Find Us On…

Archive for the ‘Main Courses’ Category

As Seen at the Market: Pasta with Kale and Butternut Squash

 

Several weeks ago I was speaking to Keren Kurti-Alexander, the Manager at the Cityseed (link) Farmers market about our demos for the summer. I had all kinds of yummy surprises involving fun fruits and vegetables like blueberries, strawberries, and corn. But it was late May and the crops have been slow for his year, and she asked me the question I’ve been dreading ever since I started: “Could you do something with kale?”

 Picture of kale

Panicking, I punted and promised that I definitely would sometime during the season. I could push it off until late fall since it is such a hearty vegetable that always seems to be available and just hope that inspiration struck at some point in the interim. And of course Keren being a nice person said okay, I could do the fun stir fry and make great strawberry breakfast smoothies I was planning instead. But I could tell that in her heart of hearts she was hoping for some kale. I realized that it really was time to get over my kale fear. I’ve been cooking for longer than I can remember… surely I could find a way of making a dish that wasn’t bitter and didn’t look like putrid green slime.

 

Squash:  They're so cute, aren't they?

 

It happened that we had just made some vibrant roasted butternut squash with a bit of butter and sea salt, which made Gabrielle remember that her friend Mia had raved about a pasta she’d had with kale and butternut squash at a restaurant in New York. From there, everything else fell together – I could tell that the colors, textures and flavors of these ingredients would compliment each other perfectly, and I could already see that with a little inspiration and improvisation, we could create something really memorable. The recipe that follows is probably one of the healthiest, tastiest and certainly one of the most colorful pastas ever. Here are the steps:

 

First peel the squash, admittedly one of my least favorite jobs. The skin is tough on this curvaceous vegetable and it is difficult to peel. If you’re wise you’ll get somebody else to do it.

 

Peeling Squash: Seriously, avoid this if you can ;)

Be sure to get all the stringy stuff out of the middle (we use a tomato de-seeder to scrape out the seeds and pulp, but a ice cream scoop, a spoon or your fingers will work just fine)

 

Scooping out the squash

 

Some very silly textbooks would tell you to trim the squash so you have perfect squares and discard the rest.

 

I suppose it's wrong that we've stooped to eating squash that isn't perfectly square.... the horror ;)

 

But seriously, look at the waste. Just cut it up to be as square and uniform as you can and distribute the squash over two parchment lined cookie sheets. It may not be culinarily correct, but we’ll deal I think.

 

And can you even believe that these aren't perfect cubes?

 

Melt some butter, sprinkle some sea salt and pepper and roast the vegetables for about 30 minutes.

 

 salt and pepper squash!

 

Here is the finished product. (The recipe, by the way, calls for three squashes, about twice the amount you will actually need, but trust me you will want left over squash, the smell is so heavenly and it makes such a wonderful side dish to any meal.)

 

Seriously, squash is so yummy i feel like you could eat this instead of squash

 

In the meantime prepare the kale. Make sure you buy kale that is deep green and fresh. Don’t wait until it gets like this.

 

isn't it hauntingly beautiful?

 

Tear the leaves from the tough spine.

 

I feel like you could put this in a horror movie

 

Chop into bit size pieces, and set aside.

 

whatever you say about it, it is super cute and curly though

 

You will need two cups of chopped onions and/or scallions of any sort. We had plenty of spring onions left over from a cooking demo at Wooster Square from Sun One Farms in Bethlehem, so that’s what we used.

 

artsy!

 

Sautee the onion mixture until soft and glassy, about five minutes and add some garlic.

 

 

Add the kale and cook only until it is soft but still bright green. Add two cups of cherry tomatoes and continue cooking for about a minute, or until the tomatoes just begin to soften and are slightly warm but not mushy.

 

this stuff is not good yet, but we're going to fix it

 

In the meantime, boil a pound of dried fusilli or another favorite medium sized pasta, and cook according to instructions. Drain and add an 8 ounce container of mascarpone cheese. Stir well.

 

calories make everything taste good

 

Add the kale mixture to the pasta, and then the squash with the parmesan cheese.

 

omnomnomnomnom

 

Mix well and Serve. This dish is so hearty, it doesn’t really need any bread.

 

we did it! and so can you!

 

Click here to see the recipe on Food52.com. Enjoy!

