Yearly Archives: 2012

Taste of 5 Boroughs at the International Association of Culinary Professionals Culinary Expo

Unless you’ve been following me on Twitter the past few days, you might have thought it’s been very quiet around these parts.  I’ve been attending the annual conference for the International Association of Culinary Professionals here in New York.  It’s been four jam-packed days of networking, attending panels about the food business, eating, snacking, nibbling, and catching up with some of the amazing folks who work in this industry.  Yesterday, I was able to see the fruits of the hard work that my fellow conference volunteers and I did together in a culinary expo called Taste of the 5 Boroughs, showcasing New York artisan food purveyors.

The Jam Stand

Raspberry jam with a kick of heat.  Bananas with lime and rum.  Wine-inflected sweet red onions.  These are just a few of the great flavors Sabrina and Jessica have come up with to jazz up the NYC jam scene.  I got to chat with Sabrina today and found out that we’ll be able to catch them at the markets this season.  They’ll be hanging out at the Hester Street Fair for a few Saturdays.  I’ll be there, too, picking up some of their flavorful jams.

Regal Vegan

Today, I found a new reason to count the days until succulent ripe tomatoes are finally in season again: Basilicotta from Regal Vegan.  I’d tried Ella’s Faux Gras at Smorgasburg last summer and had really enjoyed it.  The Basilicotta, however, I think is on another level altogether with its creamy texture and bright, grassy, herbal notes, perfect for pairing with summer vegetables and pastas.  I’m hoping I’ll see it for sale around the local markets because this is definitely on my shopping list.

Granola Lab

What can I say about this product?  Alex’s granola has the ideal balance of fruit, nuts, flakes, sweet, salty, savory, chewy.  Your stomach is begging you to make a breakfast this tasty.  She’ll also be in the markets this summer, so pick up a few bags for your pantry.  You can use it to make Granola-Yogurt Parfaits, which would be ideal for brunch gatherings or anytime.

Josephine’s Feast

These are some other products I’m going to be keeping my eye out for to pick up and try at home.  I sampled the exotic fig jam with deep, dark notes and one of the blood orange jams, which was full of citrus perfume.  I’ll need to clear off some space on my refrigerator shelves to make room for a few of these, which would be lovely with a nice cheese platter.

Brooklyn Oenology

Craig and Alie brought some of their New York State-produced wines to the expo to give everyone a taste of what local winemakers are doing.  This table had a line several people deep throughout the afternoon.  I sipped a sample of the rosé, with its gorgeous watermelon hue and lovely light fruit flavors.  A few bottles of this would kick off any summer party on the right note.

The Rescue Baker

These sweet treats also seemed to be a big hit at the expo, with so many great things to choose from.  It was really tempting to load up on the samples of cookies and cakes.  Having rescued a few people from baking projects in the past, it was interesting to see this business and hear about how it had developed.

Mitchmallows

I first met Mitch and his delicious, whimsical marshmallows at the Foodshed market last year.  Since then, I’ve enjoyed seeing what flavor and design his ever-creative mind is going to develop next.  In addition to his sweet, slightly spicy ChurrosMallow and a fan-favorite Ginger Wasabi mallow, I munched on these new MallowPolitans, reminiscent of the tri-colored ice cream blocks that I thought were so fancy when I was growing up.  One bite, and I was right back at a childhood dinner with all the mixed up vanilla, chocolate, and strawberry flavors flooding right back.

Spoonable Caramel

Caramel really is one of my favorite flavors, so I’m enjoying it making an appearance on the artisan food scene, too.  Michelle’s product is available at several local-area stores, and has been a bit hit, which is no surprise to anyone who has tasted her smooth, buttery concoctions with their great flavor balance of sweet and salt and sometimes spice.  At the expo, we also got to try a new Brooklyn Butterscotch.  Oh, my!  I don’t think ice cream sundaes or any desserts are ever going to be the same again once they release this new caramel.

Sweet Loren’s

Loren and I had briefly crossed paths at the very busy Next BIG Small Brand Awards on Tuesday night.  Her amazing cookie and brownie doughs had been the 2011 winner, so she was there to support and judge this year’s program.  Of course, I couldn’t resist my favorites, her chocolatey brownie and the oatmeal cranberry, so I picked up a few samples and then hit the rest of the expo.

