A New York Thanksgiving

November 21, 2011 § Leave a comment

Thanksgiving is right around the corner and for the first year ever, I am cooking for my family in New York City. Having already made two trips to Whole Foods with another planned to pick up the turkey, I *think* I’m in a pretty good Thanksgiving place prep-wise. The execution, of course, is yet to be seen.

Since I will only be cooking for my mother, sister and Rupert, I’ve tried to scale back on the quantity of dishes paring out those things we find somewhat superfluous to hone in on the big ticket items. During this process, I definitely did some nerdy thinking about optimizing utility, marginal returns, etc. putting my degree in economics to good use. Also taking into account tastes and preferences, I’ve strategically omitted some of the traditional thanksgiving dishes that somehow have never caught on in my family. Stuffing, sweet potatoes, cranberry sauce, pumpkin pie? No thanks. Call us weird but that’s just how it has always been. That being said, I didn’t want to forego some of Thanksigiving’s traditional flavors, so I’ve incorporated them here and there in the menu below:

Torrisi Turkey
Torrisi’s turkey sandwich definitely ranks among the best I’ve ever had, so I’m looking forward to seeing how well I can recreate the incredibly moist, flavorful meat at home. The breast is also a nice alternative to an entire turkey when only feeding four people.

Baked Gruyere Cheese Grits 
While grits on the dinner table may seem unconventional, to Southerns it should make perfect sense. Basically grits are just another carbohydrate that is conducive to adding obscene amounts of butter and cheese. What’s not to like?

Balsamic Brussels Sprouts
My favorite brussels spouts of all time. I have my friend Lauren to thank for introducing me to this recipe.

Sweet Potato Biscuits
While I love a good s’more and realize this may be an incendiary statement, I believe marshmallows have no place on the dinner table. Hence, in place of sweet potato casserole, I’ve snuck the tubers into biscuits instead.

Cranberry Upside Down Cake
I made this cake for Christmas this year, and as I’ve come to expect from Smitten Kitchen, it was incredible. The perfect balance of rich and tart and deceivingly elegant for how easy it is to make.

And there you have it. Expect a full report next week! In the meantime, a Happy Thanksgiving to all!


A Few New Favorites

June 22, 2011 § Leave a comment

After a break from blogging, I feel like there is much to catch up on, but I’ll start with a few local finds that have wowed me recently. Then it’s on to Montreal eats (of which there were A LOT) and a trip to Miami, which seemed to be a teeming with New York transplants. As long as that involves Shake Shack, however, I’m not one to complain.

Epicerie Boulud

In New York, my new favorite is definitely Epicerie Boulud, Chef Daniel’s new-ish market of fresh baked items, sandwiches, salads, coffees, gourmet products, and really everything else on could wish for. During a busy day of move-realted errands, we quickly dropped by the dangerously close shop on Broadway and 64th for lunch. I lured Rupert with the promise of gourmet hot dogs, which lived up to his high standards. I opted for the Rocket Salad which was a well-balanced blend of arugula, jamon serrano, machego, marcona almonds, roasted red peppers, cherry tomatoes, raisins, olives and sherry vinagrette. I’m an admittedly picky salad person, and this one was right up my alley. They also have some powerful iced coffee, perfect for getting a jump start on Saturday morning.

When exploring the website while writing this post, I just discovered the breakfast menu as well as an oyster and wine bar menu, which may actually allow me to sandwich my day sometime soon around two visits. I’ve also yet to dive into the baked items and gelato, but I can assure you it’s only a matter of days. The words chocolate ginger pound cake alone cause me to ponder when I can next get there.

The store is replete with great options for eating there (inside standing at bar tables or outside at a few tables adjacent to Bar Boulud) or taking to Central Park. They also have an incredible selection of cheese as well as uncooked sausages, terrines, etc that one could easily take home for a meal.

What is more, the hot dog and salad respectively were around $6.50 and $8.50, which in my book is quite a bargain in NYC, home of the $10-12 make-your-own salad. Based on my salad savings, I hope to make it around the corner sometime down the road to try Boulud Sud, the newest fine-dining restaurant from Chef Daniel.

Aroma Kitchen & Wine Bar

I’ve known about Aroma’s wonderful Aperitivo deals for several years, but only last weekend did I discover their incredible cellar-level private rooms. We celebrated a friend’s birthday with a fabulous dinner where the beet appetizer (warm beets, gorgonzola, fig jam, walnuts, warm beet dressing) and buccatini (“cacio, pepe e uovo”, “aroma” pancetta) really stole the show. For the value, I would say Aroma is high on my list of fantastic group dining options. The wine list as well is well-curated and offers something for every price level. If for nothing else, it is well worth it to see what may be New York’s smallest restaurant restroom tucked away through the downstairs kitchen.


