Monthly Archives: June 2007

Crabfeast 2007

Hey! Hey! Hey! It’s that time of year again. Time to put on my claw-crackin’, meat-digging, gut-proof clothes. The annual family crab feast is set for this coming weekend. So, as an homage, and just to make y’all really jealous (and maybe even drooling a bit), here’s what’s a goin’ a be a waitin’ for me on Sunday.

Melt me some butter, grab the Old Bay®, and set me a newspaper-covered place at the table!

Buon appetito!

Molten Chocolate Cake with Mint Crème Anglais

While lounging about on the sofa, catching up on my Food Network watching and recovering from the night spent hanging out with friends at drinks at the Met, I tuned into Nigella Lawson’s “Nigella Feasts.” This British import is once again lighting up our television screens with her food and philosophy of indulging one’s sense of taste.

That day, she was making her “Chocohotopots.” Yum, my friend who was staying with me and I thought, but the sofa had us firmly fixed in place, so we didn’t do anything about the temptation. Gooey, chocolately things always look appealing to me.

Later that day, I was checking out “Is My Blog Burning,” which is a site that brings together food bloggers by hosting theme events where people send in their posts relating to a particular topic. This month, “Sugar High Friday” (the sweet-tooth exchange) requested that bloggers try to make something that they always order when eating out, but have never made.

Nigella’s dish was seared on my brain. Ah, ha! This blog event is the perfect way for me to justify trying a recipe for my favorite restaurant dessert – molten chocolate cakes or chocolate lava cakes or any version thereof. I located this recipe on line at Joy of Baking. Here is my submission for the June SHF event:


My chocolate of choice was Scharffen-Berger‘s bittersweet. The inside of the cake was more like a spongy, soufflé texture (as the recipe promised), with the outside like a dense brownie. In order to balance out the richness of the chocolate cake, I decided to make a mint leaf-infused crème anglais (no doubt inspired by the cioccolato e fiordilatte con menta gelato combo I’d had at Grom earlier that day). At Avra, the Greek restaurant I mentioned a few weeks ago, they serve this dessert with fig ice cream. It is heavenly.

Here’s another look at this gorgeous gooeyness.


Buon appetito!

Freshly-Shelled Peas with Sautéed Shallots

The weather this year has not been kind to spring and early summer produce. Everything seems to be arriving a bit later at the Greenmarket. Last weekend, I still saw potatoes, lots of potatoes, early garlic and some faint glimmers that of the lovely vegetables to come.  It was the colors that drew me towards the stands at the market. Row upon row of boxes of bright red strawberries have made their appearance. Of course I bought a box. How could I not? Next to them were piles of kelly green peapods heaped up high. I succumbed and bought some of those too.

Readers of my posts from last year will remember my hate relationship with peas from my childhood (no love involved), but as an adult, I discovered frozen petits pois and have learned to enjoy them from time to time. The only time that canned peas have ever found a place in my heart was the when my grandmother cooked them for me.

It is a strong memory, made all the more so by the fact that I don’t remember my father’s mother ever cooking anything else, or babysitting us other than that one time. I think that it was when my mother was in the hospital after giving birth to the oldest of my younger sisters. My grandmother dished up canned peas cooked in butter and pearl onions. I thought it was fantastic, and have always wondered why we never had them that way again.

Here’s a slightly more modern version using Greenmarket peas, blanched first, and then mixed with sautéed shallots. Of course the ones that I bought above did have to be shelled as well, which is just a little extra work, but so worth it in terms of taste. About 20 pods yielded 1/2 cup of the little green pearls (once I rescued some of the escapees from the kitchen floor).


Freshly-Shelled Peas with Sautéed Shallots

Prep Time: 10-15 minutes

Serves: 4 people, 1/4 cup each

Ingredients:
1 cup freshly-shelled green peas
1 large shallot, sliced
2 teaspoons butter
Freshly ground black pepper

Assembly:
Put small saucepan of water on the stove and bring it to a boil. Add shelled peas. Blanch for 4-5 minutes, testing by making sure the peas are almost cooked through. Drain and run cold water over them to stop the peas from cooking.

Melt 1 teaspoon butter in skillet over low heat. Add sliced shallots and sauté until soft and translucent. Add the cooked peas and toss to incorporate with the shallots.

Add remaining teaspoon of butter and season with several grinds of fresh black pepper. Once the butter has melted, remove peas from the pan and serve.

Buon appetito!

Drinks at the Met and Dinner at Beyoglu

Of my top 5 favorite things to do in the city, at any time of year, is to go to the Metropolitan Museum of Art (www.metmuseum.org) on a Friday or Saturday night for drinks. This is also a perfect activity for entertaining out of town guests, as it is another perspective on how to enjoy a classic New York tourist site while not having to feel as though one is being dragged on an elementary school field trip to look at paintings and statues.

Sitting on the mezzanine level of the museum overlooking the central hall, cocktail in hand, while listening to chamber music, is definitely a civilized way to be welcomed to the Big Apple. An even better way, is to take in the rooftop art exhibit that graces the Met each summer and early fall. The selections that are displayed up there are always a bit interesting, but the view is the real show-stopper.

