Friday, December 30, 2011

Tuna Ceviche

I'm forsaking the local and seasonal mission of this blog, but it's cold and dreary here in New Hampshire, and given that its my first post in quite some time, I wanted to post something bright and cheery. Besides, spring is only three months away...

Tuna Ceviche
Serves 2

  • 1/2 lb tuna fillet, sliced against the grain in 1/4-inch slices
  • juice of 3 limes
  • 1/2 red onion, thinly sliced
  • 1/2 avocado, diced
  • 2 tbsp cilantro, minced
  • sea salt, to taste
  • tortilla chips
  1. Put the tuna in the freezer for 15 minutes so that it becomes firm (so that it can be easily diced). 
  2. Dice the tuna into 1/4-inch cubes and add to a medium bowl.
  3. Add the lime juice and onion to the bowl with the tuna and stir the ingredients to ensure that each piece of tuna is covered with the marinade. Cover and refrigerate for an hour, stirring every 20 minutes.
  4. Remove the tuna from the refrigerator and stir in the avocado, cilantro, and sea salt. Serve the tuna on a bed of tortilla chips.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Saveur's Second Annual Summer BBQ in NYC - June 27, 2011

I had the good fortune of getting invited to Saveur's Summer BBQ last week at The Frying Pan in NYC.  The weather was perfect for being boatside on the Hudson enjoying a bounty of grilled meats from some of New York's top toques and refreshing drinks courtesy of Ommegang Brewery and Grey Goose Vodka.

Things started out favorably with glazed pork belly sandwiches from Marc Murphy of Landmarc and Ditch Plains.

The lamb burger with basil mayonnaise from Sean Rembold of Marlow & Sons was a highlight for me.

 No BBQ is complete without some grilled corn. Hill Country did a very nice job with theirs.

While grilled sausages are also a summer BBQ mainstay, Missy Robbins of A Voce upped it a notch with her grilled lamb sausages. These reminded me to add A Voce to my list of restaurants I would like to try.

Geoffrey Zakarian served up a pretty standard plate of saucy ribs from his new restaurant, The National.  While the ribs were low on the excitement spectrum, they were still pretty high on the taste spectrum.

John DeLucie's (The Lion, Waverly Inn)  lamb ribs were a bit too fatty for me, but it may have just been that I was too full by the time I got to them.

Unfortunately, I was much too full before I spotted Marco Canora's smoked lamb ribs.  I am sad that I did not try one of my favorite chefs' dishes, especially one that looked this good.

Marcus Samuelsson and his crew from Red Rooster were there cooking a fabulous blackened catfish with fried caper slaw, a dish I was pleased to have once again after enjoying it only a week ago at his restaurant.  I have been told by some that the photo of Chef Samuellson is equally satisfying as his catfish.

Alex Guarnaschelli served some nicely cooked—but too sweet for me—BBQ shrimp.

Dan Kluger of ABC Kitchen prepared some massive brisket sandwiches topped with potato chips.  Although one of these guys made me too full for much of anything else, it was a lot of a very good thing.

If only food served on boats could always be this good!  Kudos to Saveur for an outstanding event.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Big Apple BBQ Block Party - Day 2 - June 12, 2011

This weekend marked that most wonderful time of the year in NYC with the Big Apple BBQ Block Party, a 2-day meatathon in Madison Square Park featuring some of the country's top pitmasters.  This year's festival was as mouthwatering—and as crowded—as ever.  I attended the second day of the event, and had the pleasure of stuffing my gullet with what in my not so humble opinion was the cream of the crop of the event.

Pitmaster Ed Mitchell of Wilson, NC was in town for the event once again, serving his divine pulled pork sandwiches (with cracklin'!) and—new for this year—smoked turkey.

To get my rib fix, I went visited tent for Memphis' 17th Street Bar & Grill.  

 The Salt Lick from Driftwood, Texas, offered up brisket and sausage that were well worth the wait in line.

As it does every year, Eleven Madison Park offered Mint Juleps, glasses of bourbon, and good music.

Pitmaster Bob Lilly of Big Bob Gibson's in Decatur, Alabama, smoked some amazing pork butts.  The line to the Big Bob stand was by far the longest of any at the festival, but I'm glad I waited it out.

Finally, Jim 'N' Nick's is always a go-to for some excellent smoked sausages.

And with that, I can't wait until Big Apple BBQ Block Party 2012!