When ordering lunch for delivery in Midtown, I’ve narrowed my favorites down to a select bunch. ‘wichcraft remains one of my standbys, especially for the tomato soup and grilled cheese in colder months. For several years, I found myself wishing they would introduce a few new sandwiches, just to mix things up a bit, and it seems that lately they have done just that. On the most recent round of new summer sandwich offerings, I have fallen for the asparagus and pea frittata sandwich. Served all day, this would be a perfect indulgent breakfast, but I prefer it as a hearty lunch sandwich. The frittata was perfectly cooked and still very soft even upon delivery and the cheddar and rustic ciabatta are the perfect envelope for it. Now I just have to wait for their incredible gazpacho to make its summer debut and of course make it to Bryant Park every now and then for an ice cream’wich!




Pizza Philosophy

October 23, 2010 § 2 Comments

Throwing together a quick pizza for dinner is such an appealing option these days that I’d say it happens every other week in my apartment. Given the frequency and the myriad permutations of orthodox and unorthodox ingredients, the sky really is the limit. I usually start by selecting an ingredient or two that really strike my fancy, thinking of classic flavor profiles/combinations using those and other ingredients, selecting the most fitting cheese(s) and then reconfirming my concoction will actually hypothetically taste good when served in pizza form.

This was certainly the process I went through this weekend when creating a pizza plan at whole foods. I had recently heard a friend rave about a brie and fig flatbread they created and it inspired me to integrate fruit. Pears are definitely in abundance this time of year and one of my favorite combos is a pear, arugula and prosciutto salad. With this in mind, I grabbed a blend of grated fontina, pecorino and parmesan planned to top things off with some balsamic reudction. On another tip from my friend, I grabbed some frozen dough at Whole Foods (who knew this existed in the freezer section!?) and was on my way.

Last night, I began assembling my pizza (for three days I begrudgingly but patiently waited for my rock hard pears to ripen) and in my produce drawer noticed a lone leek leftover from some cauliflower soup. After debating for several moments if a leek would work on this particular pizza, I realized leeks, like pancetta, usually make everything more tasty. I sliced my leek into thin rings and sautéed them in olive oil until slightly caramelized and softened. About 15 minutes later, it was judgement time. The verdict: leeks took the pizza over the top and nicely balanced the sweetness of the pear. I will certainly be keeping these in mind for future pizza creations…I’m thinking some leeky variation on tarte flambee pizza might be in my near future…

Pear, Prosciutto & Arugula Pizza (with Leeks!)

1 pound pizza dough
1 leek
1.5 cups grated cheese (I used a mixture of fontina, pecorino and parmesan but mozzarella would also do nicely)
1 ripe Bartlett pear, thinly sliced
4-5 slices prosciutto, torn into thin strips
2 handfuls of arugula
Balsamic reduction or syrup
Salt & freshly ground pepper
Olive oil
Red pepper flakes

1. Preheat oven to 425. Slice the light green and white part of the leek into ½-inch coins. Separate the interior rings. Over medium high heat, sauté the leek in a bit of olive oil until caramelized and softened. Season with salt and pepper. Set aside.
2. Roll out pizza dough onto a non-stick baking sheet or pizza peel if you have one. Top with cheese, sliced pear and sautéed leeks. Bake for about 15 minutes, remove from oven. Top with prosciutto and bake another 3-5 minutes more.
3. Toss arugula with salt, pepper, and balsamic reduction to taste. Sprinkle with red pepper flakes if desired. Slice and serve!

Impromptu Panini

September 20, 2010 § Leave a comment

One night this weekend upon decided to stay in, I surveyed my fridge in hopes of piecing together a passable dinner with its contents. A zucchini and yellow squash from the greenmarket along with a bit of leftover pancetta and a rather absurd assortment of cheese (does having no fewer than SIX types of cheese in one’s fridge indicate a problem?) inspired me to offer up pasta as an option, but Rupert raised the bar and suggested I work them into a panini. A lover of all grilled/toasted/pressed breads and the proud owner of a new grill pan, I quickly accepted the challenge! The results were surprisingly delicious and reinforced my recent theory that pancetta makes everything taste better. While quantities were all estimated, here is the basic recipe concept:

Summer Squash and Pancetta Panini

4 slices ciabatta or sourdough bread
1/4 cup diced pancetta
1 yellow squash, thinly sliced on a mandoline
1 zucchini, thinly sliced on a mandoline
1 cup assorted grated cheeses (fontina, mozzerella and pecorino romano)
olive oil
coarse salt and freshly grated pepper

1. Saute pancetta over medium high heat until crispy. Remove from pan and set aside while leaving drippings in pan. Over medium-high heat, saute squash and zuchinni in pancetta drippings with a touch of olive oil if needed until slightly browned, soft and cooked through. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

2. Sprinkle cheeses and pancetta on the bottom slices of bread and top with a liberal amount of squash and zucchini and the remaining slices of bread. (If I had any basil on hand, I would have added a few leaves of that as well). Drizzle both sides of bread lightly with olive oil. Grill the panini in a grill pan or panini press until cheese is melted (I prefer mine on the charred side, but feel free to adjust cooking time to your preferred grill mark degree). Cut in half and serve!

