Monthly Archives: November 2011

Brooklyn Flea Moves Indoors

Even if the weather felt more like it was spring, this weekend was the opening of the Winter Flea, the Brooklyn Flea‘s new location for the next few months.  I met up with a friend to check out the stands at One Hanson Place, the site of the former Williamsburgh Savings Bank (which was still a bank when she first moved to the city).  This building is ornately decorated and gorgeously festooned so it is worth a visit just to see it.  The down side is that the lighting isn’t all that great for food photography in many of the nooks and crannies where the vendors sit.  Oh, and the food items are mostly organized in one area – The Vault.  I know that there’s lots of fantastic food items being made in the city but do they really need to be stashed down there for safekeeping?

Brooklyn Slate – I picked up one of their gorgeous boards for my home

A Cheese Survival Kit from Brooklyn Slate – who will get this for Christmas?

You could start of your explorations with something refreshing by Brooklyn Soda Works

Or recharge with some coffee from Blue Bottle Coffee

Blue Bottle also sells baked goods at their stand at the entrance to the Flea

Biscotti di Vecchio display – the cookie base is terrific tasting with just the right texture and crumble

Fragrant, spiced, citrusy Lebkuchen by Leckerlee in a gorgeous tin would be another great holiday gift

Or head over to the savory side with McClure’s pickles, chips, and Bloody Mary mix (which is delicious)

Grab some great-tasting jams (including flavors like Quince) from the folks at The Stand

Or savor a luscious chocolate bar (try the Bonbon) from Fine & Raw

How to choose?  All the donuts from Dough look amazing!

How can you resist all that gorgeous crackling that goes into a Porchetta sandwich?

Or how about a platter from Vendy Award winner Solber Pupusas?

One of my favorites is Asia Dog.  The Vinh is what I usually get.

Next time, Chonchos Tacos might be my snack of choice to refuel at the Flea.

Buon appetito!

Sweet Potato Pancakes with Pecans

Now, that you’ve picked over the turkey carcass, made sandwiches of mashed potatoes, gravy, cranberry, and stuffing, and finished off the last of that pie, there’s just a few things left to polish off from this year’s Thanksgiving feast.  One of these is likely to be the remnants of the sweet potato dish.  For the potluck I went to this year, I was asked to bring along a creation using this vegetable.  I had about a cup of the potatoes that didn’t fit in to the serving platter I was bringing to the party.  So I decided to whip up a batch of Sweet Potato Pancakes using the leftovers.

Cooked Sweet Potatoes

The original batch of sweet potatoes was cooked until completely tender and then mashed with a fork.  I added a few tablespoons of butter and about half a cup of chicken stock to it as well as some Chinese 5-spice powder, ginger, and salt.  As a finishing touch I mixed everything with grated peel of one orange and half an orange worth of juice.  The idea was to make a side dish that was savory with a bit more depth than the usual marshmallow-topped platter that graces holiday tables.  You can use plain mashed sweet potatoes in this recipe, but adding some of these extra flavors works well in the pancakes.

Unadorned pancakes

This experiment worked out to be a tasty, post-Thanksgiving breakfast and was much more fun to try than the Turkey Curry I made last year.  I’m almost tempted to make extra sweet potatoes in the future when I’m preparing them for any dish just so that I can make these pancakes again.  I might also see if I can turn the leftovers into muffins so that I can freeze them and hang on to the flavors of fall for a bit longer.

Sweet Potato Pancakes with Maple Syrup & Pecans

Sweet Potato Pancakes

Prep Time:  20 minutes (minus time cooking potatoes)

Serving Size: 4 people (unless they are really hungry)

Ingredients:

2 Tbsp. unsalted Butter

1 Egg White

1 whole Egg

1 c. whole Milk

1 cup prepared Sweet Potatoes*

1 1/4 c. all-purpose Flour

2 tsp. Baking Powder

1/4 tsp. Salt

1 tsp. Sugar

Canola oil (for cooking pancakes)

Maple Syrup and Pecan Halves to serve

Assembly:

Melt butter in a heat-proof container.  While the butter is cooling, put egg white and white from whole egg into a bowl.  Set aside the egg yolk.  Whip the egg white until it is frothy.  In a large bowl, mix together milk, egg yolk, and butter. Add sweet potatoes and stir, making sure that there are minimal lumps.