Grain of Salt: Lady is a Ramp

A few years ago I read an article in Psychology Today about the prefrontal cortex, the part of the brain thet controls rational thought, and how it doesn’t mature until we’re about 25. Not being one to take responsibility for much, I’ve blamed every irrational thing I’ve done since then on my undeveloped mind… especially my tendency to impulse buy. So my prefrontal cortex was hard at work at the farmer’s market last week when I bargained a vendor down to the only $2.60 I had in my wallet for a bunch of 10 ramps without the slightest clue in the whole world what they were or what I was going to do with them. After calling my mother and hearing her speculation on the potential reasons that ramps (also known as wild leeks) “never really caught on” I walked away thinking, “Oh my Lord, what have I done…”

 

 

 

That is, of course, a total lie. I was excited out of my mind. As a student, it’s my job to learn about mysterious things, and since I figured lots of you are probably in the same boat as me, it seemed like a great opportunity to learn alongside you. There’s not a multitude of information about them, but here’s what I was able to discern. Ramps haven’t “not caught on,” it just happens that they barely have a growing season, and they only grow in the Eastern United States. They have a wonderful scent, strong, garlicky and sweet, that reminds me of the random chives my friends and I used to pick in our front yard growing up. Which is a cool coincidence, because they’re completely undomesticated. They’re highly valued among foragers, and apparently a lot of them are very secretive about where they find them (kind of like mushroom harvesters). They’re especially popular in West Virginia and Quebec, and can be found everywhere from South Carolina to Canada.

 

The leaves are ramps, the red bits are rhubarb ;)

 

So how do you cook with them? The farmer’s market told me that you use them just as you’d use leeks or chives. Which is odd, because you use leeks and chives really differently. And predictably, the truth lies somewhere in between. I’d say you use them in about the quantities you’d use scallions, but they have a much smoother flavor than scallions. The best way to cook them is to chop them up and sautee them in butter for about 2-3 minutes until they get soft (about 1 tbsp butter for one bunch of 10-ish ramps) and then use them in a simple dish that will really highlight their flavor, so they won’t get lost, and you get the biggest bang for your ramp buck. You can use the white and green parts (I couldn’t figure out if that includes the red, in between bit – does anybody know anything about that?), and they can go with everything from salmon to soup to risotto.

 

Look mommy – pastagarlicandcheese is growing up!

 

But this being my first ramp experience, I decided to take things as simple as I could, and harken back to one of my favorite childhood dinners. Whenever we were in a rush, or had nothing good in the house for dinner, I knew I could always count on PastaGarlicAndCheese (pronounced as one word, like LMNOP), a simple but dependable combination of spaghetti, olive oil or butter, garlic and Parmesan. And even today, it’s probably my favorite dinner in a lazy pinch. Sometimes, if I’m feeling ambitious, I add peas, tomatoes or whatever I have in the house, but if I don’t there’s really nothing lost. So I decided that since I wanted to highlight the ramps, and I only had the one bunch, I was going to keep the sentiment, but replace the garlic with my sauteed ramps. I also crumbled in some goat cheese for added fancy factor. And oh my goodness was it good. Simple, easy and delicious.

The whole point of this recipe is that there is none. My one bunch of 10 ramps was probably good for 1/3 of a pound of pasta, but beyond that just add however much cheese makes you happy, and then top it with a little drizzle of olive oil. If you want to add other vegetables, just add more ramps so you can be sure you’ll be able to taste them. And if you’re a ramp enthusiast and have something special you like to do with them, let me know and I’ll be sure to try it out!

 

UPDATE MAY 3rd  – Bizarre fact, but the New York Times just published an article on teenage minds! Check out the article here :)

Grain of Salt: The Sandwich on Fire

Happy National Grilled Cheese Day! Since we’re on a Hunger Games kick, this sandwich is also inspired by our culinary book of the month. It’s a hybrid between the fruit-and-nut bread with goat cheese that Gale and Katniss eat at the beginning of the first book, and the apple and goat cheese tarts that Peeta serves at his bakery. If you haven’t read Hunger Games, then this is just an unaffiliated, super classy Grilled Goat Cheese Sandwich on Cranberry Pecan Bread with Apples. Enjoy!