Leckerlee

These beautiful, pillowy, cakey gingerbread confections are some of my favorite Christmastime treats.  I left them under the glass dome because if I had had access to even one of them, they would have all been gone in a flash.  Sandy’s Lebkuchen were one of the hits of the Brooklyn Flea when it moved indoors before the year-end holidays in 2011.  They seemed to be no less popular at yesterday’s expo, even if we are still a few months away from their peak season.  I also want to give a very special shout-out to Julian of Melt Bakery (one half another fantastic local food business).  He was lending Sandy a hand on this very busy Sunday, showing once again just how supportive the culinary community is of each other and of helping everyone’s enterprises to grow.

Artopolis

This table from a Greek bakery in Astoria, Queens had a beautiful array of sweets.  I limited myself to a small square of flaky, buttery, sweet baklava, which just made my mouth so happy with its gooey, sweetness and a bit of crunch from each delicate layer of pastry.

Veda’s Cakes

Based out of the incubator kitchens located in La Marqueta in East Harlem, these baked goods and the photos of the cakes that Veda whips up were too good looking to resist.  I nibbled on a small sample of a mini pecan pie type pastry which was buttery, nutty, and not too sweet with a great interplay between crust and filling.

Dallis Bros. Coffee

This locally-based coffee roasting company is coming up on its 100th year anniversary in the city and prides itself on responsible and fair trade practices, something that they were ahead of their time in implementing even before the current boom of artisan coffee bean packaging and production.  When I went back by their table for a second round of visits to the Taste of 5 Boroughs participants, I was told that they’d been drained dry of their delicious brews.

Santé Bakery

I predict that this company will have a very busy market season this year once everyone gets to sample their unique products.  Piroshki (dough filled with savory vegetables and meats) and Vatrushka (pastry round with centers of jam and/or cheese) will be too tempting for the hungry crowds to pass up while they are perusing the stalls at the Hester Street Fair.

Nutcase Crunch

As big as a fan of granola as I am, this gluten-free, nut-based product might have me swapping it out in the mornings.  The sample I tasted was full of crunch with a hint of coconut and a richness and meatiness from the nuts themselves.  What I also really liked was that it came in a snack size in addition to a regular bag, which is perfect for keeping in one’s desk to ward off the mid-afternoon slump.

H.S. Chocolate Co.

With Easter just around the corner, it was no wonder that lots of people headed over to this table to see what wonders they had to share.  Artisan chocolates have also become a huge hit in the local food entrepreneur scene, which is never a bad thing to my mind.  I really enjoy seeing what each company does and how they interpret childhood favorites for a more adult taste sensibility.

Hot Bread Kitchen

Also based at La Marqueta in Harlem, the folks at Hot Bread Kitchen have a loyal fan following in the city.  I’d encourage you to read the story of their business and how they help low-income, immigrant women with language, computer, and other skills to enable them to build their own businesses.  I’m a huge fan of their layered, buttery M’smen Moroccan flatbread (which they didn’t have at the expo).  Their crisp Lavash Crackers were the base for one of the more popular snacks I put out for my guests after our holiday caroling party.

Fresh Ginger Ginger Ale

Ginger is one of my favorite seasonings, so much so that it caused the “Ginger Chicken Incident,” as it is known in my family, many, many years ago, although I’m not going to go into that here.  It was great to see the all the varieties of Bruce Cost’s lightly fizzy, refreshing beverages made with real ginger at the expo yesterday.  This was just the kick and pick-me-up that the afternoon needed to give everyone the extra energy to navigate all the booths.  I sampled their new passionfruit flavor with its delicate tropical, floral perfume and a punch of spice from the ginger.  This will definitely hit the spot on a warm, sultry summer’s day.

Black and Blanco

I met Steve and Heidi on the last market day I attended of Smorgasburg.  After I popped that first, crumbly beautifully-scented morsel of one of their organic, wheat-free Sandcastles into my mouth, all I could think was “Where were these all season?”  Using New York State rye flour, which has been making a comeback after many years when the grain was just used as a cover crop, these baked treats take the word “cookie” to a different plane altogether.  The Marzipan captures the creamy, sweet and floral flavor of the almonds perfectly.  It’s hard to choose, but the Maple-Dusted Cardamom with its dark syrupy tones and exotic spice notes might be my favorite of their line, then again, maybe I need to go back and try them all again just to be sure.

