Thursday, September 30, 2010

wild mushroom gnocchi

Sadly, this poorly lit photo doesn't even begin to serve this dish justice. Andrew Carmellini's wild mushroom gnocchi is the sexiest, most sinfully delicious dish I have ever--EVER--made. My heart just started to beat faster just thinking about taking another bite. Texturally, this gnocchi is straight up naughty.

And then a drizzle of white truffle oil happened.

And I had to quickly grab a chilled bottle of wine and press it against the back of my neck while holding on to the counter; knees ready to give out at any moment. My face and chest, visibly flushed. I was having a moment with this gnocchi.

I had about fifteen moments with this gnocchi last night.

Make this for someone you love. And choose carefully, my friends. Because after this dish is served, your dinner guest will be yours. For life.

Recipe courtesy of Andrew Carmellini via Food & Wine

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 pounds mixed wild mushrooms, stemmed if necessary and thickly sliced (10 cups)
2 shallots, minced
1/4 dry vermouth (I used a splash of dry white wine)
3/4 cup chicken stock or low-sodium broth
1/2 cup heavy cream
1 teaspoon chopped thyme
salt and freshly ground pepper
2 pounds fresh or frozen prepared gnocchi
6 tablespoons freshly grated Parmesan cheese
1 teaspoon white truffle oil (optional but strongly encouraged)

Preheat the broiler. In a large oven-proof skillet, heat the olive oil with the butter. Add the mushrooms and shallots and cook over high heat, stirring occasionally, until browned, 12 minutes. Add the vermouth and cook until evaporated. Add the stock, cream and thyme, season with salt and pepper; bring to a boil.

Meanwhile, in a large pot of boiling salted water, cook the gnocchi until they float to the surface, about 3 minutes. Drain well. Add the gnocchi to the mushrooms and simmer, stirring, for 1 minute. Stir in 1/4 cup of the Parmesan and sprinkle the remaining 2 tablespoons of Parmesan on top.

Broil the gnocchi 6 inches from the heat for 2 to 3 minutes, until golden and bubbling. Drizzle with truffle oil and serve.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

rocco dispirito's whole wheat spaghetti carbonara

In an effort to get his health back on track while training for a triathlon, Rocco DiSpirito set out to re-vamp his favorite gourmand dishes by seriously cutting the fat and calories, without sacrificing an ounce of flavor. Enter his cookbook, Now Eat This. No easy task, of this I am sure. But somehow Rocco seems to have accomplished this by using a few "magical" secret ingredients like replacing butter and cream with Greek yogurt and subbing whole wheat pasta in for regular. Whether you see them as secret ingredients or common sense (I'm leaning towards the latter), is entirely subjective, but I will commend him on his efforts. Because the other night, I gave his Whole Wheat Spaghetti Carbonara a shot.

To lighten this dish up (the original version has over 51g of fat, Rocco's has 7g!), he uses evaporated skim milk and "real" bacon bits--two ingredients that not only have I never even thought about purchasing but ones I looked at quite skeptically. Alright, skeptically? I was nearly horrified. Bacon bits in a jar? Evaporated-wha? And while I do trust Rocco (hello, Top Chef judge), I couldn't commit to the mysterious jarred bacon bits. Instead, I opted for turkey bacon. Another first time purchase for me that brought me great excitement. Arguably too much excitement. And once cooked, great joy. That turkey bacon has found a new cozy home inside my freezer.

So you sauté a thinly sliced onion, you add in a whole bunch of garlic, the crumbled bacon, the cooked al denté whole wheat spaghetti, and then you shut off the heat. In goes a combination of two egg yolks whisked into the evaporated skim milk and you toss, toss, toss. With vigor! And then you sprinkle in a healthy handful of grated parmesan cheese and you're done. Yup. You're done. I couldn't help but top mine with some chopped flat leaf parsley (because that's just what I do) and then I couldn't wait to dive in with my fork. I was hovering over that pan like a crazed woman who hadn't seen food in days.

It looked creamy. Luxurious. Silky and sensual. Glossy. And as for the taste? Rocco, my man, it's pretty damn good.

My only complaint is that perhaps carbonara is not the best recipe to be matched up with whole wheat spaghetti. The nuttiness of the whole grain pasta was competing with the delicate flavors of the sauce. And so next time (and there will be a next time), I'm going to give it a whirl with some regular spaghetti. Or better yet, some unruly bucatini.

And no one, and I mean no one, will ever know the difference.