 

 

I tried to take a real picture of it… but *somebody* kept eating it during my photoshoot. I got what I could ;)

 

 

Grain of Salt: May the Odds Be Ever in your Flavor

I apologize if this post comes out a little incoherent, but if it does, you can blame it on Suzanne Collins and how I haven’t been sleeping. On the suggestion of absolutely everyone, I finally started reading the Hunger Games books a few weeks ago and several sleepless nights later I had finished the first one. And when I finished and began deeply reflecting, I realized that Suzanne’s ultimate goal must have been to make her readers hungry. I was hungry for more book, because my sister was harboring the other two in Connecticut, I was hungry for a visual, since the movie had not yet come out, and most of all, I was hungry for the Lamb Stew with Dried Plums that Katniss waves in our faces at least ten times over the course of the book. The Capitol (bad guys) may be the epitome of evil, but it would appear they really know how to eat.

 

why the ball jars you ask? i wish i could tell you, but then i'd have to kill you.

 

I would know, because I’ve had that stew, or at least my mom’s perfect rendition, a million times before. It’s my family’s resident Jewish Holiday Meal – we make it every Passover and Rosh Hashannah and then some. There’s a reason that, even when she has chance, Katniss consistently picks this – if the Capitol version is anything like mom’s, it doesn’t pay to be creative. You just can’t do better. My craving was sadly unappeased by the otherwise excellent movie, which ignored the culinary scene altogether. So when I called home last Wednesday to plan my upcoming weekend in Connecticut, I could only think of the one thing vital to my survival.* With three extremely important holidays (Easter, Passover, My Birthday) to observe in three extremely short days, I was terrified that maybe we’d had to abandon our tradition in favor of simpler options. So when mom affirmed that we were, indeed, having Lamb Stew for Friday night dinner all I wanted to do was sing it to the world. “Ah ha!” I thought. “The movie is still relatively new and buzzworthy… I’m going to capitalize on this to the max.” And so, dear readers, I would like to ask that you get very excited right about now, because I am about to change your life forever. This stew, which actually hails from somewhere in North Africa, is succulent, savory and satisfying. The sweet tartness of the plums make it perfect for autumn, the substantialness of it makes it amazing in winter, and the tenderness of the lamb makes it sing all the way through late Spring. It is great for any day, though we like to save this one for Holidays, since it’s perfect for Easter, for Passover and, of course, for any extremely important birthday. I certainly ate some of it every day this weekend. And the recipe is below, right before your very eyes!

 

Consider our gift to you, for whatever holiday (or lack thereof) you celebrated last weekend. If you’re Christian I hope the Easter Bunny brought you as much chocolate as he brought Francesca, if you’re Jewish I hope you remember that butter and honey make Matzah palatable, if you’re a half-and-half like me, I hope you’re a bit less confused than I am, and whoever you are I hope you celebrated my birthday in style. Happy Passover, Happy Easter, Happy Hunger Games, and may the odds be ever in your favor.

 

 

*I would not last long in the Hunger Games

A Grain of Salt: Forbidden Love

_

We elite, educated, vastly superior Manhattan types are allowed to feel one of two ways about Williamsburg, Brooklyn. We are first and foremost allowed to really really hate it. If you fall into that category you get to say things like “I don’t do Brooklyn” and roll your eyes and dismiss it as hipster hell, and that makes you look nice and discerning, and that means you just can’t lose. But we are also allowed to like it ironically, which means that we can peruse the sandwich shops and Moleskine vendors to our hearts’ content… as long as we remind ourselves constantly that we are ridiculous and that no matter what we may think, we do not want to move there after college. This method is super risky. Liking something ironically teeters ever so precariously on the edge of liking something for real, and to my knowledge there is no New York crime more heinous than liking Williamsburg for real, except for maybe not liking the color black.. or actually being a Hipster.

 

For those of you who don't know, this is a hipster.

 

 

But I’m going to make the sweeping generalization now, that 99% of us educated, elite, vastly superior Manhattan-types are bluffing. Because, like it or not, unironically, through all its superficiality, Williamsburg is kind of the best.

 

 

This is from the bedford cheese shop. Don't go there, you'll want to buy absolutely everything.

 

 

If you’ve ever enjoyed food in your life, I’m going to make you agree with me. Because Brooklyn is a culinary paradise. Just because I’m the last person to say this doesn’t make it less true. When Isabella came to visit me for a much needed sister weekend, we had an eating adventure that would pretty much blow your mind. For that day, she liked food as much as I did. And I almost felt normal.