It was wonderful to see these NYC artisan food producers at the Taste of 5 Boroughs culinary expo for the International Association of Culinary Professionals yesterday.  There’s so many wonderful and delicious items being created around our city, many of them using other local and regional products thereby creating a strong economic chain.  It was also terrific to see in person and on Twitter how folks were coming together to support these enterprises and the people who work so hard to bring us great things to eat.

Buon appetito!

Ricotta-Stuffed Pasta Shells with Savory Tomato Sauce

A few years back, my youngest sister suggested making this dish for my father when we were at his house for dinner.  As he’s now back to bachelor-style fare, with my mother being ill, he doesn’t have pasta very often.  For some reason, he won’t fix it for himself, which we all find odd, as it is one of those things that we all learned how to cook early on in learning how to feed ourselves.  With these Ricotta-stuffed Pasta Shells with Savory Tomato Sauce, we also discovered that we had a niece/nephew-friendly dish as well, so it is in the rotation of possible menu selections for their visits.

I found this in the back of a cabinet when I cleaned out my parents’ kitchen

I offer it here as a second-to-last Lenten Friday dinner option, just as you can’t face one more tuna dish or going out for pizza again on a Friday night.  Throw in a salad and garlic bread to make it complete – red and white checked tablecloth optional.  Candle in Chianti bottle is even more optional.  This is also a good way to use up some of the Easy Tomato Sauce if you have any of that still on hand.  I made half a batch of the Ricotta-Stuffed Pasta Shells with Savory Tomato Sauce for the purposes of this demo, as you’ll see from the photos.  The leftovers are great, too, but I didn’t want to have them around for a week.  To feel the hungry hoard at my folks’ house, we double the recipe.

Ricotta-stuffed Pasta Shells with Savory Tomato Sauce

Prep-time: 1 hour (with cooking)

Serving size: 4-6 shells per adult

Ingredients:

Ricotta-stuffed Pasta Shells:

24 Jumbo Pasta Shells

1 15-oz. container Ricotta Cheese

1 1/2 c. Parmesan Cheese, grated

1/2 tsp. Salt

1/4 tsp. Black Pepper, ground

1/4 tsp. Nutmeg, ground

2 Tbsp. Parsley, curly-style Italian, fresh, chopped

2 Egg Yolks (save whites for another use)

Savory Tomato Sauce:

1 tsp. Salt

1 c. Onion, cut into small dice

1 Tbsp. Garlic, minced

1/2 tsp. Red Pepper Flakes

2 1/2 c. Easy Tomato Sauce

3/4 tsp. Oregano, dried

1 Tbsp. Parsley, curly-style Italian, fresh, chopped

Assembly:

Put a large pan of water on the stove to boil. When the water has reached a rollicking, bubbling state, add the salt and let the water come to the boil again.  While the pasta water is boiling and the shells are cooking, make the Spicy Tomato Sauce.

Put oil in large saucepan and let it warm over low heat.

Add onions and raise the heat a little bit.  Cook for 2-3 minutes, until the onions are translucent and soft.

Add garlic, stir into onions, and let cook for about 1 minute more, making sure not to let it burn or turn golden.

Add red pepper flakes.  You can adjust the amount to your taste.  The goal is to perk up the sauce to provide a lively balance to the heavy cheese, not to make it super-spicy.

Add Easy Tomato Sauce and stir to incorporate. [If the pasta water is boiling at this point, add the shells and then return to making the sauce.]

Add the dried oregano and chopped, fresh Italian parsley and stir into the sauce.  Taste and adjust the seasoning as needed.  Leave to continue cooking over low heat while preparing the Ricotta-stuffed Pasta Shells.

If you haven’t already done so, put the pasta shells into the boiling salted water and let them cook according to the package instructions.

Once cooked through, drain pasta and let it cool while fixing the cheese filling.

Pour the ricotta into a medium-sized bowl.

Add 1 cup grated Parmesan cheese.

Add salt, freshly-ground black pepper, and ground nutmeg to the cheeses.

Add chopped, fresh Italian parsley to the cheeses and seasoning.