For Rocco's recipe click here.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

austrian winemakers tasting at blaue gans

On Monday night, a group of wine bloggers gathered at Blaue Gans in Tribeca to have a meet and greet with a handful of Austrian Winemakers. And, of course, to taste our way through their wines. It was an evening (unintentionally) devoted to Gruner Veltliner--a varietal of which we were able to experience its full spectrum. A beautifully diverse and eye-opening representation of what Austria can do. There's no pigeon-holing to be had here.

Szigeti Sparkling Gruner Veltliner: Super fine bubbles that coat your mouth entirely, crisp green apple, white pepper spiciness on the finish. Have a bottle of this at home and look forward to popping and enjoying its vibrancy again.

2009 Weingut Stadt Krems Gruner Veltliner Kremstal: Fresh dill on the nose mixed with wet stone. Razor sharp acidity balanced by juiciness. Great minerality presence. This is Gruner Veltliner at its finest.

2009 Loimer Gruner Veltliner: Golden delicious apple with lemon zest. Clean nose. Some ginger ale aspects to it. This is the kind of Gruner that could be a game changer for conservative white wine drinkers. Undeniable delicious factor. Sweetness for sure, but nicely balanced. The acidity comes across as a subtle frissante quality. Beautiful transition white into fall. Evokes memories of apple picking season.

2007 Prager Gruner Veltliner: Almond butter, apple sauce, and golden raisins on the nose. But yet again, shows amazing balance on the palate. Strikingly sweet aromas but fresh, and acidic in the mouth.
2008 Blaufrankisch: Cranberry, brown sugar, and raspberry cobbler on the nose. Light but vibrant on the palate. Subtle black pepper notes but no lingering spice. There was a flavor on the finish that tasted like the striking of a match which I found quite intriguing.

weekend brunch party

Confession: I can't poach an egg.

Ehh, I guess that's not entirely true. But it's an art I have yet to master because every time I dare to attempt it, I'm so discouraged by the mangled, deformed mess of a result (the whites wildly dispersed throughout the water, lone detached yolks), I give up and end up going out to get a bagel or heading straight to a diner. And when you're jonesing for Eggs Benedict, a bagel just doesn't even begin to cut it.

Luckily, I've since found a loophole: 6 minute eggs (and they're pictured above). Which means this weekend, we can whip up a heck of a brunch--with no Jackson Pollock-esque eggs in sight.

"poached" eggs with smoked salmon and avocado
the most flavorful home fries on earth
prosciutto-wrapped peaches
Cremant de Bourgogne

Hollandaise is a bit too fussy a sauce for me to really want to get into on a Sunday morning but if that's your groove, go with it. I also happen to find the smoked salmon and avocado combination with a perfectly runny yolk to be absolutely luxurious on its own. And anytime I can cut out a stick (or more) of butter without sacrificing flavor, I'm down to party.

Nothing irks me more than lame home fries. They're potatoes: they need some help. And the help couldn't be easier. I use Idaho potatoes (I estimate about one per person) which I peel and cut up into 1-inch cubes. Into a pan (cast iron is best here) over medium heat with some butter and olive oil they go. Give them a toss every few minutes and season them generously with some salt and pepper. After about 7-8 minutes, add in plenty of chopped yellow onion, a clove or two of garlic, and a spoonful of chipotle in adobo (I add in a dash of chili powder and sometimes a squeeze of ketchup). Turn the heat down and allow them to continue to cook for another 7-8 minutes more or until the potatoes are brilliantly brown and crispy on the outside and creamy on the inside. Taste for seasoning (they will need more salt). Smile. Done.

Soft boil the eggs (instructions here) right when your guest(s) arrive and throw the english muffins into the toaster. To plate, lay a few pieces of smoked salmon on both halves of the english muffins and then add a few slices of avocado. Top each half with a peeled soft boiled egg (they will slide around so it's best to cut them in half, just before serving, and allow the yolk to gorgeously ooze. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Serve with a generous scoop of home fries and some prosciutto-wrapped peaches and then pop that Cremant de Bourgogne (a less expensive, yet equally lovely substitute for Champagne). It's time for brunch.


Tuesday, September 21, 2010

bolognese à la berit

What's better than coming home to an unexpected bowl of fresh tagliatelle with homemade bolognese? Nothing, I tell you. Not a damn thing. But that's just what I walked into last night. And Berit, I'm afraid this might have to become a Monday night ritual. We good?

