22 May 2010

Of note

So right now my life is insanely busy. We're moving back to California. The movers are coming in three days. We've been running around frantically trying to see people before we go. It's all very crazy, and the food, in conjunction, has been either 1. restaurant/takeout or 2. made up of all the bits and pieces that we're trying to frantically eat before we have to throw it away. This actually means we've been eating pretty well, and certainly having an awesome time, but we're also about to go lie on the floor in the corner and sleep for two days while the movers cart all our stuff out of the house for us.

So! Here's what we've been making and eating to use up everything in the refrigerator.

Lentil-quinoa kibbeh: boil red lentils and quinoa to a fairly dry and mashable texture, mash together with chopped onion, curry powder, salt, pepper, ginger, and cumin, and make tiny patties with wet hands and/or a spoon. Bake them and put them in the refrigerator for random snacking. Then one day, when you want dinner but have no inspiration, put barbecue sauce on top of the kibbeh and bake them again, just unti they're hot through and the sauce is getting caramelizedy. Eat with black bean-cauliflower soup from the freezer and all the greens you have left in the house.

Used up: frozen soup, red lentils, quinoa.

Caramel corn: after you eat the soup and kibbeh, decide you are still hungry. Pop some corn. Make a sugar syrup with ref to the caramel corn recipe in Heidi's book: honey, maple syrup, cinnamon, ginger, cayenne, pinch of salt. Toast some chopped almonds and sesame seeds in a frying pan, then mix everything together and turn out onto a sheet of parchment. Eat directly off the coffee table.

Used up: maple syrup.

Huge pasta bake: first, it's fine to bake linguine if that's all you have; just snap it into halves or thirds for optimal wieldiness. Make a sauce with all the vegetables you can scare out of the crisper: garlic, shallot, eggplant, red pepper, green pepper, frozen tomatoes, tomato puree, and chard leaves added right at the end. Season with salt, pepper, basil, oregano, hot pepper if you have and want any. Cook/drain pasta and preheat oven while the sauce is bubbling. Mix pasta and sauce together, throw it into a casserole dish, and top with torn mozzarella or any parmesan you may have lying around. Bake until awesome and crispy and browned on top.

Used up: linguine, vegetable contents of crisper.

Banana bread: I made the straight up recipe from the Joy of Cooking, using wheat flour, but clearly whatever recipe you like is the one you like. No nuts; instead, I threw in all the dried fruit in the freezer, which turned out to be blueberries and cranberries. Half the loaf was gone by the time it had been ten minutes out of the oven.

Used up: flour, dried fruit, and practically an entire stick of butter what with all the buttering slices of bread.

Finally, after you're done with making and eating all this, you may want to go hang out with Jen and John at the Brooklyn Inn.

13 May 2010

Toaster ovens = awesome.

Man, everything I want to talk about lately seems to be either breakfast or noodles. So, in the interest of avoiding a long spate of all-noodle entries, I present: breakfast.

Though in possession of an excellent bag of salad greens, I was in serious want of some croutons. So I grabbed a piece of sourdough, cut it into pieces, and baked them in the toaster oven for about five minutes. No oil, no salt, no addenda of any kind. This produced perhaps the best croutons I've ever had in my life.

Salad: check. Croutons: check. What else?

Three minutes later, that bowl looked like this.

I fried an egg with the steam trick, added some vinaigrette and pepper, and that was it. Awesome breakfast yet again.

12 May 2010


I guess the season is almost over by now, but that's ok; they're too expensive to even consider on any sort of regular basis. This bunch, for example, was $4. I haven't ever bought ramps before for exactly that reason. If we had access to a convenient backwoods, things might be different, but this is Brooklyn, and we don't. So yeah.

Now, however, we have another consideration. We're moving back to California. Guess what is not going to be at all available for the entire time we live there? So when I found a tableful of ramps at the farmer's market, I bought some.

So the question was what to do with them. Pickled ramps, while obviously fairly popular among the canning population, were out due to the exigencies of the move. I also just wanted to straight up try them before I packed them away for months. Some simple preparation was obviously the best bet.

I made pasta with olive oil, ramps, mushrooms, and minimal salt and pepper. It was great. I softened the chopped bulbs with the mushrooms, added the chopped greens at the very end, tossed everything together, and ate it. Half the bunch was still left.