We also opened a bottle of 2007 Corazon rose from Corison Winery that we purchased on our drive through Napa this summer.  We only shipped 6 bottles back (and tucked a few more into our suitcases) from all of our wine country jaunt, and we loved this one particularly because we had never come across another Cabernet Sauvignon rose.  With fall almost officially upon us, we didn’t want to miss the opportunity to enjoy this bottle.

It was the perfect meal for a relaxing night in!

Breakfast Pizza Sans Delivery Charge

September 13, 2010 § Leave a comment

For brunch this morning, we decided to give Pulino’s new delivery service a try. Their breakfast and sweet pizzas are hard to beat, and we are not the only ones among our friends who have visited multiple weekends in a row! Much to our dismay, my apartment just 10 blocks away proved too far for their free delivery range. For a $20 fee, they could still deliver, but when ordering only $25 worth of food we couldn’t quite justify that kind of expense (although it was quite tempting!).

Instead, I set out to replicate one of our favorite breakfast pizzas given the ingredients I had on hand. Luckily a recent trip to the new Trader Joe’s in Chelsea had my fridge well-stokced with pizza doug, pancetta and several cheese I had planned to use later in the week. While we frequently make pizzas to delicious results, the cracking and baking off the eggs on top added a new level of dificulty or unknown to this version. While my end product’s yolks were slightly more cooked that I would have preferred, for a first try, it was quite a success. See photos and recipe below.

Four Cheese & Pancetta Breakfast Pizza

1 lb pizza dough (Trader Joe’s works surprisingly well)

1/3 cup pancetta, diced

1 small shallot, finely diced

2 cups grated cheeses (I used an assortment of mozzarella, fontina, parmesan & gruyere)

3 – 4 eggs (at room temperature)

coarse salt & freshly ground pepper

red pepper flakes

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Saute pancetta and shallots until pancetta is crisp and shallots are soft, about 6-8 minutes over medium heat. Drain excess oil and set aside.

Roll dough onto a baking sheet lined with parchment (I find an empty wine bottle serves as a rolling pin in a pinch). Sprinkle dough with cheese and pancetta & shallot mixture. Bake for 12-15 minutes and remove from oven.

Carefully crack eggs over the top of the pizza making sure they don’t run off the sides. I found making a small well by denting the dough with the back of a spoon worked well. Sprinkle with salt pepper, and and red pepper flakes. Return pizza (carefully) to oven and bake for approximately 8-10 minutes more, checking periodically for egg yolk firmness. Remove pizza from oven, cut and serve.

Accompanied by a latte that Rupert went out to procure for my efforts, this was a perfect weekend brunch. For those in New York, a trip to Pulino’s for brunch comes highly recommended. The ottima and patate pizzas are not to be missed. But I must warn you that it can become an addictive habit!

Little Owl Meatballs

August 27, 2010 § Leave a comment

Among the smattering of food blogs I follow, I have to say Smitten Kitchen and Amateur Gourmet definitely compete for most inspiring in terms of what recipes I dare to take on in a tiny East Village kitchen. When planning meals for this week, I came across Deb from Smitten Kitchen’s recipe for Joey Campanaro’s meatball sliders tucked away in the archives.

The quaint yet impressive restaurant in the West Village is one of the hardest reservations to score in New York, but it is well worth the effort just to try the sliders. I hear they are on the menu at Kenmare as well, but I’m not sure it would be quite the same quintessential New York dining experience. The meal I had there several months ago was spectacular from beginning to end. While the meatballs were incredible, none of the other food paled in comparison.

It was had my work set out for me to come close to duplicating their goodness, but Deb’s recipe did not disappoint. I took a few (err…many) liberties and shortcuts, omitting the veal, serving them sub style on a brioche hot dogs bun from Fresh Direct and baking the meatballs in the oven, but nonetheless they were fantastic. The meatballs were flavorful and juicy, just as remembered them and the homemade sauce was well worth the effort of excavating my mini Cuisinart from the tip-top cabinet. Many thanks to my sous chef who was also patient enough to have his sub photographed ad nauseam before a decent shot was captured and he was allowed to dig in. My digital camera doesn’t do it justice, but here are the results:

Note: The homemade hot dog buns from Fresh Direct were out of this world, especially when toasted. The aforementioned Amateur Gourmet’s recent hot dog bun french toast recipe may play a leading role in my weekend! As for the rest of the weekend, we have some exciting dinner plans for tomorrow evening and I hope there is cake baking in my near future as well. Expect a full report on Monday!

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