Mix seasonings and ingredients into the cheeses and blend together thoroughly.

Add egg yolk to cheese mixture and stir to blend it completely into the cheese mixture.

The mixture will have a slight yellow-ish hue from the egg yolk, and the ricotta mixture will be creamy.  It was about this point that I realized that I had just made the classic filling for cheese ravioli, as I’d learned in my pasta making course last year.

Put a couple of spoonfuls of the pasta sauce in the pan and spread it around to coat the bottom of it.  Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.

Carefully open up the cooked pasta shells and fill each of them with a couple of tablespoons of the ricotta mixture.

Place the cheese-stuffed shells in the pan.

Continue filling the shells with cheese and putting them in the pan, lined up beside each other.  When we make this for our family, it becomes a team effort, with my sister recruiting me and her boyfriend to help her stuff the shells, to get that double batch of them in the oven for dinner.

Cover the pasta shells with the tomato sauce, using about 2 cups of it.  Sprinkle the sauce-covered stuffed shells with remaining 1/2 cup Parmesan cheese.

Cover the pan with foil and place in the oven to cook for 25-30 minutes, until the shells are heated through and the cheese is all melted.

Gently pull back the foil, allowing for the oohs and aahs to escape from everyone’s lips at the beauty and wonder of this gorgeous pasta dish.

Serve the shells immediately and bask in everyone’s contented smiles.  The tangy-tart sauce with a hint of heat (but not overly-spicy) helps balance the rich, creamy cheesiness of the stuffed shells.  This recipe has definitely become a crowd-pleaser around my folks’ house.

Buon appetito!

The Next BIG Small Brand Award 2012

Last night a group of hungry folks and local artisan food producers were on hand at the Brooklyn Academy of Music (BAM) for the final round of the battle between two culinary-focused cities: San Francisco and New York.  The prize, aside from bragging rights, was The Next BIG Small Brand Award, a package of design, PR, and retail placements structured to launch a start-up food brand into the next level of development and success.  This is an incredible opportunity for those who are trying to make a business out of creating and selling edible items so it is no wonder that there were some amazing things to try at this event.

Planet Fuel – New York

Planet Fuel Juice Display

These juices were created by Tom and Amy Barnouw to give their children (and others) an alternative to sugary, artificially-sweetened, juice-type beverages.  The ingredients?  Juice and water, that’s it, put together in colorful, kid-friendly bottles.  I sampled their Rainforest Rita’s Organic Tropical Punch, which had a gorgeous floral and bright fruit taste.  This is miles away from the super sweet Hawaiian Punch Fruit Juicy Red or any of the Hi-C drinks my mother let us have as a child.  I can definitely see why these products are a huge hit with parents, and I would definitely pick these up to have on hand for any little visitors.  If you live in Connecticut, Amy was saying, they are already in some of the middle and high school cafeterias there.

Amy Barnouw

Pie Corps – New York

Pie Corps pies

I don’t think I can rave enough about how delicious Pie Corps pies are.  If you look throughout this site over the past year since I discovered their incredible creations at the New Amsterdam Market, you’ll see photos of their delectable, hand-held pastries scattered throughout my market jaunts.  Eccles cakes, a lemon tart, a fried caramel apple pie, all of them have that perfect balance of flaky, buttery crust combined with sweet (and sometimes tart) filling.  Their savory items are no less tasty as well.  It’s no surprise to me that their table had one of the longest lines all night long.  The best part about seeing one of my favorite local food vendors having their hard work rewarded by this nomination was hearing them confirm that they will be at New Amsterdam again this season.  That means more pie all summer long!

Cheryl Perry and Felipa Lopez

NY Superfoods – New York

Chia Chargers in spicy, regular, and espresso flavors

This New York City-based company was completely new to me, although I’ve been watching the buzz build on Twitter about chia seeds and their properties, so I was intrigued to see these morsels packed with nuts and seeds.  I’m not a big energy bar eater, mostly because I don’t think they taste all that good or have too much artificial stuff in them.  One bite of the Chia Chargers, made with oats, agave, chia seeds, nuts, fruit, and other things I recognized with their gooey, chewy, crunchy, slightly sweet texture, and my mouth was like, “Where were these to combat that mid-afternoon slump when I worked in an office all day?”  They also produce a line of nut butters – the chocolate-peanut one would be great on crackers or bread – and granolas to kick your day off right, all with chia seeds.