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Springtime at Union Square Greenmarket

Ramps, asparagus, and fresh flowers.  What more can you ask for? And spring only gets better from here on out.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Mako with Fennel and Cherry Tomato Sauce

In just a few month, I will be a broke student, so I have started to be a bit more thrifty when it comes to my food purchases.  The other day, I went to the fishmonger looking for a firm, meaty fish that I could serve with a sauce I intended to make with some fennel and cherry tomatoes I had on hand.  Swordfish seemed like the obvious choice, but when I saw mako, which the fishmonger's sign described as "similar to swordfish," for half the price, the budget-conscious half of my brain told me to give the shark a try.  While I'm not completely sold on mako—the texture of the meat is not quite as firm as that of swordfish nor is it as flavorful—the bright tomato and fennel sauce more than made up for it and made me thankful that I still had a few extra dollars in my pocket.

Mako with Fennel and Cherry Tomato Sauce
Serves 2

  • 1/4 cup plus 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 small yellow onion, diced
  • 1/2 fennel bulb, cored and diced
  • 1/2 tsp fennel seeds, toasted
  • 2 tbsp red wine vinegar
  • 1/2 pint cherry tomatoes, stemmed
  • 2 6 oz. mako or swordfish fillets
  • salt and pepper
  1. Preheat the oven to 375F.
  2. Heat the olive oil in a medium saucepan over moderate heat. 
  3. Add the onion, fennel, and fennel seeds to the saucepan and season with salt.  Cook until the onion and fennel soften, about 5 minutes. 
  4. Pour the vinegar into the saucepan and bring it to a boil.  Let the vinegar evaporate completely, about 1 minute. 
  5. Reduce the heat to medium-low and add the tomatoes to the saucepan.  Cook, stirring frequently, until the tomatoes burst, 3 to 5 minutes.  Taste the sauce for seasoning and keep warm over low heat while you cook the fish.
  6. Season the fish with salt and pepper.
  7. Heat 2 tbsp of olive oil in a medium skillet over medium-high heat.  Add the fish and cook until they are golden on one side, 1 to 2 minutes.  Flip and cook until golden on the other side, 1 to 2 minutes.
  8. Put the skillet in the oven and cook until the fish is just cooked through, about 4 minutes.  Do not overcook the fish.
  9. Serve the fish immediately, topped with a generous amount of the fennel and tomato sauce.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Bucatini with Pancetta, Fava Beans, and Tomato Sauce

Bucatini is my favorite dried pasta.  Nice and thick—about twice as thick as spaghetti—,it has a wonderful texture that allows a sauce coat each tube perfectly. Although bucatini can be difficult to track down, I was fortunate enough to spot some at Eataly.  The traditional method of serving the pasta i is all'Amatriciana, and I decided to go a similar route with the tomato sauce and pancetta, but it being the beginning of spring after a long, harsh winter, I couldn't resist tossing in some blanched fava beans for good measure.  The beans added wonderful texture and color to the buttery tomato sauce and al dente pasta.

Bucatini with Pancetta, Fava Beans, and Tomato Sauce
Serves 4

  • 2 lbs fava beans, shelled
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1/4 lb pancetta, diced 
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 cup simple tomato sauce (I used Marcella Hazan's)
  • 1/4 tsp red pepper flakes
  • 1 lb bucatini
  • grated Pecorino Romano cheese, for serving
  1. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil.  Add the fava beans and let cook for 1 to 2 minutes.  Remove the fava beans with a slotted spoon and put them in a bowl of ice water.  Once cool, peel off the skins of the beans and set aside.  Keep the water at a boil.
  2. Add the bucatini to the boiling water and cook for one minute less than the package suggests. 
  3. While the bucatini boils, heat the olive oil in a saute pan over medium heat.  Add the pancetta and cook until it begins to crisp, about 3 minutes.  Add the garlic and red pepper flakes and let it cook until it is fragrant, about one minute.  Add the tomato sauce to the pan and bring to a simmer.  Stir in the fava beans and taste for seasoning. 
  4. Drain the pasta and stir it into the simmering sauce.  Let the pasta and sauce cook for another minute, stirring to ensure that the pasta strands are coated by the sauce.
  5. Serve the pasta in bowls, topped with grated Pecorino Romano cheese.  

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Scallops with Fava Beans, Dandelion Greens, Ramps, and Pancetta

 This dish hardly requires a recipe, as it consists of little more than the ingredients listed in the title.  That's what I love about spring produce; it is so delicious on its own that gussying it up with any other ingredients usually does more harm than good.  In this case, I've paired seared jumbo sea scallops with blanched fava beans and dandelion greens, ramps, and crispy pancetta that I have sauteed in a bit of olive oil.  A drizzle of sherry vinegar, a few cracks of salt and pepper, and you have spring on a plate.