Fact: My roommate is better than yours.

Especially since she ventured over to the perpetually packed (and newly opened) Eataly to pick up the fresh tagliatelle. This is the same girl who quietly makes herself a salad of fresh chunks of watermelon, crumbled feta, and a drizzle of balsamic for dinner (yes, Berit, I noticed) and then cozies up to the latest issue of Vogue, Elle Decor, W, Harper's Bazaar, Elle, and Vanity Fair and can bang out the assembly of an Ikea bookshelf by herself in record time. All of these things make my heart sing with joy.

Berit's Bolognese
(taken verbatim from an email)

"It's basically Giada's recipe with a few edits in terms of ingredients,
quantities and spices, but I've followed it before and it was just as

-No celery (because its green and i hate it)
-I put a lot more carrots then required (because i like them)
-Instead of crushed tomatoes I used plain tomato sauce in the can (I
think Hunts or something) because I don't like tomato chunks
-Used turkey this time (have done it before w/ beef and beef and
turkey mixed and it tastes the same)
-MOST IMPORTANT a spoon full of sugar."

Monday, September 20, 2010

the one where meatballs are equated to crack

I'm awful, I know. In fact, I suck. It's okay, I'll say it. Not sure what's gotten into me as of late but I'm just going to keep it simple and blame it on writer's block. For whatever reason, I've felt at a loss of words. Or at least it feels like I haven't eaten, seen, or done anything in recent days that seemed the least bit worthy of sharing. I should hope that's not entirely true because that would in turn mean that I haven't done anything over the past week. And well, that, that would be a lie.

Let's shut me up by shoving a few meatballs in my mouth, shall we? It works. I know this because I've done it.
I digress...

Meatballs are an ingenious thing to make on a Monday and here's why: If you're cooking for one, they freeze particularly well, which easily justifies making an entire batch. There's also the fact that they're so damn deliciously addictive, you can't help but continuously pop another and then another and oh, well, it's 12:15am and I can't sleep so I might as well have another meatball. You can laugh. But know that you're also laughing at yourself. Because you know there's no stopping you when it comes to meatballs with crack-tendencies. There's no stopping any of us when it comes to crack meatballs.

Let's move away from the crack and back to why meatballs are great to have in the fridge and/or freezer: They're surprisingly adaptable. Sure you can throw them on top of a big bowl of spaghetti (and frankly, please and thank you), but you can also make them into a killer sandwich with some thinly sliced cucumbers and a little bit of lingonberry preserves mixed into some mayo for a combination that will have you bleaching your hair blonde and heading over to Amazon to pick up Rosetta Stone: Swedish, and heck, why not throw a Swedish flag bumper sticker into the cart too. Even if you don't currently own a car.

In other words, whipping up a batch of meatballs can easily get you through a few days worth of meals without feeling any sort of redundancy. And with half tucked away in the freezer, you couldn't be better equipped for a last minute dinner guest. (Although, do those ever even happen in real life?)

Here's to the end of the unintentional silent treatment. Missed y'all.

Crack Meatballs (formerly known as Mor-Mor's Meatballs)

1 package of ground turkey, 93% fat free
1 egg
1/2 cup plain breadcrumbs
4 cloves of garlic, grated
1 small yellow onion, finely diced
1/2 cup flat leaf parsley, chopped
splash of milk
1 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. pepper

Combine all ingredients in a large bowl, using your hands. Form into small meatballs and set aside. In a large skillet (she preferred cast iron) over medium heat, melt a combination of butter and olive oil. When the butter starts to foam, throw in the first batch of meatballs (making sure not to over crowd the pan) and cook until all sides are golden brown and cooked through. Good luck not eating through half the batch before serving.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

warming the house

What's really of note here is how amazing the no-cook pizza sauce turned out (seen in this last photo). When making a classic margarita, there's no better option--the outcome was just as bright, fresh, and flavorful as I had imagined it to be. And when the recipe starts and ends with adding a can of San Marzano tomatoes to a food processor with a little garlic, onion, salt, pepper, and olive oil and pressing pulse? I mean, get out of here with that. It's just too easy. And too damn good.

Oh and the party? The party was smashing. With an apartment filled to maximum capacity with some of my favorite people, there was no way it couldn't be. But in the future, far less bubbles will be consumed over the course of an evening. And while my abs are still slightly sore from laughing, laughing, laughing, my head still doesn't feel 100% back to normal. Makin' it rain with champagne does have its consequences. And these consquences are of the throbbing kind.