Wet ingredients

In a separate bowl, combine the dry ingredients.  Mix together flower, baking powder, salt, and sugar.

Dry ingredients

Take the bowl with the dry ingredients and start to whisk them little by little into the wet ingredients until they are thoroughly combined and there are no lumps.  Add frothed egg white (and any liquid that has separated) and mix everything together until the batter is smooth.

Finished batter

Get a griddle or frying pan nice and hot.  Pour a little canola oil on the griddle, enough to create a thin film on the surface.  With a ladle or spoon, scoop about 2 Tbsp. batter into a mound on the griddle.  Make sure to space the pancakes far enough apart so that they don’t touch.

Pancakes on the griddle

When bubbles appear on the top of the pancakes, check the underside to see if it is cooked and just lightly browned.  I like to let mine get a little extra crispy around the edge, but I am related to people who will eat them only if they are pale as snow.  Flip them over to cook for about a minute or so more on the second side.

Pancakes ready to be flipped over

When the pancakes are cooked through, remove them from the griddle and serve them immediately.  Pour maple syrup on top and sprinkle them with pecans.

Buon appetito!

*Prepared sweet potatoes:  Take one cup of the sweet potatoes, add 1 tsp. orange zest, 1 tsp. orange juice, and 1/2 tsp of mixed spices (Chinese 5-spice powder, pumpkin pie spice or a mix of your favorite spices) OR use whatever leftovers you have from Thanksgiving dinner, minus the marshmallows.

Sautéed Green Beans with Almonds

As I’ve mentioned in the past, I grew up on canned products and salad as my options for vegetable-like things.  My journey through adulthood has introduced me to the wonders of broccoli, broccolini, cauliflower, and all sorts of other greens that just never made it onto the childhood menu rotation.  This minimal side dish selection would change for Thanksgiving and Christmas when we received a special treat:  Green Beans with Almonds.

Green Beans

Initially, this was a way to dress up squishy, briny, grey-green canned beans to make them more appealing to our palates.  When I was about ten or so, my mom decided to build a vegetable garden to one side of our house.  This was my first experience with freshly-grown produce.  Green beans were long and slender and crunchy – what a revelation!  (The same kind of vegetable epiphany happened for me with snow peas as well.) I fell in love with these verdant slivers then and try to grab up handfuls of them each year when they arrive at the Greenmarket.

Toasted Almonds

Theories behind how to cook green beans range from the boil the heck out of them until they are breaking apart, which is just too close to the canned ones I was tormented with as a child, to just barely fork-tender and crunchy.  For this recipe, I cook them in boiling water until they get to the latter stage, drain them, and then pop them into the sauté pan along with butter and the toasted almonds.  My mom used to cook all of the ingredients together, but that made the beans drenched in fat and rather greasy; it also involved way too much butter to be healthy.  Cooked my way, they still have a bit of give to them but are soft enough to balance out the meaty, crunchy taste of the nuts while still having a bit of a sheen and richness from the butter.

Sautéed Green Beans with Almonds

Prep Time:  15-20 minutes

Serving Size: 4 people

Ingredients:

1/4 c. slivered Almonds

1/2 pound fresh Green Beans, trimmed on top and bottom

2 Tbsp. unsalted Butter

3/4 tsp. salt

Assembly:

Preheat oven to 250 degrees Fahrenheit.  Put almonds on a tray in a single layer and place them in the oven to toast.  This will take about 5-10 minutes, but you should check on them a few times to make sure that they do not become too dark or burn.

