Monthly Archives: August 2011

We Have A Labor Day Cookout Pack Winner!!!

Congratulations to Kim Smith whom the Randomizer selected as the winner for this prize!!!!

I have to say, my mouth was watering as I was reading about everyone’s best dishes (or foods) that they ate this summer.  For me, as I continue to aim to eat a mostly local diet, it was heartening to see how many comments featured seasonal produce.  Really ripe, juicy, dripping, magenta slices of watermelon are the perfect way to finish a summer barbecue to my mind.  I have some fragrant peaches on my counter now just waiting to be devoured, and the ones I had from Eastern Market in Washington, DC in July are still memorable.  Thank you to everyone for sharing their summer eating experiences!

Thank you so much to Schoolhouse Kitchen and the Saucey Sauce Co. for their generosity in providing these items.  Please check out their websites for more information about where you can find these products and how to order them to be sent to you.  They also have recipes posted on their sites to give you more great ideas for how to use these items (including the ones for all the delicious things that we ate a few weekends ago at the Saucey Sauce Co. party).

I’m bursting to tell you what the next giveaway will be, but I can’t reveal it just yet!  At the New Amsterdam Ice Cream Sunday a couple of weeks ago, I ran into the person who is helping me organize the items for it.  It will have a tailgate-theme in line with football season.  You’ll have to check back in October, as the weather gets cooler and the air gets that crisp snap in it.  It’s possibly my favorite season!

Buon appetito!

Hurricane Irene Sausage-Tomato Pasta Dish

With Hurricane Irene rapidly approaching New York City and getting ready to dump lots of rain on us, it was bound to be an indoor weekend anyway.  Then, the mayor announced that the public transportation would be shut down by noon today.  With friends being told that they had to leave their homes as they live in the lowest lying areas of the city, I ended up hosting one of them to ride out the storm in my neighborhood.

I don’t know about you, but I sort of just grabbed the basic supplies at the store yesterday: batteries, milk, toilet paper, paper towels, smoked salmon, cream cheese (hey, it is New York), and Advil.  I didn’t really think much about actually making any meals during the weekend.  Fortunately, I did pick up fruit and vegetables at the Greenmarket yesterday when things were all still calm and sunny, but I didn’t really have a concept as to what I was going to put on the table to eat.

So, when my guest and I were watching the sky get darker and the rain start to come in again, it was also about time to figure out dinner.  As I hadn’t really thought about a menu, I decided to wing it based upon what I could pull out of my freezer and in my cabinets.  I’ve made a version of this dish in the past when I was staying with a sibling and prepared dinner for his family and can attest to it being flexible and easy to throw together at the last minute.  It hit all the notes for a stormy evening, and many of the ingredients are things you might already have on hand.

Sausage-Tomato Pasta Dish

Prep time: 20-30 minutes

Serving size: 4

Ingredients:

1 Tbsp. Olive Oil

1 c. yellow Onion, finely chopped

3 cloves Garlic, minced

2 links mild Italian Sausage, casing removed

2 links hot Italian Sausage, casing removed

1 Tbsp. dried Parsely

1 tsp. dried Basil

1 tsp. dried Oregano

2 14.5 oz. cans Chopped Tomatoes

1/2 c. Water

Penne or Rigatoni, portions for 4 people (cooked according to the packet instructions)

Parmesan Cheese, grated, for serving

Assembly:

Heat the olive oil in a pan over medium-low heat.  Add the onions and garlic and cook for 1-2 minutes, until they are soft and translucent.  Crumble the raw sausage and put it in the pan with the onions and garlic.  Cook until it is not pink any longer, about 4-5 minutes.

Add the parsley, basil, and oregano to the pan with the meat and stir until combined.  Add the cans of chopped tomatoes.  Put 1/2 c. water in one of the cans and swish it around to get the last of the tomato juice out of it.  Dump that water into the second can and do the same.  Pour the water from the tomato cans into the pan with the meat and tomatoes.  Turn the heat up to medium, let the sauce boil, and turn down the heat to let it simmer.

Let the sauce cook until most of the liquid is gone, about 10 minutes.  The sauce should not be slightly thick, not soupy, with chunks of tomatoes and sausage showing through.  Add the cooked pasta to the sauce and toss to coat.  Serve hot with parmesan cheese on the side.

Buon appetito!