But really, I'm not complaining. 'Cause I get to call these fine lookin' ladies my friends. For life.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

bar boulud

Friday didn't get off to the best start.

After a painfully restless night's sleep, I awoke to a text message from my boss which read, "Are you coming in today?" Again: I WOKE UP TO A TEXT MESSAGE FROM MY BOSS. Panic-stricken, I glanced at the time, 10:00am, and let out a loud "OH MY GOD!" (expletives may or may not have been involved) and shot out of bed so fast it's a miracle I didn't shoot through the ceiling. With tears welling up in my eyes and all color stripped from my face, I threw on my clothes and bolted out the door, mortified and in absolute disbelief of the entire episode. If you know me, you know how unbelievably out of character this is. Tardiness is a pet peeve of mine. Promptness brings me great pride. That said, Friday started off in a rather upsetting (and equally unsettling) way.

Needless to say, the traumatic wake-up call set the tone for an off day. And while I realize nobody is a fan of those kind of days, I just couldn't seem to snap myself out of it. I went through the motions of the day like a discombobulated zombie with tired eyes and a quivering lip.

Okay. Woe is me time is over. Because nothing turns a bad day around like a glass of bubbly. Stop. Rewind. Allow me to rephrase that: Nothing turns a bad day around like a glass of Cuvée Daniel Grand Cru Brut at Bar Boulud.

Pierre Paillard, "Cuvée Daniel" Grand Cru, Brut NV was popped and poured by Mr. Michael Madrigale, Head Sommelier of Bar Boulud (and do yourself a favor and introduce yourself -- he's so unbelievably knowledgeable and friendly and inspired and has a story to tell about each and every bottle on the wine list. It's an absolute treat to have him walk you through the wines. And his passion for his craft is undeniably infectious.) And after the first sip, I could feel the vibrantly aromatic and yeasty bubbles start to tickle my nose, my senses and lift my spirits. These bubbles were bringing me back to life.

And then there was a glass of 2009 Weingut Gross "Klassik" Sauvignon Blanc from Austria. Absolute loveliness through and through. With pear and wet stone on the nose, this wine's acidity got frisky with me. And I was happy to oblige.

After an awfully impressive and handsome charcuterie spread was brought to the table (I'm a pushover for paté and the headcheese was dangerously delicious), as was a bottle of 2007 Rene Rostaing Coteaux du Langeudoc. Deep, dark, plump plums on the nose with more juicy fruit on the palate, this wine served as my blanket (we were seated outside). I was comfy. Relaxed. Happy to sip. And sip.

And recklessly devour some serious paté de grand-mère.

I was back, baby.

Bar Boulud
1900 Broadway

Thursday, September 9, 2010

no-cook pizza sauce

I'm a bit pizza-obsessed. If you haven't picked up on that yet, you're not paying enough attention. And if you're rolling your eyes because I've yet again mentioned the word 'pizza,' hear me out, Eat and Greet Super Fan(s). I've got something good. Real good.

I just came across a recipe via Saveur for an uncooked pizza sauce courtesy of Nancy Silverton's Pizzeria Mozza (a restaurant I absolutely, positively have to visit when I find myself in LA). The argument here is that the uncooked sauce yields a brighter and more vibrant result than that of a sweeter, cooked sauce. And though I have yet to try this for myself, I fully support this idea, 100%. I totally get it.

That said, looks like I'm just going to have to make some pizza!

[sound of crickets]

To make the sauce, put one 28-oz. can of whole peeled San Marzano tomatoes into the bowl of a food processor, along with 1 tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil, 1 tsp. dried basil, 2 minced cloves garlic, and half a grated medium onion. Purée and season with salt and pepper.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

weekend dinner party

In continuation of keeping things simple, this weekend's dinner party menu is nearly effortless--but with plenty of pay-off. A classic French comfort food dish of chicken with a mustard-tarragon cream sauce which can be made the day before, or the day of (depending on your schedule). And as the nights (regrettably) begin to turn slightly chilly, I can't imagine a better dish to cozy up to.

chicken with mustard-tarragon cream sauce
served over steamed white rice
bibb lettuce salad with lemon-chive vinaigrette
2009 Forstreiter Gruner Veltliner

As for the wine alongside, might I suggest a bottle of Gruner Veltliner from Austria? I was playing around with the bottle below this past weekend and think the slight frizzante quality and decent acidity would play particularly well with the creamy and anise-flavored sauce. The white flowers, nectarine, and undeniable green-ness that was wafting from my glass could have convinced me to pair this with almost anything. Pool side lounging could quite possibly be this wine's best pairing. But chicken with mustard-tarragon cream sauce will fit just as pleasantly.