While the almonds are toasting, put a saucepan of water on the stovetop to boil.  Once the water has boiled, put in 1/2 tsp. salt.  Toss in the green beans and let them cook for 5-10 minutes until a fork inserted in them goes through easily (i.e., “fork tender”).  Remove the saucepan from the heat and drain the green beans.

In a large frying pan, melt the butter.  When the butter is frothy, toss in the green beans and the toasted almonds and stir them around until they are coated in the butter.  Add 1/4 tsp. salt and toss to coat everything.  Serve immediately.

Buon appetito!

This post is also in memory of my mother’s oldest brother who passed away suddenly this past Saturday evening.  I took it pretty hard, even though I hadn’t seen him in a few years.  I wondered why, and then it hit me as I thought about all the great family meals and many, many Thanksgivings and holidays that he had been at our house.  As he didn’t have a wife and children of his own, he usually came to my folks’ place to join us in the festivities, well, and to watch football.

I would relish being a “big kid,” hanging out at the table after the plates had been cleared away, with my mom, their other sister, and him telling stories about growing up in their large, chaotic family while the inevitable family card game was in play.  I don’t think I ever managed to win one of those, even as an adult.

Union Square Holiday Market

At the subway entrance on the southwest side of Union Square, I caught sight of what looked like one of Santa’s reindeer, his head bashfully bowed, as though he was going to have to deliver some unpleasant news.  Given the array of things to chose from for holiday giftgivers at the annual Union Square Holiday Market, which I visited on opening day on Friday, it might have been that he would have to let the elves know that, this year, some of their services might not be needed.  Or maybe, like me, the little guy was thinking that he needed to find a place to rest after sampling all the delicious wares of the food vendors at the market this year.

Union Square Holiday Market

This year, some of the folks whom I know from other markets are at Union Square for the first time, which will be very handy for those who like to give edible gifts for the holidays.  As usual, there are things to eat on the spot while taking a break from shopping, actual food items to take away as presents, and some interesting stuff that could make unique packages to deliver during the holidays.  I definitely saw lots of ideas for stocking stuffers for some of the members of my family and, oh, one or two things that I could gift to myself, too.

Sweets

Simon at Macaron Parlour

Macaron Parlour always has some of the most colorful and vibrant displays at any market with rows of brilliantly-hued delicate morsels arranged in their cases.

Maple Bacon Cream Cheese Macaron

I picked up a sweet, savory, smoky Maple Bacon Cream Cheese one to start of my tour of the market.  Some of my other favorites of theirs are the Nutella and the Red Velvet Cake.

Allison Robicelli of Robicelli’s Cupcakes

Another one of my favorite people with whom to catch up is Allison Robicelli, whom I caught up with in her festively-decorated stall, all sparkly with lights and gold balls.

Butternut Spice Cupcake

(Butternut squash cake, vanilla buttercream, candied pumpkin seeds, butternut squash seed oil)

I decided to go with the Butternut Spice Cupcake, as she’s been mentioning on her Tumblr feed that it will soon go back into their Top Secret Flavors Vault until next Fall.  I didn’t want to miss out on the moist, mildly spiced and sweet squash cake generously topped with vanilla buttercream and sprinkled with toasted, candied pumpkin seeds, which I think they could sell just on their own, they were so delicious.

Robicelli’s Pecan Pie Brownie

She introduced me to the new – just released that day – Pecan Pie Brownie, which looked so chocolaty and rich that it almost derailed me from picking out another cupcake.   I munched on the Pear Cardamom Ginger cupcake, as I’d really been wanting to get my hands on that one since I’d seen it announced, as we caught up about our respective holiday plans.  I wish all cakes for the season had this great blend of zingy ginger and warm cardamom along with the sweet, floral honey frosting.

Danny Macaroons Sea Salt Caramel Macaroons

Allison is also selling Sea Salt Macaroons, the coconut kind, by Danny Macaroons at her stall.  Moist, chewy coconut baked until the shell is just set then drizzled with luxuriously buttery sea salt caramel to give it a bit of richness and pop from the salt.  These would also be perfect at the holiday table on a dessert display plate, even if it is the one that you made in elementary school in art class where the person is as big as the tree.