 

 

Clockwise from top righ: sandwiches that will blow your mind, fashion sketches that will blow your mind, curtains that will blow your mind

 

 

We began our adventure somewhere around lunchtime, and we used a very scholarly method to choose a restaurant. By which I mean we picked the prettiest. At Fabiane’s on Bedford Avenue, Isabella (who is actually kind of a hipster but don’t tell her I said that) sketched while I obsessively took pictures. I think it’s safe to say we were so happy with the atmosphere that we didn’t really care how the food was. That is, until the food came. I could go on for a bit about the Prosciutto, Mozzarella, Pesto Sandwich that came out first, but I’m not going to because the second sandwich was Smoked Duck with Brie and Fig Jam and I bet that will impress you a whole lot more. And well it should. I can’t even remember the last time I had a sandwich that good. Even if you can’t get smoked duck (and I don’t even know where you would) make your next grilled cheese with brie and then put fig jam on it. It will probably change your life.

 

 

Clockwise from left: whisk sign, ball made out of cupcake wrappers (legit), elephant

 

 

With no agenda whatsoever in mind, we set off to wander the streets of Brooklyn. After a brief stint hipster-watching at bookstore Spoonbill and Sugartown (see stalker pic, above), we headed up the street to Whisk, the most kick-a** kitchen supply store you will ever come across. I know you’re really not supposed to use the word “unique” in Brooklyn, but have you ever seen a ball made of cupcake wrappers hanging from a ceiling? No you haven’t.

 

 

Clockwise from left: Bottles, Bottles, Bottles

 

 

We bought mom a pie dish, and then raced out before we could do any more damage. Luckily for me, Isabella’s nose was stuffed up, so we headed next to the Bedford Cheese Shop, where we looked at spectacular packaging and beautiful window displays. We did not buy anything because we couldn’t afford anything. But that was alright.

 

 

 

 

Next we went to a clothing store. Did you know that in Brooklyn it’s illegal to sell gloves with fingers?

 

 

Not really, but pretty much

 

 

While we were in the Bedford Cheese Shop, we had seen this beautiful display of Mast Brothers Chocolate, and I realized that I had read something about their factory being in Williamsburg. And since everyone knows that factory means free chocolate, we decided to head there next.

 

 

_

Lo and behold there were about 10 different kinds of chocolate to try, in their beautiful open factory. And Isabella and I received our masters degrees in chocolate tasting from Hershey University over winter break, so we were ridiculously qualified to taste test every single one of them. The chocolates were varying degrees of good, but for the first time in my experience, the chocolate actually tasted like the things it was supposed to have notes of. According to the folks at Hershey, that means the cocoa plants were grown near, say, hibiscus trees, vanilla flowers or cherry trees. (Things you didn’t know!) And while I have no idea what that means in the context of Special Dark, it was ridiculously apparent in the Mast Brothers selection. It was like they weren’t even making it up.

_

They also sell art supplies, vintage flashcards, and ironic books there, like "All My Friends are Dead"

_

Note – When you go to the Mast Brothers Chocolate Factory, Isabella and I command you to go next door and look at the Brooklyn Art Library, an international sketchbook collection for the public to peruse. It’s totally irrelevant to this blog, but it’s my civil duty to let you know. This was our favorite sketchbook.

_

The Meatball Shop

_

With very little time left, very little appetite (so much sandwich) and a contra dance in Chinatown to get to (not a joke), it was time to grab a light dinner before heading back to Manhattan. And since mom has been on a meatball making kick lately, we felt it was only appropriate to make her jealous by visiting The Meatball Shop. Also, $3 meatball sliders. And you get to check off what you want on the menu with dry erase markers, and then they get your order right! And there was exactly one racy-joke-item on the menu, which is the requisite amount for a place that only serves meatballs. And it’s pretty, and the food was great. The following recipe is from their cookbook, but they give it out on little promo cards, so I don’t think they’ll mind us sharing. Make them, and buy the book. These people are very talented.

And while I’m pretty sure I’m the last person in the New York area to visit Williamsburg, take a visit if you haven’t and decide for yourself what you think. Don’t worry if you like it. Your secret’s safe with me.

Click for pdf!

