Thursday, March 31, 2011

Sustainable Spring: Sunchoke Slivers with Green Onions and Hollandaise Sauce

I am ready for change.  Life has been moving a little too slowly for my impatient taste.  Despite my efforts to push it along.  Just once can that really great thing that I have been waiting for happen right now! I always feel this way at this time of the year.  Late March and early April give me these anxious feelings of what I need to be accomplishing or what I should have already accomplished.  At the same, I have great expectations for the rest of the year (more so than in January it seems) and for all the great ways I will take advantage of the beautiful weather.  I am already buying spring dresses meant to be worn without tights, boots or scarves.  Is it really going to snow again this week?

Last week I was reading one of my favorite blogs "Not Eating Out in NY" and learned that Cathy Erway is co-sponsoring a contest entitled "Sustainable Spring." The challenge is to come up with a recipe that is true to the name, that is incorperating sustainable, seasonal ingredients.  The winner gets cooking classes at the Ger-Nis Culinary and Herb Center taught by chef Jacques of Palo Santo.  And the deadline is, oh yeah, today!  What a great way to celebrate and embrace the change in season that is so welcomed after our long cold winter!  I left work yesterday and headed to the Union Square Greenmarket with visions of ramps, peashoots, dandelion greens, artichokes and asparagus before my eyes.  Despite my leaving work as early as I could, I got to the market at twenty to six and the stalls were getting ready to close up for the day.  I found one vegetable stall still in business.  One stall with an overflowing basket of sunchokes.  Deja' vous?  This was all too familiar.  As it seems, last year and the year before, I had hit the farmers market in March with the same aspirations minus the blogger contest and found lots and lots of sunchokes.  Until my moving to Brooklyn and thus making local greenmarkets part of my food shopping routine, I had never heard of or eaten a sunchoke.  I still marvel at the strange little vegetables that they are. They look like ginger knobs, have a texture like a potato but a little crisper, and taste like an artichoke.  This recipe is a variation on the classic steamed/boiled artichoke with hollandaise dipping sauce.

Hollandaise Sauce

1 stick of butter
3 egg yolks
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon lemon
pinch of cayenne

Melt the butter on low heat in a saucepan.  Do not brown.  In a blender add egg yolks, salt, lemon and cayenne and blend.  While the blender is still on drizzle the butter in slowly.  Taste and adjust your seasonings.  Serve immediately or keep warm up to thirty minutes in a bowl over simmering water.

Sunchoke Slivers

sunchokes (as many as you  like)
drizzle of olive oil
drizzle of lemon
sea salt

Scrub your sunchokes clean and drop in a pot of boiling water in descending order from largest to smallest.  Boil for ten minutes and transfer your sunchokes into a boil of ice water to cool and stop the cooking. Remove the cool sunckokes and slice into 1/4 inch slivers.  Toss in a bowl with all other ingredients.
Place a sheet of parchment on a cookie pan.  Place a layer of you sunchokes on it spread out.  Place in the oven at 475 degrees for 5-8 minutes.  This will dry them a little and make them perfect for dipping.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Inspiration Outing 3: Eataly

I finally went to Eataly.  I don't know why it has taken me this long but I have been sitting on this gift certificate since Christmas.  It was three of us, my husband, Nick, our foodie friend, Joe and myself.  We walked up bustling 5th Avenue from 14th street and saw the Eataly logo when we reached 23rd St.  We circled the building a bit before finding the main entrance.  What can I say about this enormous Mario Batali brain child that the hype has not already?  Go, definitely go there, because words do not describe this massive, remarkably designed carnival of food.  Our first impression once inside left us daunted by the size of this market and the crowds of people at every station.  This was an amusement park for wide- eyed adults complete with lines that snaked around the counters.  We turned to a huddle to hash out a game plan.  We were standing in the middle of what is called The Piazza.  In Italy, a piazza is usually in the center of town and is commonly known as a gathering place for friends and neighbors with bars, possibly restaurants and gelaterias.  This piazza was a sort of restaurant where strangers stand together at tall rectangular tables awaiting table service. Waiters were whizzing by me and my eyes kept falling on cheese plates, rosy, marbled charcuterie and wide bottomed wine glasses.  I suggested we have a little tasting right there in the piazza first, then we can do some shopping.