Liddabit Sweets

We all know that finding that little something jammed into the toe of a holiday stocking is an extra special surprise.  “Santa” at our house used to put in those small boxes of Whitman’s Samplers from time to time.  While I would encourage treats from Liddabit Sweets at any time of year, these are also delicious tidbits to introduce to your family and friends as well.  Last year, I played helper elf and handed out these to folks in my family young and old.

Momofuku Milk Bar

Sweets fiends know all about Momofuku Milk Bar‘s infamous Crack Pie, big chewy soft cookies, and cereal milk creations.  Good thing then, that to keep everyone going for their shopping excursion at the market that they have a stall filled with their signature goodies.

Rubyzaar Baked

Inspired by the places around that their travels take them to source local handmade goods, the folks at Rubyzaar have created a line of big, chewy cookies with names like Kasmir, Casbah, and Hoi An.  I think I could have gathered up one of each kind just to discover what theses minds were concocting when they dreamed up these flavors.

Breezy Hill Orchard

For more traditional holiday sweets, Breezy Hill Orchard has large gingerbread boys and girls, Gingersnaps, and their Greenmarket staple Apple Cider Donuts for sale.  They also have hot apple cider to keep you warm while you walk around in the market.

Chocolate-covered Gingerbread

Chocolate-covered soft, spicy gingerbread?  Yes, please!  This is just one of the sweet treats that are at the stands for German Delights.  They also have marzipan and cookies as well as other goodies bringing a bit of Central Europe to Manhattan.

Stuffed Artisan Cannoli

Stuffed Artisan Cannolis have been at a few markets I’ve visited this year.  Their small-sized Italian treats are filled with creamy, bold flavors, including seasonal ones like pumpkin.

Wafles & Dinges

With several cheerful yellow trucks stationed around town, you’ve probably seen their waffles hungrily consumed by sweets-mad New Yorkers.  They are back again at this market cheering up shoppers with their fluffy-crisp creations that you can top with fruit, chocolate, whipped cream, and their completely addictive Spekuloos spread (tasting like the cinnamony, Belgian cookie of the same name).  I tried to gift a jar of this delicious accompaniment last year and ended up keeping it for myself instead.

Bar Suzette Crêpes

Another European edible that is a staple at their holiday markets has also set up shop in Union Square: the Crêpe.  What I love about these is watching them spread out the batter on the griddles, pushing it around until it is a paper thin layer, and then deftly flipping it with one motion using a long spatula.  My homemade ones never turn out this well.

No Chewing Allowed

Market veteran and recent Chocolate Show attendee, No Chewing Allowed, has created a truffle that literally melts in your mouth.  Grab a morsel from the sample tray, place it on your tongue, and let the deep chocolate taste spread all over your tastebuds like a luxurious wave.

NuNu Chocolates

After tasting NuNu Chocolates last year, I became a fan of their deep, dark chocolate combinations.  They also have a store where they hold tastings where there is also a cozy place to pull up a chair for a warm chocolate drinks on cold winter days.

Raaka Chocolate

Produced in small batches, using minimal processing, Raaka Chocolate aims to bring out more of the natural aromas and tastes of the cocoa beans themselves.  Their bars mixed with spices and flavorings heighten the chocolate flavors from the beans they use.

Savory

King’s County Jerky Co.

Remember peeling back the plastic to uncover two tubes of glossy, salty, meaty jerky?  Slim Jim‘s were a snack of choice, too, for my now-vegetarian brother when we were growing up.  I can still remember their chewy, kind of meaty texture.  It wasn’t really for me.  Now, I’ve discovered artisan Beefy Jerky like that from Kings County Jerky Co.  and my mind has been opened to how steak-like and richly-flavored well-dried, grass-fed beef can taste when put in the hands of careful craftsmen.  The Korean Barbecue brings together the flavors of soy, chili, garlic, and sesame in layered harmony with each chew.  It’s probably my favorite of the flavors that they do.