Product Giveaway – Labor Day Cook-out Product Pack

Just in time to get your last grilling weekend of the Summer of 2011 under way, I’m launching a Labor Day Cook-out Product Pack giveaway.  Yesterday, in my post about The Saucey Sauce Co., I mentioned that I was including their delicious and versatile fish sauces in this pack.  Wendy of Schoolhouse Kitchen, whose new marinades I’ve also been raving about, also contributed her Coconut Citrus Vinaigrette and Poppy Seed Revival Vinaigrette.

Then I’m going to throw in two other products that I tried at the markets this summer which will make you put away those squeeze bottles of condiments.  My Friend’s Mustard has been on the tables at several food festivals I’ve attended.  The Spicy Brown Ale version is rich and complex with a great pop in the mouth from the mustard seeds.  Sir Kensington’s Gourmet Scooping Ketchup is a huge step above what you normally slather on that burger or dip into your fries.  I picked up a jar of their Spiced Ketchup, which will perk up your celebration even more.

The Rules (There have to be some of these, you know.)

Eligibility: U.S. mainland residents only

To Enter: Write a comment on this post with the answer to the following question: What was the best dish you ate all summer?

You must also have a valid screen name (NOT “Anonymous”) with a corresponding email address to enter this giveaway. I’ll need to be able to click on it in order to contact the winner. If you list “Anonymous” or do not have a valid email address with your comment, you will be disqualified. I do not share these addresses with anyone, and they are only for the purpose of entering this giveaway.

Deadline: Is Monday, August 29th, 2011 at 12:00 p.m. EDT, based upon the date/time stamp on the comments. (I’m going to be very strict about this and make no exceptions.)

The Outcome: Only one winner will be chosen for this entire package of goodies. I’m going to put all the entries into an online Randomizer (like this one) to come up with the winner.

Buon appetito!

Product Spotlight – The Saucey Sauce Co.

It’s been a while since I’ve posted a new Product Spotlight on my site.  This isn’t because I haven’t found anything to recommend, but, rather, that there’s been so much happening and so many great things to try that I haven’t managed to sit down and put together a post about it.  Recently, I’ve been on a bit of an Asian food kick, as you can see from the recipes I’ve posted.  Among the wonderful ingredients that I discovered earlier this year, the dipping sauces from The Saucey Sauce Co., have been really useful in helping me put together these dishes.

Reduction of Sweet Ginger Sauce – perfect as an accompaniment

This past weekend, I had the pleasure of hanging out with Ken and Toan Huynh, the company’s founders, at a barbecue at Toan’s place.  They had whipped up a fabulously delicious feast using their sauces in a variety of foods which showed these ingredients’ culinary flexibility and tastiness.  Originally created by their mother, they started getting requests for these sauces from friends when they would serve them at meals.  This led to them bottling the sauces and to starting to sell them at places like the Hester Street Fair.

Sweet Ginger Sauce basted chicken

I have to say again that these aren’t what you usually think of when you consider Asian fish sauce or Nuoc Cham (dipping sauce).  When you open the bottle, you get the scent of something that has been carefully balanced to consider a range of flavors: sweet, salty, spicy, and even umami.  They are ready to use as a marinade, a dressing, or straight as a dipping sauce.  The Spicy Garlic Sauce has a nice kick, while the Spicy Garlic Extreme takes that up a few notches and is what I used to make my dipping sauce for the Vietnamese Spring Rolls.  The Sweet Ginger Sauce is one of their most popular, and the Fresh Lemon Sauce is light and tangy.

Spicy Garlic Sauce marinaded roasted pork

These sauces brought out the best in the dishes that we had at the barbecue, which is to say that they didn’t have to be the stars of the plates, but helped highlight the amazing flavors of the meats and vegetables, as you can see from the juiciness of the pork above.  All the items, except Toan’s incredible Rice with Lemongrass (on the plate at the top) contained one of the sauces either as a dressing, marinade, or basting sauce.  These are definitely items that you’ll want to kept in your refrigerator for those times when your dinner plans need an extra zip.

Tomato & Zucchini Salad with Fresh Lemon Sauce

Noodle Salad with Fresh Lemon Sauce

There’s two new sauces that they’ve just added to their line, too, in response to flavors that their fans wanted.  We had a chance to sample both of them.  One, the Cool Cilantro Lime, was perfect drizzled over some of the fish (It would also be great to have on fish cooked in parchment paper.).  A splash of this could pep up any one of a number of dishes.  Then, there was the Fiery Wasabi, which Toan had mixed into warm, cooked potatoes.  This was potato salad on a whole new level: hot, starchy, eye-opening goodness.