Up there, the air seems clearer and a bit fresher and the city just looks so much neater with a green carpet below it. Once spring starts moving towards summer, my friends and I begin chattering about getting together for a drink on the rooftop of the Met and then dinner. It’s sort of a package deal. The key is always to pick a date to gather and to keep our fingers crossed that the weather decides to cooperate with our plans.

Last night was no exception. A friend has moved back to town and there were recent birthdays to celebrate. Corporate IDs in hand (for free admittance), we convened in the main entrance hall of the Met. After each getting our metal, aquamarine-colored clip with the white “M” which was our pass into the museum, we proceeded to make our way to the elevator that would take us to the roof. Once there, we toasted the opening of the summer season (and aforementioned birthdays) with a glass of prosecco.

An hour or so after we’d arrived and taken some photos of the skyline, we started to think about dinner. Then, there was the second glass of prosecco. The light started to dim and clouds became a bit more prevalent in the early evening sky. It was time to make our move to go find something to eat.

Our destination was also something of an annual tradition. For each of the past few years, we do pre-dinner drinks at the Met and then go to a local Turkish restaurant for meze and wine. I think we’ve been going to this restaurant almost since it initially opened. Last year, a sister restaurant featured in New York Magazine’s “Cheap Eats” issue, and I’d commented on it in that earlier post.

Located a several-block walk away from the Met, Beyoglu (1431 Third Avenue at 81st Street; 212-650-0850) features sidewalk seating, doors opening onto the neighborhood activity, and, most of all, good food at great prices. For our purposes, it has portions that are sizable enough for sharing and enough variety to suit our mixed-taste crowd (non-meat eaters and omnivores alike).

My friends allowed me to violate the no-photo-in-restaurants policy I’d outlined a few posts ago. We started with the vegetarian platter which provided a sampling of the various appetizers that they serve. The plate was heaped with creamy hummus, spicy lentil kofte, smoky mashed eggplant salad, tangy yogurt-garlic-cucumber sauce, tasty spinach cooked w/ shallots and dill, tomatoey bulgar salad, and dolma. Alongside the meze, we were given a round of warm, freshly-baked, crunchy-topped, soft-inside bread.

For the next course, I had filo dough “cigars” stuffed with feta, which was a nice salty-crisp complement to the Barolo we were drinking. One friend indulged in her favorite seafood – and something not easily prepared in a New York apartment – a salad of grilled octopus with red onions, olive oil, vinegar, and lemon. Another decided on the Greek salad which was loaded with all sorts of wonderful vegetables: lettuce, artichoke hearts, tomatoes, cucumbers, olives and a dusting of cheese.

We took a pass on dessert, finishing instead with coffees. Our total tab came out to under $30.00 per person with tax and tip. The rain held off a while longer so that we could walk back towards the subway, and me to my apartment. Everyone was full (not stuffed) and happy and the idea was tossed around that last night should not be the one and only time this summer that we make a date to do this.

Buon appetito!

Getting the Recipe Chaos Organized

As much as I like to try to think that I am a super, pulled-together, organized individual, there’s always that little something lurking in the background that undermines me. Sometimes, it’s the over stuffed closet I really should clear out at some point. Others it’s the kitchen cabinets that I need to go through and de-clutter or the place where I store oils and vinegars just to throw away the items that might be past their prime or have gone bad.

Which brings me to the current nagging sore spot in my apartment. Remember this photo from my New Year’s resolutions post?

The overflowing recipe idea box

As I’d said, one of my goals for this year was to go through this box and put some order into the chaos. So far during the first five months of 2007, what had actually happened was that said box had moved from one end of the living room to the other and back again and then across the living room, where its home had been for the past couple of months. Finally, with the impending arrival of a friend who is relocating to New York and who needs a place to stay for a little bit, push had come to shove and I really needed to get this sorted out (or to throw it away).

How best to do this? In my parents’ house, The Recipe Box (or The Box) is consulted as the font of all Knowledge as well as the Repository of the Family Favorites. It has such cult status that most of us have written down recipes from the tattered and stained 3″x5″-inch index cards to take with us when we’ve moved out of the family abode. I even copied from many of them to create a little family cookbook for the younger of my two little brothers when he got married.

These recipes (and the handwriting on the cards) mark various culinary periods and tastes. There’s everything from the mayonnaise-heavy Ambrosia Salad which marks 1970’s era potluck suppers to Hamburger Macaroni (Why is there a recipe for this in there?) – a staple during the evenings when my brothers had to go to scout meetings in the evening; to stews, salads, cookies and candy (mmm…Peanut Butter Balls – that one has my jr. high-era handwriting on it). It’s sort of a little treasure-trove of the development of my taste buds.

So, the box in my apartment has been taunting me. I’m not sure (other than the advent of the afore-mentioned houseguest) what was the motivating factor that finally made me dive in and tackle this project. I’d been to Staples® the previous weekend to pick up binders and tabs. That was as far as I’d made it. I couldn’t focus on it.

Beginning the process
Mid-way through – it looks like a mess but there is a method there

I even managed to throw a bunch of papers away

The final product – Don’t they look so nice?

Buon appetito!