The Brooklyn Salsa Company

Earlier this year, I discovered The Brooklyn Salsa Company‘s products and knew that they had a hit on their hands.  With salsa flavors inspired by and named after the five boroughs, they’ve captured the personality of each of our city’s component subsets in a tasty jar.  Eaten straight up or used in recipes, these flavors will liven up any meal or give some zip to your dishes.

Taste of Persia

The soups from Taste of Persia looked like they’d fit the bill for providing warm comfort while checking out the vendors at the market.  I just wish they hadn’t hidden all of their goodness in the metal containers where no one could see them.

Mighty Balls slider

Usually when I run into Mighty Balls, the line is so long that I take a pass and go over the next available food stand.  This time, I took the plunge and got in the queue.  That was a delicious decision.  A perfectly-formed meatball with a hearty tomato sauce, topped with pungent cheese.  This was a great snack to keep me going while I combed the market for some more presents.  They also sell jars of their sauces at the market.

Sigmund Pretzel Shop

Another market-friendly nibble is a pretzel from Sigmund Pretzel Shop, who also has a shop on the Lower East Side.  Try their sharp, briny Feta & Olive or their earthy, cheesy Cheddar & Truffle, and don’t forget to add on a side of their spicy, tangy housemade mustard.

Beverages

Dallis Bros. Coffee

Local roaster Dallis Bros. Coffee is brewing up steaming cups of joe for flagging market goers at their stall.  They also have bags of their beans for sale along with other coffee-making implements.

German Delights hot beverages

Other winter warmers can be found at German Delights which has Hot Apple Cider along with Gluehwein (spiced, mulled wine) for sale alongside their other treats.

Brooklyn Brew Shop

If you are looking for a gift that will keep giving even after all the holiday wrapping paper and bows have been scooped up off of the floor and tossed into the trash, perhaps a beer making kit from Brooklyn Brew Shop should be on your list of things to pick up this year.  The kit contains all the gear to whip up a batch of one of their flavors like the Chocolate Maple Porter or Gingerbread Ale, to name a few of the ones they have.

Kombucha Brew Kits

Another do-it-yourself option for home beverage making is also on sale at the market in the form of Kombucha Brew Kits.  This fermented drink has become very popular over the past few years, making appearances at many of the markets around town.

Miss Tea

For me, winter afternoons are about curling up on the sofa with a hot mug of aromatic tea.  Miss Tea has a range of selections of infusions and herbal blends as well as tea accessories.  The fragrance coming from this stand was so soothing and warm that I could have just hung out there for a while soaking it all in.

Other Food Things

Tiffin by Karma Living

The brightly colored fabrics and bold designs make this stall a standout at the market amidst all the other ones with their more muted winter tones.  My eye was drawn to this warmly toned tiffin, which they have along with other enamelware, and I could feel the promise that it brings of a meal of fluffy rice, richly spiced dahl, and other culinary delights all in portable form.

Cake Cutters from Jillery

These striking cake cutters caught my eye, too, as I also pre-shop for gifts that I need for other occasions throughout the year.  These, I thought, would be a unique wedding present for a modern couple.  She also has other decorative housewares on her website, too.

Vintage Wine Boxes

For the oenophile in your life, these Vintage Wine Boxes might make the perfect gift.  This stand had cases of various sizes and shapes for sale, some with various decorative touches or vintage labels.

High Fidelity Design

Then, to go with the wine boxes, perhaps some funky NYC-inspired coasters would be a good gift.  These ones from High Fidelity Design come as single units or as a set.  These would also make a fun present for anyone’s apartment, so they also go on my hostess gift ideas list.

NY Cruets

I really liked these items last year, so I’m glad to see this company come back to the market for another season.  NY Cruets has beautiful, hand-blown containers for holding oil and vinegar.  With these gracing your table, every meal becomes a special occasion.