Catherine Mangan Walsh

Big Dipper Baby Food – San Francisco

Samples of Big Dipper Baby Food

Duck Liver?  Bone Marrow?  These aren’t the typical things that most babies are fed when they start eating puréed food.  These are only a few of the ingredients that go into Big Dipper Baby Food‘s selections, all of them with an emphasis on healthy, flavorful combinations that give growing babies the nutrients that they need to develop.  Apprehensive about a baby food tasting at an adult event, one bite of their Baby Doll (lentils, roasted bananas, coconut oil, blueberries) with its hearty flavor and balance of sweet and savory reassured me that this is pretty sophisticated fare for the younger set.  I didn’t get a sample of the bone marrow one, but the duck liver, apple, carrots, and caramelized onions could pass for a high-quality pâté, it was that good.  The next time I have to go through dental surgery and can’t eat proper food for a week, I’m going to see if I can track down some of these products.  There’s no reason to let the babies hog all the good stuff.

Claire Hoyt

Black Jet Baking Co. – San Francisco

Mini Chocolate Cookies, Caramelized Coconut Macaroons, Devil-dog style cake-cookie

Another long line at this event was that to try the assortment of sweet treats from Black Jet Baking Co.  When I managed to make my way over there, I was rewarded with a chewy, buttery-rich macaroon, a moist deep chocolatey devils-dog cake with a sweet, creamy center, and probably my favorite of the lot, a mini chocolate chunk cookie with sea salt – just a bright pop of it to go along with the cookie’s toffee and cocoa notes.  I can see why their products are such a hit in their hometown.  These are the kinds of baked goods that we all aspire to make, and it made me realize that I’m long overdue for a West Coast trip with a stop at their shop on the itinerary.

Max Newman and Gillian Sara Shaw

Dandelion Chocolate – San Francisco

I’ve tasted quite a few bean-to-bar chocolates since I began this site, as single-origin bars have made waves in the culinary world and appeared at different events.  What always strikes me is how different they all can be in taste, texture, and perfume, much like wine.  Dandelion Chocolate wowed me last night with its selection.  Each of the samples that they brought had a completely different and equally complex profile.  The Madagascar, I could have sworn was a milk chocolate blend, with its creamy mouth feel and fruit-like aroma.  Not at all, I was told by Todd Masonais, the company’s co-founder, all they use is chocolate and a bit of sugar to make their bars.  My brain took a while to process all the wonderful flavor components that each sample contained.  This is chocolate to savor one bite at a time, letting all its possibilities develop on your palate.

Todd Masonias and chocolate

Kombucha Brooklyn – 2010 Winner

Kombucha Brooklyn’s flavor samples

Along with the current crop of competitors, the previous years’ winners were on hand to chat with their fans and to share their experiences since being named The Next BIG Small Brand.  I dropped by to say hello to the guys at Kombucha Brooklyn, who were trying to repair their trophy with electrical tape.  They are also vendors at several local markets and stores in the New York City area making it wonderful to see how they have grown since they started their journey.  One item of theirs that I mentioned in my holiday markets round-up was the do-it-yourself Kombucha Kits, for the avid fan.

Sweet Lorens – 2011 Winner

Sweet Lorens’ tasty treats

When I walked by the table with 2011 winner Loren Brill’s brownie and cookie nibbles, I couldn’t resist.  I know, I know.  I was supposed to be looking for the 2012 competitors, but I just couldn’t pass them up without trying a bite.  These are products made with whole grains and natural sweeteners and don’t use dairy or preservatives, and they taste great as well.  Her Chewy Oatmeal-Cranberry are still one of my favorite cookies from her line, but I wouldn’t pass up any of her other items either.  Since winning the competition, we were told in the remarks before this year’s winner was announced, her business has increased 400%.  She’s also now in every Whole Foods in the Northeast, up from just eight stores at the beginning of last year.

People’s Choice Award – Black Jet Baking Co.

Chocolate chip cookie with sea salt

Throughout the evening, I’d heard lots of folks buzzing excitedly about the sweet things they’d tried from this entrant, so it was no surprise to me that they won the audience’s vote last night.  They’ve also inspired me to try to fiddle with my own chocolate chip cookie recipes to see if I can capture that terrific salty-sweet flavor balance that their version has.