Grain of Salt: Pancake Devotion (and Syrup Woes)

 

I’m sure you’ll be shocked to hear this, but every once in a while, we college students aren’t in the mood to eat healthy food for dinner. In my suite, that means we make pancakes instead. It’s less of an incredibly terrible idea than you think, and if you serve them with fruit and count them as dessert too you can pretty much justify it. And besides, by anybody’s definition my friends and I are really good kids, so I guess this is our way of sticking it to our parents (don’t tell mom). But we should have known better than to disobey anybody ever, because today, karma came and (very literally) stuck it right back to us.

 You see the droplets on that pancake? Contrary to popular belief that's not what they're supposed to look like.

 

It began at the supermarket, when the cheapest bottle of maple syrup we could find was the same price we paid for tomorrow’s Salmon. Which granted wasn’t that much… but seriously, it’s syrup. But I’m a hardcore New Englander, and one of the very first Facebook groups I ever joined was “Just Say No to Fake Maple Syrup.” I didn’t have it in me to buy Aunt Jemima, and fortunately none of my suite-mates did either (and they’re from California and Alabama!). So we said, “Whatever, at least it will last us a while, and at least it’s not over-processed, artificially flavored corn syrup.” Plus it was organic. And we were splitting it a bunch of ways. All things considered probably worth it. We thought.

 

There's a nail in that syrup...

 

Things went swimmingly until we got to the dinner table. The pancakes puffed up perfectly, the bacon was crisp as crisp can be, and even the January blueberries were good. And then Theresa went to open the maple syrup. The cap didn’t budge. Not even a little.  She tried again. Nothing. She passed it to Mary Margaret. Still nothing. They passed it to me. Predictably nothing. As you can probably guess from the picture above (yes, that’s a nail) we were in for a long evening. Still not properly worried, we tried cutting off that little plastic ring that holds on the cap with our pancake knives. When that didn’t work, we successfully severed it with a sharp knife. But obviously, that wasn’t the problem.

 

This is the arsenal. Don't we look so legit?

 

After prying with a large kitchen knife, attempting to loosen it with a bottle opener, running it under hot water, banging it on the table and even getting my roommate, a fencer, to try her hand at it, all four of us had injured ourselves in some decently significant way. At this point, any sensible person would just give up, or at least go return the syrup. But the pancakes were cold by now anyway, and for what we paid for the syrup and the effort we’d already put in, gosh darn it, we weren’t eating without it. And since we’re not sensible in the slightest, we got out a serrated knife and started sawing it off. After many minutes of sawing we finally got through to the glass…

 Theresa with a knife

 

and of course it didn’t budge. Clearly, we realized, some spiteful person at the Brad’s Organic factory had glued the top on just for us. And so finally we had no choice but to resort to… the hammer.

 

Hammer, otherwise known as desperation at its finest

 

Five holes later, we were able to apply our syrup in a spongey fashion, like kindergarteners with those funny, squeezey glue sticks…

 

I wanted to make cookies out of this syrup... Does anyone know a better way to do this?

 

… and ultimately, we developed this beautiful contraption to let the syrup drip out over the course of the next century, so that someday I can make cookies out of it, and *maybe* we can access enough to put on waffles. The moral of this story is: never underestimate 3 nineteen-year-old girls on a quest for syrup.

The end!


I’m going to give you my favorite pancake recipe now, on the condition that your syrup a) is made of Maple and b) is not Brad’s Organic. This recipe is hopelessly fluffy, and great with bananas, with chocolate chips or with both. Or plain, or with blueberries, or with sliced strawberries. Unless you use Brad’s Organic Syrup, you just can’t go wrong.

Click to download PDF!

 

Grain of Salt: Seoul Food

I don’t know about you, and maybe this is silly of me, but every time I go to an East Asian Restaurant, I always feel like their food is worlds away from my ability level. Especially since I’d never even tried Korean before coming to New York, I felt like that was just something I was going to have to splurge on every once in a while, or else rely on my Korean friends to make it for me. It just tastes like a cleverly guarded secret – the kind that you couldn’t figure out, even if you were lucky enough to find a recipe for it. But luckily enough, I happen to be living with one of those Korean friends, and using my expert espionage skills (asking for her recipe) I’ve discovered, much to my embarrassment, that I just wasn’t asking the right people.