Fiery Wasabi smashed potatoes

These sauces have definitely found a home in my kitchen.  I hope that you think they might find one in yours as well.  To give that little extra encouragement, Ken and Toan graciously offered one bottle of the Spicy Garlic Extreme and one bottle of the Sweet Ginger sauce as part of the giveaway that I’ll be launching tomorrow.

Buon appetito! 

New Amsterdam Market’s Second Annual Ice Cream Sunday

For days, heck weeks, I’ve been waiting for this particular food festival.  That’s not just because, as someone else put it to me today, “Ice cream is my favorite food group.”  (Thanks, Rebecca, at Brewla Bars for the quote!)  So, of course, I planned my whole day around getting to the New Amsterdam Market‘s Second Annual Ice Cream Sunday and fundraiser.  With my precious ten tasting tickets in hand, I scoped out the scene to work on my strategy.  I opted for one cool sample per stand of the ten vendors who were there, although it was a tough challenge to pick just a single flavor from many of them.

Early Bird Cookery choices

My first stop was Early Bird Cookery, who, last year, had one of the most interesting flavors that I’d ever tasted, their Hay ice cream.  I’ve also seen this ice cream available at Smorgasburg, if you’d like to stop by and see them there to try it out.  Today, however, I was intrigued by their Corn & Caramel flavor.  I tried a sample of it and found it to be, as they said, “Very corn forward.”  (Due in no small part to the 70 ears of corn that had to be shucked in order to create it, I was told.)  Although interesting and tasting kind of  like biting into a sweet ear of fresh corn, I decided it didn’t really wow my tastebuds.

Early Bird Cookery‘s Buttermilk, Blueberry & Lime cone

I decided instead to try the Buttermilk, Blueberry & Lime.  For me, this turned out to be a fantastic choice.  Chock full of ripe, juicy blueberry flavor with a zip from the lime and a zing from the buttermilk, this tasted like the most wonderful homemade blueberry pie I’ve never been able to master.  I could have gone back for more, but I knew I had to pace myself.

Selections from Victory Garden

On my next stop, I kept within the seasonal fruit flavors that I had started but with a twist.  Victory Garden makes ice cream from locally-sourced goat milk.  Before you think, “oh, that is going to be way too gamey tasting for me, just like the cheese” give it some consideration.  From their store on Carmine Street, they serve treats made with frozen yogurt and soft serve ice cream mixed with all sorts of toppings.

Blackcurrant Lavender cone from Victory Garden

For today, I went with the Blackcurrant Lavender flavor to sample.  Although all of these flavors individually (the milk, currants, and herbs) can be really strong standouts on their own, blended together, they melded into a mellow, luscious fruity, slightly perfumed creamy delight.  The ice cream was definitely fruit forward with the lavender following, but no one taste overwhelmed another.  In short, they worked together in sweet harmony.

Choices from Van Leeuwan Artisan Ice Cream

Another entry from last year’s festival were the folks at Van Leeuwan Artisan Ice Cream.  They have really deep, flavorful selections at their stores and their truck, but they and I never seem to be in the same place when I’m craving a cool treat.  They had several interesting-sounding varieties to try, but I stuck to my fruit theme.

Ice cream tragedy!  Van Leeuwan‘s Hudson Valley Sour Red Currant

The Hudson Valley Sour Red Currant ice cream was my first, and only, ice cream tragedy of the day!  When getting my camera out of my bag, I tilted forward just a little bit, and the whole scoop just flipped off and landed ‘splat’ on the asphalt.  What little was left in the cone and what I could lick off of my fingers tasted great, from what I could tell.  Sweet berry flavor with the boldness of the currants tempered a bit by the creaminess of the dairy.  I’ll just have to see if I can track this one down again.

Offerings from Otto Enoteca Pizzeria

Usually associated with wine, pizza, and pasta, it was really interesting to see Otto Enoteca Pizzeria at this gathering today.  I’ve never gotten far enough in a meal (too much wine, too much great pasta and cheese) to try their famous Olive Oil Gelato.  They didn’t have that to try to day, bringing two other seasonal flavors with them.

Verbena Blackcurrant Swirl from Otto Enoteca Pizzeria

After my previous catastrophe, I felt that I was entitled to have another cone with a currant theme to it.  This time, however, rather than being blended entirely together, the Verbena Blackcurrant Swirl had smooth, rich vanilla gelato with deep pockets of blackcurrants.  The verbena gave it a light, lemon perfume.  As this fruit can be quite a dominant personality, I think I preferred it when it was incorporated into the ice creams rather than having nuggets of it like it was here, as it kind of overwhelmed the dairy for me.