Scallops with Fava Beans, Dandelion Greens, Ramps, and Pancetta
Serves 2

  • 1 lb. fava beans, shelled
  • 2 tbsp
  • 1/4 lb. piece of pancetta, diced
  • 1 bunch of ramps, cleaned, trimmed and cut into 1/4-inch pieces
  • 1 bunch of dandelion greens, cleaned and trimmed
  • 8 large sea scallops
  • salt
  • pepper
  • 1 tbsp butter
  • Sherry vinegar
  1. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil.  Add the shelled fava beans to the water and boil for 2 minutes.  Immediately drain the favas and add them to a bowl of ice water to cool.  Once cooled, peel each fava and place the beans in a bowl.
  2. Heat a tablespoon of olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat.  Add the pancetta and cook, stirring occasionally, until the fat renders and the pancetta begins to crisp.  Add the ramps and cook until some of the pieces begin to brown.  Add the dandelion greens and cook until they begin to wilt.  Season with salt and pepper and drizzle a bit of Sherry vinegar over the greens. 
  3. Meanwhile, as the dandelion pancetta cooks, prepare the scallops.  Pat them dry with a paper towel and season them with salt and pepper.  Heat a tablespoon each of olive oil and butter in a large skillet over high heat.  Add the scallops and cook, undisturbed, until they are well-browned on one side, about 2 to 3 minutes.  Flip the scallops and cook on the other side until it is well-browned, another 2 to 3 minutes.  Set the scallops aside on a plate.
  4. To plate the dish, divide the ramps and dandelion greens among two plates.  Quickly heat the fava beans in one of the skillets just until they are hot and surround the greens with the beans.  Top the greens with the scallops.  Serve immediately.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Ricotta Gnocchi

I made gnocchi once before, and while they weren't bad for a first attempt, they were not the light and fluffy pillows of pasta that I crave when I think about gnocchi.  Nearly two years later (time sure does fly, doesn't it!), I have made another attempt at gnocchi, and I think I finally figured it out this time around.  The key is to have extremely delicate touch when handling the dough.  As someone who has never been known for having a light touch—watch me do ten layups on a basketball hoop you'll see what I mean—I found this to be easier said than done. But just remind yourself every step of the way to have gentle hands, combining the ingredients of the dough just enough and rolling the dough as delicately as possible, and you will be well on your way to perfect gnocchi.  If my clumsy hands can do it, great gnocchi is certainly within anyone's reach.

Ricotta Gnocchi
Adapted from A16: Food + Wine
Serves 4

  • 2 cups fresh sheep milk ricotta cheese
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 3/4 tsp salt
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 1 egg, lightly beaten
  • 1 cup "00" pasta flour or all-purpose flour, plus more as needed
  • 1/2 cup semolina flour
  1. In a large bowl, combine the ricotta, olive oil, and 3/4 tsp salt.  Taste the mixture for seasoning and add more salt if necessary.  It should be fairly salty since the flour will even out the salt level.  
  2. Stir the ricotta mixture until it is smooth in appearance, with no large curds visible.
  3. Stir in the egg yolk and half of the beaten egg and stir until just combined.
  4. Find a large, clean work surface and coat it with 1/2 a cup of the "00" pasta flour.  Spread the ricotta mixture on top of the flour, and top it with the remaining 1/2 cup of "00" pasta flour.
  5. Using your hands, gently fold the flour onto the ricotta mixture.  Continue to do so just until the dough comes together.  The dough should be slightly sticky, but should not stick to your fingers.  If it is too sticky, fold in a bit more flour.  
  6. Lightly dust a large cutting board or other large work surface with semolina flour.  
  7. Divide the gnocchi dough into 6 pieces.
  8. Take one piece of the gnocchi dough and, using a very gentle touch, roll it in the semolina flour until it forms a long long about a 1/2 inch in diameter.  Repeat with the remaining pieces of dough.
  9. Using a sharp knife or pizza cutter, cut each log of dough into 1-inch pieces.  At this point, the gnocchi can be cooked or frozen for a later use.
  10. To cook the gnocchi, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil.  Add the gnocchi and wait for the pasta to float in the water, about two minutes; let the gnocchi cook for an additional minute after they float.  Using a mesh strainer, remove the gnocchi from pot.  Serve immediately with the sauce of your choice.  Pesto or a simple tomato sauce work particularly well.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

The Final Countdown begins with Pho

 I recently received the exciting news that I will be leaving New York in six months to become a full-time student for the next two years in a place that is a very far cry from New York.  While I am ecstatic to begin this new chapter in my life, I am going to be sad to leave behind all the people, places, and activities that have made my five years in New York so special, so like a person who's been told he has six months to live (and for me, the thought of enduring two years of cafeteria food and microwave dinners feels a bit like that), I have created a list of things to do before I leave this great city.  While my list includes a lot of special, only in New York activities (picnic in Central Park, run around the island of Manhattan), it also includes a category of items that most New Yorkers would not dare do: "Challenging Foods to Cook!"  In six months, I'll not only to be kitchen-less, but I'll also have limited time to do much cooking, so I have decided to try to make an effort all those foods that I have always wanted to make, but never made the time or the effort to cook.