 Serve with white rice (or brown if you're boring like us) and the meal is perfect and complete. I swear you'll feel like you've come home.

 

Like most cuisines, Korean food is based mainly on a few different base flavors. Most of these you can find at your average supermarket – soy sauce, sesame oil, sugar, garlic. And if you can only find these, and you use them in the right proportions, your food will still taste pretty Korean, and very delicious. But my favorite ingredient is this stuff called gochujang. This spicy red pepper paste, which you can buy at Asian supermarkets, is like a powerhouse of concentrated flavor, and this is what really makes Korean food taste Korean. When I give a recipe here that calls for it, that’s just an approximation of what a person with decent spicy tolerance can take. But if your spicy tolerance is better than mine (or if you don’t mind suffering for the sake of taste) feel free to go above and beyond. It’s so good.

 

Magic ingredient – cost us only $4.99 and lasts forever... and your Asian store is probably a lot cheaper than mine.

 

Julia’s given me a couple of different recipes, but I’m going to start with this addictive comfort stew called Tak Toritang, which is the first meal she made for us. It’s a classic meat and potatoes dish, that’s boiled in a highly flavored broth so that the chicken gets addictively fall-off-the-bone tender. The flavor profile of this dish really transcends nationality. It reminds me so much of the all-appealing dishes mommy used to make when I was younger – and this, too, is really a perfect winter weeknight dinner food as long as everybody involved enjoys spicy (tone down the pepper paste if they don’t). It all cooks in one pot, it’s super flavorful, it warms you up, and it has that inexplicable “home” taste that you can’t describe… but you know it when you taste it. It’s basically the Asian equivalent of soul food (hence the unbearable title of this post).

 

This is what it looks like as it's cooking. it's even kind of photogenic, as stew goes.

 

More addictive Korean recipes, including some awesome sides, are forthcoming. But make this one-dish dinner sometime very, very soon. If you’ve got the winter blues (or if you don’t) it will make your week, I promise.

(adapted from allrecipes.com )

Behind the Scenes

The slate hides behind the scenes while we wait to shoot.

It would be very pretentious for me to call myself a film buff, since that would imply I actually know something, but at the very least I’m a bit of a film junkie. I was blessed to grow up minutes from the most amazing video store in the whole world (seriously) so my childhood summers were full of movies. Before I realized how bad I am at acting (which took frighteningly long), I dreamed of being in one. I know every little girl dreams of putting on sparkly costumes, being on a red carpet and feigning surprise when she wins an Oscar, but I always thought being behind the scenes looked like more fun than all those things. When I was eight or so, my parents got me The Santa Clause on VHS, and a featurette at the end described how tough it is to make movies because, just like Santa’s Elves, filmmakers do so much work behind the scenes. It looked wonderful. And it is.

Sofia, our Cinematographer, sets up the camera

In this featurette, Bernard the Elf says filmmaking is full of waiting around. To a degree he’s right, but that’s a bit misleading. There may be a lot of time when the camera’s not rolling, but from what I can tell, it’s never dull. So much happens between takes:

Alex B. and Sofia (Camera) tinker with the 5D

This camera is a work of art in and of itself

Cyrus (Actor) stretches and warms up

Cyrus, or "Left Hand"

Isabel (2nd Assistant Director) plays Jenga, so the actors have a perfect half-completed game every time

Our actors were brilliant jenga players. Brilliant. In one take, Cyrus turned the whole thing around, when it was almost entirely stacked up. It blew my mind.

Alex L. (Director) takes a break…

This was not typical

(just kidding)

… and I get to do my dishes! Ok, I know it sounds like I’m starstruck and trying to make this sound like more fun than it is, but from mistakes and mishaps – broken microphones and rogue ringtones – to last minute requests (I was the only person on set in possession of nail polish remover), to the quiet, exhausted thrill of finding the best takes at the end of the day, the process is full of awesome, exciting extremes.

It's just like in the movies...