The Next BIG Small Brand Winner 2012 – NY Superfoods

Chia Chargers

This unique product was named the winner of this year’s Next BIG Small Brand.  As I’d mentioned above, this product made me really re-think what a good, healthy energy bar-type product could taste like.  I can see lots of potential for the company’s growth (one of the criteria for the award) not just among the athletes which form a core component of their current market.  I’ll be waiting to see this arrive on store shelves in the not-to-distant future.

Thank you to First Press PR for the opportunity to cover this event.  For profiles of all the contestants, to hear about their companies, products, and stories, please visit Food. curated to see Liza de Guia’s fantastic videos.

Buon appetito!

By Brooklyn

Yesterday, taking advantage of a cool spring day, a friend of mine and I decided to go exploring on Smith Street in Brooklyn.  After meeting up at the Brooklyn Flea and taking a stroll along Atlantic Avenue, including perusing several antique shops, we headed over to By Brooklyn to check out their selection of locally-made products, both edible and non.  The store just turned one year old last week, which means my trip to it is long overdue.  Right away, I found some of my favorite artisan food items, which made me feel right at home.

Sodas by Manhattan Special and Fresh Ginger with tonic from Q Tonic sharing space with the terrific caramels by Liddabit Sweets

P&H Soda Co. – see the seltzer bottles peeking out from behind the display

These are some other syrups from Royal Rose that I’ve been interested to try. 

My friend was eyeing these bitters by Bittermens.  With summertime coming up, it’s time to think about some new cocktail ideas.

And we also spotted one of our favorites – Morris Kitchen – with their fantastic syrups.

Another of our favorites which had space on the shelves is the fabulous Anarchy in a Jar.

The Jam Stand also has some tasty flavors to try.

I didn’t see the buttery-sweet Caramelized Apple preserves by Maiden Preserves, but this one sounds delicious, too.

They had two kinds of granola available – Granola Lab and

Early Bird Granola – both of which would make a great breakfast to wake up to any morning.

Time to find some space in my fridge for these jars from D.P. Chutney Collective for some lazy summer meals.

These sauces remind me of the incredible dishes that I had at Saucey Sauce Co.‘s barbecue last summer.

These pickles from Brooklyn Brine Co. are perfect to go along with some of those summertime foods.

As are those from Sour Puss Pickles.

And don’t forget to include Tin Mustard on your list of condiments.

You could use a board from Brooklyn Slate, to display all of these goodies.

I really like these old-fashioned style hard candies from Brooklyn Hard Candy.

I was so tempted by these yummy-looking pralines by Sucre Mort –  for the moment sold exclusively at By Brooklyn.

This Pistachio Crack from Davis’ Famous’ looked amazing as well.

Oh, I so love these Stroopwafels from The Good Batch!  (They also carry some of her other products as well.)

Then, there’s the always incredible chocolate bars from Raaka.

Give yourself a treat and help out animals at the same time with Rescue Chocolate, created with Tumbador Chocolate.

Wonder how those might taste with a little extra sweetness from Spoonable Caramel drizzled on top.

Another snack option is one of my beach trip favorites: salt water taffy.  I’ll need to grab some of these from The Salty Road for my next trip to the ocean.

Or maybe I should grab a bag of Kings County Jerky Co. to take along with me instead.

Tuckfields Teas would be a perfect way to kick back after all this walking around and exploring.

The folks behind By Brooklyn have amassed a nice collection of some of the borough’s well-known food artisans.  It was wonderful to see some of the products that I enjoy keeping in my own kitchen or noshing on at the various markets that take place around the city all in one place.  I’ll definitely drop by again when I’m in the neighborhood again to discover what other Brooklyn treasures they have on display.

Buon appetito!

Eggs Cooked in Spicy Tomato Sauce

Last week, when I was working from home one day, I felt those familiar mid-day hunger twinges.  I’ve been trying to be very good about eating up whatever is I have on hand, so I did a little “fridge foraging” as I like to call it and came up with the ingredients to make Eggs Cooked in Spicy Tomato Sauce.  What was helpful for this little project was that I had a random selection of leftovers.  I really love leftovers and have never understood anyone who won’t eat them.  Some of my best creations have come from throwing together various bits of previous meals.  Of course, it did also help that this time around I had peppers and Tomato Sauce from my No-Knead Pizza Dough party, eggs (which I usually try to have on hand), and a piece of the incredibly delicious M’smen Bread from Hot Bread Kitchen.

