before, but that's what I had. And it was serendipity as they brought a great sweetness to the dish.

Rinse potatoes (I had yukon golds) with skins on and cut into bite-sized chunks. Peel and cut onion into equal amount of chunks. Place in a single layer in oven-safe dish or baking sheet and drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with sea salt and pepper. Bake with meatloaf for approximately 45 minutes or until potatoes brown, stirring a few times while baking with a heat-resistant spatula.

Simple Salad

It often feels like a race to finish fresh vegetables before they go bad. A good solution is a chopped salad. I chopped one Romaine Heart into bite-sized chunks, rinsed in a colander and dried. Then tossed with crumbled feta and dressing (leftover from New Year's Eve Dinner)

The result: a balanced meal and leftovers of leftovers. Of course.