The choices from Steve’s Ice Cream

When I was at this market about a month or so back, I finally had a chance to check out Steve’s Ice Cream.  I really enjoyed the ice cream sandwich that I had then with a chunk of their silky smooth rich Salty Caramel flavor nestled between two chocolate chip cookies.  On a trip to Smorgasburg, I’d seen their Strawberry Ricotta in people’s hands, and it had turned my head.  Seeing it on the list for today, I knew it was calling to me.

Steve’s Ice Cream Strawberry Ricotta cone 

At first bite, I knew that I had found the best strawberry ice cream I’ve ever had.  I grew up on the pink stuff that you could buy at the grocery store.  This is like strawberries and fresh cream all mixed together in creamy, fruity loveliness.  Made with Pickled Strawberries from Anarchy in a Jar (one of my finds from a previous market trip), the last bit of the cone was filled with a dollop of the aromatic, juicy, spice-note infused berries to give this creation an extra special pop.  I want to curl up on the couch with a whole pint of this just to myself.

Blue Bottle Coffee brought ice cream to the market today

Normally in the market selling iced and hot coffees to patrons, today, Blue Bottle Coffee did double duty and also sold ice cream. By the time I got to their stand, they were completely out of the Black Chocolate Stout flavor, which was a bit disappointing.  I think they might have also been the first producer to be completely out of all flavors today, too.

 Blue Bottle Coffee‘s Chocolate Mint Chip

Fortunately, I managed to get one of the last scoops of their Chocolate Mint Chip variety.  At first bite, I got a huge hit of fresh mint flavor, herbal and cool.  Big chunks of Mast Brothers Dominican Republic chocolate chips were embedded within the creamy refreshing ice cream.  This was a grown-up version of my former ice cream parlor favorite, without the glowing green color.

Marlow & Sons selections

Another vendor using Mast Brothers delicious, deep, dark chocolate was Marlow & Sons.  Aside from trying lots of fruit flavors for this festival, I’d also decided that I wanted to consider some more out of the box creations.  When I saw the listing for Buffalo Milk, I had to ask, “Really?”

Buffalo Milk ice cream from Marlow & Sons

I was assured that, yes, this particular flavor was made with buffalo milk.  “Very creamy and rich, think of mozzarella,” I was told.  I think that they underestimated it.  This was buttery, definitely rich, a little bit milk-like, and with a back note of grassiness.  It did recall the components of the freshest buffalo mozzarella that I’d ever had.

KINGLeche Cremes flavors

These creations tasted to me a bit more like ice milks, than traditional ice creams.  Like the other vendors, they were put together using locally-sourced ingredients.  Again, I opted to go with the flavor that seemed a bit more unusual to me.

KINGLeche Cremes’ Honey Bourbon 

The Honey Bourbon combined Tremblay Apiaries spring varietal honey (found in the Greenmarkets) and bourbon from Kings County Distillery.  My first bite was full of bourbon taste and not much else.  I didn’t really get the honey in it, but I guess it was blended so well into the milk that it just let the liquor shine through.

La Newyorkina

I love La Newyorkina‘s paletas, but I haven’t ever tried her ice creams, when she’s had them.  Today was a chance to correct that serious deficiency.  Turned out that I was on line at the same time as some of the judges for the event.  I had a chance to say hello to Anne Saxelby of Saxelby Cheese who told that she had been “so excited” for this event.  She was with Gabrielle Langholtz, of Edible Brooklyn.

Piloncillo cone by La Newyorkina

This meeting was just a momentary distraction, however, from all of our important duties of the day, which was to taste Fany’s wonderful creations.  The gentleman on line behind me was someone whom I recognized from the New York Culinary Historians.  He’d pointed out to his kids that the title means “brown sugar.”  I knew from Fany’s tweets that this was the peach ice cream she’d been working on this week.  It was an easy choice to make and so delicious with chunks of ripe, sweet peaches studding a creamy, caramelly tasting confection, sort of like eating peach crumble with the brown sugar and butter and flour crust on top.