Next step: refinement. After we went to Candle 79, I had even better ideas. Our market hasn't had morels or fiddleheads, which is no surprise, but it also hasn't even had asparagus, which I find bizarre. I did have ordinary creminis and green beans, however. So this time I made the pasta with olive oil, ramps, mushrooms, green beans, and chopped parsley. I also had a little chunk of sheep's milk cheese, which was an excellent addition. Crunchy salt, crumbly cheese, tender pasta, firm beans, chewy mushrooms: awesome.

05 May 2010

Oh hey, New York restaurants

So we went on vacation! Sort of! We stayed in NYC and did all the exploration we hadn't gotten around to in the year and a half we've lived here. Shockingly enough, NYC has lots of awesome to go around.

For instance, Carroll Gardens has some pretty exciting resources. For instance, we went to Mazzola Bakery and bought a loaf of their apparently famous lard bread, which turned out not only to be made with lard but also stuffed with bits of peppery sausage throughout. Let's just say that the neighborhood pigeons know where to hang out for quality crumbs. We really need to get that sourdough culture started so we can make massive sandwichy rolled breads stuffed with all kinds of exciting things.

This same neighborhood also hosted the best restaurant experience of the vacation by far: Frankie's Spuntino. OH. Ok. We went early, so as to avoid any sort of crowd situation, and found the restaurant already a quarter full at exactly five on a weekday. That's pretty telling already; the food is exponentially more so. This was the perfect instance of simple, well-done Italian food. The menu was really seasonal--our antipasto plate included a chef's choice of roasted cauliflower and carrots, for instance--and well-balanced, with a menu approximately 3/5 vegetarian. They don't market themselves as anything but a quality Italian place, however, which is clearly the correct strategy.

Notable food: the aforementioned antipasto veg and excellent tiny purple olives, John's gigantic escarole salad with the thinnest possible slivers of red onion and bits of crunchy nuts, my completely simple but perfectly executed gnocchi with marinara and a pile of fresh, awesome ricotta in the center of the plate. John also had a very exciting plate of sweet potato ravioli in parmesan broth. While food of this fancier category is often prone to screwups like overseasoning, it was just as perfectly executed as the gnocchi. Well, it was just as perfectly executed as the entire dinner. It's probably good that we don't live any nearer, because we would end up eating there once a week.

Next up: Greenpoint, where apparently you can find a selection of excellent pierogi and all else Polish. Of course, we ended up at Papacito's eating real tacos instead. Fish tacos with pickled cabbage and lime for the win! It's also super vegan-friendly; John was very into the shredded seitan tacos. All you California people crying for your tacos: here they are. Ok, they have everything except carnitas, which I admit is a problem. They do have two Other pork choices, however, and the prices are authentically cheap. (*LATE NOTE! Anjito pork actually = carnitas! Now I have to try those too.) Then afterward you can go down the street to Peter Pan Donut & Pastry, grab four sugar twists and an eclair from the window case, and try valiantly not to scarf down the entire bag while waiting for the subway. An excellent workaround: take them down the street to McCarren Park and eat them there. I have not actually wanted a doughnut in years, and yet the super quality and the obvious old-school coffeeshop vibe, much like Amy Joy in Cleveland, has compelled me in on three visits in the past three weeks.

Of course, we had to go to Manhattan and eat swank-for-real at least once. So, after spending a couple hours staring at all the exciting aboriginal art at the Met one day, we walked up the street to Candle 79. If you're vegan, this is pretty much fine dining Mecca. Of course, it carries the fine dining price, but that's no surprise. So. This was definitely a more elaborate and presentation-conscious place than I generally prefer. Flatly, I'm often fairly uncomfortable eating in restaurants, particularly upscale ones; the midscale ones just make me angry, since I can cook twice as well for a quarter of the price. However! For a special occasion restaurant, this kept me pretty happy. John had a massive amount of seitan, all of which was a better texture than any version I've ever eaten. My salad--half an avocado with a massive amount of quinoa, finely chopped crispy veg, and pepitas--was flatly impressive, and big enough for a full meal. The star, though, was the pasta of the day: wheat tagliatelle with morels, ramps, fava beans, and fiddleheads. The entire spring season was encapsulated in the bowl: insane! Also, awesome!

We didn't go to restaurants for the entire time, though. In fact, we spent a good amount of time eating straight up homemade salads and sandwiches. Of course, we also had many untraditional champagne cocktails that went a little like this: fill coupe halfway with dry champagne, top with tart cherry stomp from the farmer's market, and drink copiously. It was a quality vacation.