First up on my cooking list was pho, the Vietnamese soup.  After making it, I realized that making pho is not at all the challenge I assumed it would be, although after about four hours of preparing it plus a couple more hours wandering the streets of Chinatown in search of the right ingredients, a $5 bowl at a pho joint seems like an even better deal.  I made pho bo, or beef pho, using thin slices of cooked brisket and raw sirloin, but the technique for pho ga (chicken pho) is fairly similar.

The first step to a great pho is to char the skins of the onions and ginger that go into the broth.  If you don't have a hood or a well-ventilated kitchen, it's best to do this step under a broiler or outside on a grill.  If you do, or you don't like me, but know you will be moving out of your apartment in six months, you can roast the vegetables over an open flame.  You want to char the ginger and onions completely, about 15 minutes, turning them frequently as they roast.  Once they are done, let them cool down.  Rinse the vegetables under cool water, peeling off the charred skins.

The central component of pho broth is, of course, the beef bones.  I used about 5 pounds of 2-inch thick shin bones. The first thing you'll want to do is to boil the bones in water for a few minutes, which will remove some of the impurities from the bones, allowing for a clearer broth.  Once boiled, drain the bones.

To make the broth, you combine the beef bones, the onions and ginger, a cinnamon stick, a spoonful each of cloves, star anise, sugar, and salt, a generous pour of fish sauce, and thick strips of brisket with six quarts of water.  Allow this mixture to simmer for an hour and a half.  Then, remove the brisket and continue simmering the broth for another hour and a half.  Drain the broth through a fine mesh sieve and refrigerate it overnight so that the fat solidifies.  The following day, remove the fat from the broth.

The day that you plan to serve the pho, prepare all of the condiments and set them on the table.  Lime juice, Thai basil, mint, blanched bean sprouts, Sriracha sauce, and hoisin are all go nicely with pho.

Once the broth is ready, prepare the bowls: boiled rice noodles, scallions, cilantro, thinly slice onions, thinly sliced cooked brisket, and thinly sliced raw sirloin.  Then pour the hot broth on top of it all.  It's perfection in a bowl.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Cavatelli with Sausage & Browned Sage Butter

 As you may have noticed from the lack of posts on this blog the last few weeks, I have been very busy of late.  When I don't have time to cook, I usually fall into a boring routine of eating leftovers and takeout meals, but I do keep a few super simple recipes up my sleeve that take so little time and make such use of pantry and freezer staples that I have little excuse not to cook when pressed for time.  This pasta dish falls right into that category: store-bought fresh cavatelli (okay, maybe that's not such a pantry staple) tossed in a sausage and sage butter sauce.  The recipe, adapted from The Frankies Spuntino Kitchen Companion & Cooking Manual, which has quickly become a favorite of mine for simple recipes like this one, takes less than 30 minutes to prepare and you'd never know it because it's so full of flavor. 

Cavatelli Sausage & Browned Sage Butter
Adapted from The Frankies Spuntino Kitchen Companion & Cooking Manual

Serves 4

  • 1 lb. hot Italian sausage links
  • 7 tablespoons butter
  • 10 sage leaves
  • pepper, to taste
  • 1 lb. fresh cavatelli
  • 1 cup grated Pecorino Romano cheese
  • 1/2 cup parsley leaves, finely chopped
  1. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil.
  2. Meanwhile, place the sausages in a large saute pan.  Fill the pan with enough water to come half way up the sausage links.  Heat the pan over medium heat and cook for 10 minutes.  Turn the sausages and cook on the other side for 5 minutes. Remove the sausages from the pan and slice into 1/2 inch slices.  Set the sausage aside.
  3. Melt 1 tablespoon of the butter over medium-high heat in a clean saute pan.  Add the sausage slices and let them cook, undisturbed, until they are well browned on one side, 3 to 4 minutes.  Flip the sausage slices and brown the other side, another 2 to 3 minutes.  Remove the sausage slices with a slotted spoon and place them on a paper towel-lined plate.  
  4. Return the pan to the burner and add the remaining 6 tablespoons of butter, pepper, and sage leaves to the pan.  Stir the butter with a wooden spoon, scraping the bottom of the pan to dislodge any brown bits.  Let cook until it is well browned, about 5 minutes.
  5. Meanwhile, while the butter sauce is browning, place the cavatelli into the boiling water and cook until al dente.
  6. Drain the pasta and add it to the butter.  Stir in the sausage and Pecorino Romano cheese and serve immediately, topping each serving with a pinch of the chopped parsley.


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