Look what I found in my fridge

I became hooked on this flat, crepe-like bread when I tried it one day at the Union Square Greenmarket, where they have a stand a couple of days a week.  They also sell a version stuffed with things like ramps, onions, and/or cheese, which is what I’d picked up on a whim and had in my fridge, and it was the perfect “platter” for this meal.  That little plastic container in the front of the photo is the ringer for pulling this dish together.  A leftover tub of harissa from an expedition to a Turkish restaurant in my neighborhood.  Isn’t it amazing what you can find lurking on the shelves?  This simple dish, perfect for a quick lunch or dinner has some of my favorite flavor components: soft, buttery, doughy bread topped with a creamy egg surrounded by tangy-sweet, comforting tomato sauce and pepper with a bit of a kick and slow-release heat from the harissa.  I might even have to start planning to have leftovers on purpose so that I can make this again and again.

Eggs Cooked in Spicy Tomato Sauce

Prep Time: 30 minutes, if that

Serving Size: This is a recipe for 1 person, but can easily be expanded

Ingredients:

1 piece M’smen Bread (or flat bread)

1 tsp. Olive Oil

1/4 c. Marinated Red Peppers, drained and sliced

1/3 c. Easy Tomato Sauce

1/2 tsp. Harissa (or to taste)

1 Egg

Assembly:

M’smen ready for the oven

Heat oven to 200 degrees Fahrenheit.  Put bread on a tray and heat it up while putting together the rest of the dish.

Start with heating the oil

Pour olive oil into small, shallow pan and warm it up over low heat for about 30 seconds.

Red peppers into the pan

Put the marinated red peppers and any spices from the jar into the pan.  Warm up for 30 seconds.  The spices from the peppers and the tomato sauce will season this dish.

Tomato sauce into the pan

Pour the tomato sauce into the pan with the peppers and oil and stir to mix together.  Warm up the mixture for another 30 seconds.

Harissa into the pan

Add harissa to the tomatoes and peppers in the pan.  Stir it into the peppers and tomato sauce to incorporate it and let it cook for another 30 seconds.  The mixture should begin to have a fragrant, acidic and spicy aroma from the various ingredients.  I did not add any extra seasoning in this dish as every one of these three items was seasoned when it was prepared.  You can use your own judgement and personal tastes about that.

Egg in a bowl

Crack the egg into a bowl.  I find that, when adding an egg into the cooking pan, it is easier to have it in a small, shallow bowl rather than to try to crack it directing into the pan.  This is also a better method in the event of any errant bits of shell falling into the cracked egg as then you can fish it out before putting the egg into the cooking pan.

Egg into the pan

Create a well with the sauce, leave a space in the middle of the pan.  Gently pour the egg into the well, trying to get the yolk in the center of the pan inasmuch as is possible.  When I made this dish, this was an exception, as I almost never get the yolk in the center of the pan.  For some reason, it decided to cooperate with me for this posting project.

Egg cooked in the sauce

Cook the egg in the sauce for about 4-5 minutes over medium to low heat, until the egg white has set completely and the sauce has created a thick nest around it.  I like my yolks a bit firmer, so about 3 minutes into the process, I put a lid over the pan and left it for a minute to steam.  Then, I took the lid off the pan and let everything cook for about 30 seconds more.  Turn off the oven and remove the bread during the last few minutes while the egg and sauce are cooking.

Plating the M’smen

Place the bread on a plate for serving.  It should be glistening and completely warmed through.

All assembled and ready to eat

Spoon up the tomato sauce from the pan and place it in a ring around the edge of the bread.  Delicately lift up the cooked egg and place it in the center of the sauce ring.  If you are expanding this dish to make it for more people,  make sure to allow for enough sauce (about 1/4-1/3 cup) per person so that there is ample to create this nest around the egg.