Nick and Joe picked the wine as it is more their area of expertise than mine.  No complaints here.    The  Gavi del Cumune Di Gavi was a nice choice to go with this plate.

We ordered the mixed plate that gave a tasting of their popular charcuterie and cheeses.    From left to right the cheeses  are ricotta, parmiggiano reggiano,  teleggio, and gorgonzola.  From left to right the meats are Prosciutto San Danielle, cubes of mortadella, soppressata underneath, prosciutto cotto (incidentally the Italian word for ham) and speck (like a smoked prociutto.)

Their produce selection was very interesting.  We found lots of new varieties of vegetables in particular.

There is still many aspects of Eataly we did not get to on this first visit.  The meat and cheese selection are what stand out first.  I have heard rumors that the station to head for is really the Verdure station.  It is   not crowded because the local tourists don't seem to be climbing over one another to get to the asparagus spears. 

I dolci!  The canollis  were slightly different than the classic Italian-American traditional we are used too.  I loved the lighter, thinner pastry and orange flavored cream, Nick prefers the original from our local Brooklyn places like Settepani.  
At the end of our day we had a lovely dinner from our recent purchases.

Pork Cheek Ragu over freshly made Taglietelle

Mohagony Clams in Butter, Wine and fresh Herbs
The three of us spent the rest of the evening debating over whether we felt Eataly was really worth the hype.  We listed places where the charcuterie met the level of quality we had at a more reasonable price. We noted that the experience did not open our eyes to new and innovative ways to look at food.   We noted the same type and quality of products are available at smaller places like Colluccio's and Buon Italia at better prices.   That being said, this discussion was had between mouthfuls of simply prepared delicious food because the ingredients were of the utmost quality.   I will say it again; Eataly is absolutely a gastronomic amusement park for adults complete with high prices, long lines, and crowds.  But who hasn't been to an amusement park, right?  And we will most definitely go again.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Accompaniments: Pickled Cipollini Onions

Okay, so I probably put too much thyme.  One sprig was more than sufficient, but look how pretty it looks in the jar.  Its like a little a plant with vines growing around smooth stones.  I love pickles and, truthfully, I love making them too.  Somehow it makes me feel both crafty and economical.  It appeals to my "no-waste" philosophy of living.  However, I so wanted to make these that I bought the onions for this purpose rather than them being leftover onions I decided to pickle.

Unlike most of the pickles I have made in the past, these are a short life pickle.  According to the original recipe I found the shelf life is about two to three weeks. I usually use a white vinegar diluted with water when pickling with a generous amount of salt as well.  In the few recipes I found for pickles that have a shorter shelf life, the vinegar of choice is a white wine vinegar, with less salt but more generous amounts of sugar (something I always leave out of my pickle recipes entirely) and a touch of oil.  Note: no water.
As you might expect, the result was a milder, less acidic taste with just a hint of sweetness.

Recipe adapted from Fine Cooking Issue February - March 2011

  • 3/4 cup white wine vinegar
  • 1 clove of garlic ( I used 2 small) peeled 
  • 1 hot chili pepper
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 6 tablespoons sugar
  • 1 teaspoon of salt
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • as many cipollini onions as you can fit in a 1pint jar (peeled)
  • 1 sprig of thyme
Cram the thyme and onions in your sterilized glass jar until you can't fit any more. Put all other ingredients into a saucepan and bring to a boil.  Pour the liquid over he onions in the jar.  Tuck in your chili pepper, bay leaf and garlic cloves.  Open in two days.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Table Style: Dressing Up Dinner

When Nick and I were planning our wedding my brother said, "Steph, you better register at a store for gifts or you will end up with three sets of kissing dolphins you can't return."  As I have never been entirely comfortable receiving gifts, telling people what they should get us felt very awkward.  On the other hand, our two room NY apartment doesn't exactly have the mantel space for kissing dolphins.  We went with my brother's advice but made our choices based on our utilitarian needs verses our decorative desires. I think by our decorative desires I mean my decorative desires.