But you didn’t come here to learn about film, you came to learn about food, and I’ve hijacked your time (sorry) (it’s for your own good, you know), so on to more important things. Cooking for the Cast and Crew was the most rewarding adventure I’ve had had since beginning college. Cooking for 15 people, no matter who they are, teaches the arts of efficiency and flexibility like nothing else, except perhaps making a movie. One actor turned out to be lactose intolerant, so I coordinated Banana Pancakes against dairy-free scrambled eggs, Cream of Broccoli Soup against dairy-free scrambled eggs, Bread and Butter against dairy-free scrambled eggs… you get the picture. Then, I needed to have dinner ready an hour early, and my puff pastry was still frozen, so I rearranged the recipe for  Caramelized Onion Squares with Blue Cheese so that the onions would be ready just as the puff pastry finished defrosting. Then, when I didn’t make nearly enough Caramelized Onion Squares I tossed an emergency salad to stretch dinner farther. As I cooked, I realized that these challenges weren’t unique to this job, or even to catering. Cooking nearly always comes with setbacks. This was just like throwing a dinner party.

––

I remember a party where mom and I planned shrimp for dinner, only to find out, upon their arrival, that our guests kept kosher. Another time, on Thanksgiving no less, somebody (certainly nobody writing this post) pureed the mashed potatoes beyond recognition. But we found Salmon for our friends, and the mashed potatoes still tasted fine. And luckily, behind-the-scenes mishaps make great stories. Most importantly, they make the end – meal, party or film –  so much more satisfying. A lot goes into a finished product, just like Bernard the Elf said. But now I know, as I always suspected, that’s part of the fun.

See how much they're enjoying that soup? That's because I made it.

Of course, it never hurts when people thank you profusely and ask you for your recipes afterwards. Below is the recipe for Caramelized Onion Squares with Blue Cheese, my favorite of the day. It can be used as an appetizer, or as a main course aside a nice tossed salad (plan on 5-6 squares per person). Either way they’re addictive.

Below that you’ll find some final pictures of the shoot. And here is a link to the film itself [Rated PG for brief tobacco references], appropriately titled The End.

––

Also, a big Thank You to Alex for inviting me on set, and to the entire cast and crew of The End for letting me join you on this project! You were all so much fun to work and talk with, and such a joy to cook for.

Blue Cheese and Caramelized Onion Squares
Adapted from Bon Appetit, November 2006

1 ready made puff pastry sheet (i.e. Pepperidge Farm)
2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons olive oil
3 large onions
1 teaspoon sugar
½ teaspoon of salt
1 ½ cups crumbled blue cheese

1. Preheat oven to 375º.
2. Roll out puff pastry into a 10 x 13 in rectangle.
3. Prebake until just slightly browned, about 7-10 minutes.
4. Meanwhile, melt butter with oil in a large skillet over high heat and add onions.
5. Sautee onions over medium-high heat until they are soft and beginning to brown, 10-15 minutes. Stir frequently, especially if not using a nonstick surface.
6. Add sugar and salt and season to taste with pepper.
7. Continue to cook over medium heat until onions are soft and brown, about 15-20 minutes longer.
8. Spread onion mixture evenly over dough, and sprinkle blue cheese on top.
9. Bake until crust is golden and cheese starts to bubble, about 20 minutes.
10. Let cool and cut into squares. Serve at room temperature.

Yoni, producer, works out technical issues over lunch.

Read the rest of this entry »

(31) Crazy Nights

The holidays are a busy time for everyone. So, since I was off in the city taking finals and everyone else was so caught up with, well, Christmas preparations, it’s easy to see how an eight-day holiday might be celebrated on the 31st rather than the 1st. To be honest, we did light the candles. And we said a prayer over them. And Francesca explained the importance of the Shammash (it’s a big helper, just like her) as Isabella blasted Candlelight. But I had an English final to write, and so we were forced to neglect the most important part of the Hanukkah celebrations. The potatoes sat lonely and unpeeled, the oil remained in its container, and there was no mess on the stove or the microplane. Yes, our grand Potato Pancake Plans had been foiled by the cruel march of time. It was a real snub to half my heritage.

That night as I nestled all snug in my bed, visions of latkes danced in my head. And over the following weeks I couldn’t shake the sad feeling that something was missing from my December. The potatoes were calling to me. Honestly.

.

I need therapy.

.

But when New Years Eve finally rolled around and mommy was planning a menu for our quiet New Years evening of Munchies and Mad Men, I seized my opportunity. “Yes, of course I’ll grate the potatoes, Mommy!” I promised. “I’ll do the whole thing myself!” And so she agreed. Because I said I’d do it.

.