Lunch is served

I think the presentation of this dish with its dramatic color contrasts and the exotic perfume from the tomato-pepper-harissa mix is enough to brighten anyone’s day.  Cutting into the egg yolk, part creamy, part runny, letting it hit the tart-hot sauce and sopping up all that flavor with the buttery, flaky bread is just a beautiful contrast of flavors and textures making your mouth very, very happy.  The bread really is a key to this dish with its layered texture.  With the m’smen stuffed with onions and cheese there’s an additional grassy and tangy dairy note in the dish, too, which made it a little extra special for a mid-day meal

Buon appetito!

Kitchen Witch Tip:

As with the instructions on How to poach an Egg, use the freshest possible eggs for this dish, preferably ones from a farmers’ market, as those are likely to be only a few days old.  You can see the results in the photos from how beautifully the yolk set up in the white with this egg.  (It is not a stunt egg, by the way.)  I used the fabulous ones from Millport Dairy, available at the Greenmarket.

BK Swappers 2nd Anniversary Swap

Do you swap?  I didn’t grow up with swap meets, so they are kind of a novelty to me.  Today was the second anniversary gathering of BK Swappers at Third Ward, an education and co-working space in Brooklyn.  I headed over there to check out what was going on and to hang out with some other great food folks.

Jackie Gordon

Chocolate-Sesame Bark

One highlight of the afternoon was the demos given by people sharing their expertise.  Jackie Gordon, aka The Singing Chef, gave a lesson on how to temper chocolate.  I didn’t get myself together today in time to make the lesson itself, but I managed to arrive to see the results, this delicious dark chocolate-sesame bark.  Why I didn’t end up trying it at the Chinese New Year’s Potluck, I’m not sure, but this time, I managed to snag a piece of it, savoring each deep, dark, nutty bite.

Emily Hanhan

Brown Rice Syrup Bourbon Brown Sugar & Plum Lemon Jam Marshmallows

Another very talented cook, Emily Hanhan of Nomnivorous, showed everyone how to make her Plum Lemon Jam Marshmallows.  I sampled her Bourbon Brown Sugar ones, which reminded me of one of my favorite bits to sneak off of the sticky buns my mother would make as a special treat for us.  I love the extra-crispy caramelized sugar pieces, and her marshmallows brought that taste back to me.  I think I need to make an appointment to fit in her next how-to class at Brooklyn Brainery.

Discussion with Liza De Guia of Food. curated

In addition to the demos, part of the day featured discussions by and with food artisans.  I missed the earlier talk about launching an independent food business with Granola Lab‘s Alex Croiser and Electric Blue Baking Co.‘s Anita Shepherd, but I did get there in time to hear Liza De Guia of Food. curated chat with – in the order seated in the photo above – Keavy Blueher (Kumquat Cupcakes), Liz Neves (Raganella), Ulla Kjarval (Spring Lake Farm), and Vicky Oh (Arirang Kimchi) about their work.  Liza’s mission is getting to know food producers and producing videos about their stories and their businesses.

What is wonderful about watching Liza’s videos is seeing the way that she captures the passion and artistry that these individuals put into their creations.  She herself said that she didn’t realize the impact that her stories would have on promoting these enterprises, but she’s heard from many of the folks she’s profiled that her work has helped bring to light all of their efforts and has helped new customers to find them and their products.  For Liza, it has also been about making new friends.  For her subjects, they say it has helped them to find each other, bringing together a strong community of people dedicated to developing small food-focused businesses so that we all get to eat better.

Kicking off the swap

Shortly after the panel ended, Jane Lerner, the co-host of BK Swappers, gave the assembled crowd a chance to check out what was swappable before starting the official part of the event.  Here’s some of the guidelines for how the swap was to go.  Everyone had labeled what they’d brought and had this bid card by their offering.

Smoked Paprika Cumin-Spiced Walnuts from Justcook NYC

A completed bid card looks something like this one for Arirang Kimchi

Here’s what the swapping looks like

I hadn’t come prepared to swap anything, so I didn’t participate, but I saw several incredible-sounding things, like caramel sauce from @spatulaqueen, cider, chutney, soaps, and soda bread.  Next time, I’m going to come more prepared with something delicious to exchange with my fellow food folks.  Thank you to BK Swappers for an informational and inspirational day and a chance to connect with some amazing people.

Buon appetito!