In the past couple of years, I have thought a little more about home decor than I have in the past due to my career change from teaching art to designing.  I have recently been given the opportunity to design a line of table linens which seems to be a very appropriate form of textile design for a foodie, wouldn't you think?  I have spent a couple of days looking at store displays of table settings from high end to low, discovering an array of lavish textures, colors and elegant dishware. I find that my own taste is still utilitarian, and my tendency is not to shop for more but to use found materials and the objects I already have and love in new arrangements.
As much as I like to preach simplicity in design,  I love it when busy patterns some how just work well together.  

This is my only set of matching napkins and at the time I took this picture, this was my only set of placemats (they are turned upside down in order to coordinate better with the table).   I recently purchased a set in blue chendi ($1.99 at Bed Bath and Beyond) when I noticed how many objects and textiles I have that incorporate blue.  I don't have anything that matches the red linen napkins (can't even remember were those came from) so I filled a bowl with red apples as a center piece.
The textile used in the center is not an actual kitchen textile.  It is just a beautiful piece of fabric from my talented Aunt Lucy's sewing room.  She was teaching me how to sew purses from decorative scraps of fabric but I never had the heart to butcher this one.  It was too beautiful a piece for my sad sewing attempts.

I think food should be the table's centerpiece.  I am not a fan of straining my neck over a tree of flowers in dinner conversation.  The blue patterned fabric in the center is also from my aunt's sewing room.

I don't think you have to shell out a ton of bucks for a fresh look.  Which is good, because I don't have a lot of bucks myself.  I am a believer in buying only what you love and everything wil fall into place beautifully, whether it matches or not.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Help Japan: Buy Handmade!

I know all our thoughts are with Japan these days.  I want to take a moment to tell all of you consumers out there that every day etsy is devoting some of its daily picks to sellers who are donating some of their proceeds towards aid in Japan.
Art print by NanLawson on etsy. $10 and all proceeds go towards aid in Japan.
Soap lotion and perfume combo by chasestreetsoapco is $25 an dall proceeds go twards aid in Japan.
I bought these from DownToTheWireDesigns.  The were $20 and 100% of the proceeds go to Doctor's without Borders or American Red Cross, your choice.  The will send you a proof of the donation at the end of the month. Help them make their quota of $500 a month! 

Tshirts by jessalinb on etsy.  Price is $25 and $18 is donated towards aid in Japan.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Sunday Night at Home: Reinventing Meat Loaf

How did I arrive at the ripe old age of...however old I am...never to have made a meat loaf.  Really.  Before last night I had never made a meat loaf.  That great staple of American comfort food completely slipped out of the radius of my vision for home dinners.  Maybe I didn't think that meat loaf was very exciting. I now know that I was seriously over looking its potential.  My epiphany is thanks to Allison Ehri Kreitler of  Fine Cooking magazine, who has broken down the process of meat loaf-making to a mix and match formula of ingredients paired with a template of techniques.  And really, like any good cooking, it is all about good ingredients.

That being said, if you are thinking of picking up a package of "pink-on -the-outside-gray-on-the-inside," hormone, antibiotic and corn stuffed beef that you get on a styreofoam tray at the supermarket, I implore you to reconsider.  Every March I tip the scale of balanced nutrition towards more meat laden dishes.  Perhaps it was all that Lenten meat deprivation I had growing up.  ( Just kidding, Mom!) As you can see I didn't exactly opt for a Sunday eggplant roast.   So now, let's talk turkey for a minute.  If you live in or near New York note that Dipaola's Turkey farm in New Jersey is probable the only reason I eat turkey on a day that isn't Thanksgiving.  Did you get that?  Dipaola's Turkey.  It will change the way you think about turkey.  You will find no over stuffed, dry, bleach white turkey breasts here.  For this recipe I chose their sweet fennel, Italian style turkey sausage.