In my head I was a bit terrified. Grating is so labor intensive, and I have a slight fear of deep frying. But with the strength of the Maccabees behind me (they certainly didn’t have microplanes…) I charged on. And to my surprise and delight, it wasn’t that hard!

.

You do have to grate the potatoes on this setting.

.

And you’re *supposed* to grate the onions on this setting…

.

But you could also just put them in one of these…

.

And go until they look like this…

.

And so once you’re done with that, all you have to do is mix them with the potatoes, flour, egg and salt to get this beautiful batter.

.

And you get these heavenly Hanukkah (or rather New Years) miracles!

.

Obviously, you don’t have to be any part Jewish to fall in love with these. Pancakes this style are ubiquitous throughout Europe, and I like to think there’s nobody in this world who doesn’t love fried potatoes. They’re the finest form of simplicity, and they’re great all year round, particularly for celebrations. And yes they make a bit of a mess… but they’re entirely worth it.

I hope you all had a Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah and Joyous New Year! We are so happy to have you all as readers, and we can’t wait to share even more with you in 2011.

New Year Latkes (Potato Pancakes)
Adapted from Leah H. Leonard’s Jewish Cookery (1949)

6 Medium Potatoes
1 Medium Onion
2 Eggs
1/2 Cup Flour
1 Teaspoon Salt
Vegetable oil

1. Peel potatoes and grate into a large bowl.
2. Squeeze out the liquid. This is very important. I speak from experience. Recent experience.
3. Peel and finely grate the onion. Or just puree in an immersion blender.
4. Add onion to potatoes, and mix in eggs, flour and salt, and stir to blend.
5. Add enough oil to a wide, heavy frying pan to fully cover pancakes, and heat on high. Drop in a tiny bit of batter as the oil is heating. When the batter begins to sizzle, you know it’s hot enough.
6. When oil is hot, lower stove temperature to medium-high, and drop in batter with a spoon to make pancakes approximately 1/2 inch thick, and 4 inches wide (give or take, it’s all a matter of personal preference)
7. Fry, flipping every few minutes, until both sides are golden brown
8. Lift out with spatula onto plate with paper towels on it. Pat dry and serve immediately.

The Last Pumpkins (For a While…)

I’ve been having a great fall teaching classes and testing out endless  butternut squash/apple/turnip/pear/carrot/sweet potato/parsnip/pumpkin combinations in soups, gratins, purees, and stew-like creations. I had a hard time deciding what to share with you before TurkeyDay, the biggest food event of the year.

But the other day I cracked open Dorie Greenspan’s brilliant new cookbook Around My French Table for the first time. This is exactly the book I wish I’d written. Like her perfect Baking from my Home to Yours, the recipes are simple, versatile and flavorful, and the pages are saturated with spectacular pictures and peppered with “bonne idées” – good ideas to make each recipe your own. She takes the mystery out of fabulous French cooking from the simplest home meal to the most intimidating pastries. And so many of her recipes have blunt, adorable names – Spur-of-the Moment Vegetable Soup, Salmon and Potatoes in a Jar.

But once I saw “Pumpkins Stuffed With Everything Good,” I knew I’d found my starting point. The concept, taken from generations of French home cooking, is sheer perfection: so cozy, beautiful, and delicious. As Dorie says, “an outline is about the best you can do with this dish” – because there’s so many ways you can, and often must, vary it. She says she never makes it the same way twice.

It’s sort of like a fondue, only you spoon out the contents not skewer them. The concepts all depend on what you like, and the best thing about it is that you can serve it as an appetizer or a side dish on the Thanksgiving table, perfect for all friends and family. You can even easily make it vegetarian if that’s what makes you happy.

Here’s what you have to do:

You take a bake-able pumpkin, like sugar or Cinderella and cut off the top

scoop out the stringy stuff and the seeds (to toast) (or caramelize)

then crush some garlic, and maybe chop some herbs

fill it with your favorite chunks of bread, cheeses, herbs and a bit of bacon or pancetta or similar if you like

Pour in some cream

And bake it!

That’s it! And this is what you get in the end…

Then you scoop this with some of the pumpkin meat on to small plates. Together with a good glass of white wine and you’re in heaven after one taste. I’m not exaggerating.

Full, concise recipe after the jump!

Read the rest of this entry »

Archives
  • [+]2012
  • [+]2011
  • [+]2010
No Kid Hungry
my foodgawker gallery