Oh, so many choices at The Bent Spoon

My favorite from last year had been the folks behind The Bent Spoon, so I had saved them for last.  They definitely brought their triple A game with them this year.  With one ticket left, I hesitantly approached their stand.  How to choose?  Fortunately, I was able to walk through their lineup before having to make my choice.  I could rhapsodize about all of their flavors, how the Beach Plum Nectarine tasted just like biting into a piece of ripe, juicy, dripping fruit or how the Chocolate-Cipollini alternated between creamy, smooth chocolate and biting chive-like tastes.  The Fresh Ricotta was milky and lemony while the Beet, Goats Cheese, Lemon, Basil had a sweetness from the vegetables while the lemon and herbs rounded it out.  The Bourbon-Vanilla had a great balance of sweet, salt, caramel, and cream.  Then, there was the Corn-Bacon (which I’d been following on Twitter) which had soft, sweet corn tones and meaty-smoky notes.  It was one of the most unique ice creams I tried all day.

My favorite, hands down – The Sweet Mary

But the one that really took the day for me was their Sweet Mary.  Tomatoes and celery from Z Food Farm combined with Penn Vodka and other flavorings to create what I can only describe as the best Bloody Mary that I’ve ever had but in ice cream form.  I could have eaten a few cones of this.  This is a genius of a creation and perfect for a warm, sunny Sunday.  I can’t wait to see what they come up with for next year!

Buon appetito!

Wok+Wine and Foodspotting Event in New York

Last night, in the Tribeca offices of Luminary Labs, Wok+Wine teamed up with Foodspotting to host one of their dynamic, seafood-fueled events.  I was one of the 40 folks who helped consume some of the “40 pounds of jumbo shrimp and 40 bottles of delicious wine” that they had laid on for us.  It was definitely one of the more unique and napkin-worthy food get-togethers I’ve ever attended.

Shrimp al Ajillo (shrimp in spicy garlic sauce) cooked in a Wok

The concept for these gatherings was developed by Wok+Wine‘s founder, Peter Mandeno, who hails from New Zealand but has lived all over the world, when he transplanted himself to the Big Apple and found it a bit challenging to meet new and interesting people.  The idea is relatively simple: get a group of folks together who don’t mind getting a bit messy to dig in around a communal table for a large shrimp peel and many glasses of wine to see where the evening leads them.  He’s taken this concept to several cities around the world where it seems to be a hit no matter where he goes.

Oriel Russian River Valley Zinfandel – perfect for the spicy shrimp

One of the other features of these gatherings is that they are often held in unusual locations in each of the host cities.  We were in the offices of a commercial building in Tribeca last night.  Other events have been held in a library (Auckland), a flower shop (Amsterdam), and a demolition site, to name a few.  They are always looking for new venues, and even new cities, in which to get folks together.  After New York, their next (and newest) stop is Portland, Oregon.

How to eat the heads of the shrimp

The fact that the eating choices are limited to the cooked shrimp and wonderful loaves of artisan bread with which to sop up all the great juices (ours last night was from Amy’s Bread) means that the food, while delicious, is less of a focus of the evening, so guests can concentrate more on having dynamic discussions and finding new friends.  First, Peter walks everyone through the proper way to separate the shrimp head from its body and extract the tasty bits from it. (By the way, yes, you have to clean your own shrimp, heads included, for this.)

Peter’s shrimp eating demo

Then, the group is let loose to peel and eat the shrimp, interacting with each other in the process.  Watching everyone dive in for the first of the batches of shrimp, I described it to a fellow guest as being a bit like a scrum.  We hung back a bit and waited for the table to clear after a few minutes, which still left plenty of the hot, juicy, spicy creatures for ourselves.  The shrimp are brought out in batches, so there is plenty of opportunity to polish off that pound that has been allocated to you.

The full table waiting for more eaters

This was a really terrific, innovative way to meet some new people.  That we were a small group compared to many food events I attend helped facilitate the flow of the evening.  The dig-in and fend-for-yourself aspect to the eating experience made it a more casual and relaxed atmosphere conducive to mingling than say a dinner party or more cocktail type gathering would do.  This is due in no small part to the fact that everyone’s hands are greasy and red from the fragrant garlic sauce, while trying not to have smeary fingerprints on his/her wine glass, and everyone tears into the loaves set on the table to pick up all the left behind bits of goodness.  I’m looking forward to the next chance I have to break bread, so to speak, with the folks at Wok+Wine.

Thank you to Foodspotting.com for sending out an email to its members (including me as you can see on my sidebar) about this event!  It was also wonderful to catch up with Amy Cao, their Head of Community last night.