Then there are the flavor boosters, i.e. well chosen aromatics and spices that can really make this dish interesting.  Once you have all those flavors packed a perfectly shaped rectangular brick, you need to hold all those juices in so the meat does not dry out.  Kreitler recommends wrapping it in bacon or glazing it with honey or ketchup.

Turkey and Fennel Sausage Meatloaf

1 red onion chopped fine
1/2 a leek (green parts included) chopped
1 small fennel bulb chopped fine
2 cloves of garlic minced
2 tablespoons of olive oil
4 slices of bread (in this case I used 3 slices of whole grain and one sourdough which just happened to be what I had available)
1 cup of milk
2 lbs. loose ground Dipaola's sweet Italian turkey sausage
1/3 of a cup olives pitted and chopped
1/2 a cup parmigiano-reggiano cheese (I may have went over.  I am always a little heavy handed when it comes to cheese.)
1/2 a teaspoon red pepper flakes
2 eggs
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
2 1/2 teaspoons kosher or sea salt (I used a finely ground sea salt because more often than not that is what I have available.)
1/2  teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons honey

  1. Heat your olive oil and sautee` your aromatics, meaning your onion, garlic, fennel and leek.  Stir until they sweat, soften and then become translucent.  Transfer to a bowl to cool.
  2. In a shallow dish, soak your bread slices in milk, flipping once.  Lightly squeeze out excess milk.  Chop the bread fine and add to the bowl with the cooked aromatics.                                                                  
  3. Position your oven rack in the center and preheat your oven to 375 degrees.
  4. Add meat and eggs to a large bowl and proceed to add all remaining ingredients including bread and sauteed aromatics.
  5. Thoroughly mix by kneading the ingredients together with wet hands.  Wet hands will keep the the mixture from sticking to your fingers.
  6. Line the bottom of a 9 x 12 baking dish with parchment paper.  In the center of the parchment you want to mold the meat into a rectangular brick shape approximately 10 inches by 4 inches.
  7. Using a basting brush, glazed the meat with honey.
  8. Bake until the center reaches 160 degrees.  To check use and instant read thermometer and place in the center of the meat.  should bake approximately 45 to 55 minutes.
    The result of this recipe was seriously delicious.  If I were to do it again I think I might swap out half of the turkey sausage misxture for plain ground turkey (from Dipaola's, of course.) to let some of the other flavors shine.  If you try that before I do, let me know how it turns out.

    Wednesday, March 9, 2011

    The Classics: Beouf Bourguignon

    In art, there are times when you invent and times when you follow a master.  When I have needed inspiration or a technique refresher in painting, I turned to a master painter.  Last night I turned to the master of home cooks to help me in the kitchen, Julia Child.  I am inspired by her patience. Dare I admit that on an off day I have watched that episode where she makes a cheese souflee` three times?  It just goes to show that an attention to detail and technique can result in a baked cream that defies gravity.  But what I admire most about Julia Child was her persistance.  At the start of her culinary endeavor she had very little to no knowledge of cooking.  When first presenting her cookbook series for publication, it was turned down numerous times.  So perhaps I am not the culinary magician that can create a cheese souffle` (or any other souffle` for that matter). But I won't give up on the idea that it will happen someday.  Like perhaps many other things in my life.  Maybe I was just in the mood for a really good beef stew but I think that it is Julia's spirit of persistence I really needed to emulate. Last night I donned Julia's pearls and sense of can-do so as to recreate her Beouf Bourguignon.

    The herb and vegetable bouquet