The Filling Station

To pair with the above products, The Filling Station has a wide array of vinegars and flavored olive oils.  I’ve used their standard one in my everyday cooking.  Last year, I gifted their fragrant, citrusy Blood Orange oil to some friends who received it enthusiastically.  They also have flavored salts as well for sprinkling on and finishing dishes with an extra bit of pizazz.

Spices & Tease

Another spice shop at the market is Spices & Tease.  I just love to walk by their display gazing at the gorgeous colors of all their mixes and rubs and inhaling all the wonderful fragrances.  They sell several different options for packaging up their creations so you can pick out a few of them to give to your favorite food-focused person.

Mint Tins

Shot Glasses and Mugs

The Unemployed Philosophers Guild has some of the most whimsical and quirky gifts that I saw at the market.  It’s like walking into one of the knickknack stores downtown that carry lots of random things.  The mint tins would make great stocking stuffers for some of the adults in the family.  I have a few friends who would enjoy the shot glasses and mugs, so those might give me some other possibilities to put underneath the tree.

For me, the holiday markets are a great way to pick up some unique finds for presents, whether for the upcoming festivities or later on in the year.  It is also a way to support local artisans and makes a great afternoon out with friends as well, mugs of steaming cider or gluehwein in hand, munching on a waffle or other food item.  This was always one of the delights of living in Europe, so I’m glad to see that it is thriving here, too.

Buon appetito!

We have a Fall Picnic Pack Giveaway Winner!!!

Congratulations to Amy Deeter whom the Randomizer selected as the winner for this prize!!!!

As I had mentioned in my Labor Day Cookout Pack Giveaway post, Fall is probably my favorite season, and it seems like it is for many of you folks as well from the comments.  With the leaves changing colors, getting to wear sweaters, that cool snap in the air, and of course, all things pumpkin to eat, there are so many ways that this time of year is one to revel in and celebrate.  Then, there’s also Thanksgiving, which caps off everything before we start heading into Winter.

Thank you so much to Les Trois Petits Cochons for the backpack filled with a selection of their meats, cheese, and accompaniments.  A big thank you, too, to Anton Nocito of P&H Soda Co.* for chipping in a bottle of his Cream syrup and to Anarchy in a Jar for the Strawberry Balsamic Jam and Hot Fireman’s Pear Jam with Chipotle & Cinnamon.  Please check out their websites to find out how to order these and all their other great products.

Buon appetito!

*Also check out Anton’s Hibiscus Syrup which was nominated as a finalist for a Good Food Award for 2012!  Congrats, Anton!

New Amsterdam Market Peck Slip Pickle Fest

Briny tears have been wept around town for many months this year when the Lower East Side Pickle Festival was cancelled, or maybe just not held at all.  This was a key cultural highlight on the New York City food calendar, connecting the current fad of preserving and canning to the roots of the immigrant communities that thrived in that area of the city.  Pickles are mentioned in 97 Orchard Street as an main source of sustenance, if not nutrition, for many of the poorer residents of the slums, too.  Fortunately, the folks at the New Amsterdam Market picked up the reins (or the tongs) and hosted the Peck Slip Pickle Fest yesterday.

Jars of Pickles

I’ve mentioned before that Pickles are one of those things that I’ve had to learn to get to like.  I’m still a bit afraid of other fermented products like Kim Chi and Sauerkraut (a bad experience in elementary school is probably a consequence of the latter), even though I know that they have dietary benefits.  Still, I made myself try lots of samples at the festival.  I didn’t come away with any new favorites, more due to my own tastebuds than the products themselves, but I respected the craftsmanship behind all the efforts.  Click on the link below to see the sampler’s-eye view from the day’s tastings!

New Amsterdam Market Peck Slip Pickle Fest (click on the “Show Info” button at the top right to see the details behind the photos)

Buon appetito!