Anyone notice my (dare I say admirable) attempt at floral arrangments? You did, didn't you? Your mind has been blown. I can tell. All I did was add a handful or two of small rocks to the bottom a glass cup then filled it up half way with water. I then cut off a few small bunches of hydrangeas and placed them in the glass. Place a few of these arrangements down the center of the table. Flowers: Done.

I bet you're wondering what other amazingly impressive tricks I have up my sleeve. To which I say: stay tuned.

Chicken with Mustard-Tarragon Cream Sauce

Recipe Courtesy of Martha Stewart

4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts (6 ounces each)
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/4 cup dry white wine, or chicken broth
1/2 cup heavy cream
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
1-1/2 tablespoons chopped fresh tarragon

Sprinkle chicken breasts with salt and pepper. In a large skillet, heat oil over medium-high heat. Add chicken; saute until cooked through, 10 to 12 minutes, turning once. Transfer to a plate; keep warm.

Pour wine into hot skillet; cook, stirring, until reduced by half, about 1 minute. Whisk in cream, mustard, and tarragon. Cook, whisking, until thickened, about 2 minutes.

Pour any accumulated chicken juices into sauce. Right before serving, drizzle cream sauce over chicken.

Serve over steamed white rice.

Lemon-Chive Vinaigrette Recipe

blueberry muffins to put all other blueberry muffins to shame

Are these not out of control? I can't get over it. They're stunning. Flawless, really. I'm no baker, of this I am sure. But my Mom? These drop-dead-gorgeously crusted creations are all her doing.

I just wolfed one down in about 60 seconds flat. My fingertips might be stained a lovely shade of purple-y blue (let's call it periwinkle), but that's a price I'm willing to pay, tenfold. These muffins are without a doubt, out of control.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

am important lesson in entertaining

Margaritas + Chipotle Meatloaf Burgers + Homemade Potato "Chips" + Special Sauce = A Reminder to Keep It Simple, Stupid.

There's no doubt that dinner guests appreciate a "wow" spread. You know, like a grilled boneless leg of lamb served atop lemony-chickpea puree, and topped with a mache salad and golden raisin-caper salsa verde. I mean, I've done it. It knocks people out with its sophisticated and daring flavor combination. But there are a number of steps involved, it's not the most affordable spread to entertain with, and it does come across as a meal more appropriate for a special occasion.

But what I learned this weekend (and need to constantly remind myself of) is that casual food can be just as show-stopping. Just as "hold the phone, we need to talk about these burgers" kinda thing. Turns out, the combination of mayo, ketchup, and a little bit of chipotle in adobo can yield these results.

I kid. But not entirely.

Make this meal. Make it tonight. Make it this Saturday. Make it for that special someone. Or make it for an old friend. It is not to be passed off as low-brow or boring.

It is, in itself, a masterpiece of a meal.

Chipotle Turkey Meatloaf Burgers
Makes 6 burgers

1 pkg. ground turkey, 93% fat free
1 small yellow onion, finely diced
3 cloves of garlic, grated
1 tbsp. chipotle in adobo
1/4 cup milk
1 tsp. salt

In a bowl, combine all ingredients until evenly incorporate. Be careful to not over-mix. Form into thin patties and cook over medium-high heat (a cast iron pan is strongly encouraged) for about 4 minutes per side. (I topped mine with slices of brie cheese and then covered the pan to melt. They were then transferred to potato buns and topped with baby arugula.)

Homemade Potato "Chips"

3-4 idaho potatoes
olive oil
melted butter
salt to taste

Preheat oven to 375F.

Thinly slice the potatoes (you may use a mandolin here, if need be) and place on non-stick cookie sheet. Drizzle with olive oil, toss to coat, and then season liberally with salt. Place in oven and bake for 15 minutes. After 15 minutes, remove from oven and flip the potato slices. Brush the other side with melted butter and return to oven for 7-8 minutes or until golden brown. Some will be crispy and crunchy and others will still have a soft, creamy center. Served with "special sauce" and you've entered another world.

"Special Sauce"

Combine mayonnaise with ketchup and as much or as little chipotle in adobo as you'd like. Do you realize how ridiculous this is? Christ.


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