Wednesday, June 30, 2010

weekend dinner party: fourth of july


2006 Zin 91 Old Vines Zinfandel

lobster rolls with kettle chips and homemade sweet dill pickles
Schramsberg Blanc de Blanc Sparkling Wine

plum-red wine sorbet with blueberries

I admittedly struggled a bit when deciding whether or not to commit to lobster rolls for this menu because I'm sure the knee-jerk reaction for a lot of you will be that it's too expensive. Next! But here's the thing: over the past year or so, the price of lobster has become very reasonable (something about an overabundance? best "problem" ever). Case and point: a few weeks ago, they were on sale for $5.99/lb. at my local grocery store. Each lobster roll should sport about a pound or so of meat so you're looking at about a little less than a lobster per person. Ideally, this spread works best for a smaller crowd but for those rocking a full house, might I suggest BYOL? Not kidding.

There's a whole big heated debate when it comes to lobster rolls: warm with butter or cold with a little mayo (must be Hellman's). Just take a look at the spread in last week's New York Magazine for further proof. I happen to be on the mayo-based team--which is actually quite surprising considering the only way I like to eat lobster is steamed with drawn butter. But there's something so quintessentially summer about a lobster roll sprinkled with tiny bits of celery on a top-split New England bun. Really, there's little better.

I happen to love Kielbasa. And I didn't even know this until about a year ago (a damn tragedy, I know). They're ridiculously flavorful--garlic, salt, smoke--and in an ode to the class pigs in a blanket, I'm proposing you grill a few up, slice them on the bias into bite-size pieces and serve them up with a sweet mustard-dill sauce. Appetizer: done.

If you prepare the lobster salad, sweet dill pickles, and plum-red wine sorbet the day before (the sorbet could be made several days in advance), you're looking at a whole lot of little to nothing to do the day of. Besides soaking up as much sun as possible (responsibly of course, with SPF) at the beach or on the boat with your loved ones.

See you on the Sound.

Cork'd wine pairings for the spread are explained by Jon Troutman:

"With our country's pending independence celebration, it would be practically un-American to drink anything made outside the good ol' U.S. of A. Luckily, we have some perfectly suitable and appropriate wines made right here in the Land of the Free.

Kielbasa: Grilling season means Zinfandel season, and there really isn't a better, more suitable pairing for a smoky, steaming sliced Kielbasa starter. America's unofficial All-American grape, Zin is rarely found outside of the states. Like other things in America, it tends to be a very big wine--practically obese sometimes with its scorching alcohol levels. Look for something with moderate alcohol (under 15%) that won't be over-the-top in the oppressive July heat. At a tame 14% alcohol and a price tag under $15, the 2006 Zin 91 Old Vines Zinfandel might be a safe bet.

Growing up on Cape Cod, I know a thing or two about lobster rolls and potato chips. After heating up with Kielbasa and Zin, you'll wanna refresh yourself and cool down with something fresh, something cool, and something...celebratory. One of California's great sparkling wines, Schramsberg Blanc de Blanc Sparkling Wine (100% Chardonnay) fits the bill. Sparkling Wine and Lobster is a classic pairing...heck, in my book, sparkling wine and potato chips is too!"

RECIPES

Lobster Roll (recipe courtesy of Pearl Oyster Bar)
Sweet Dill Pickles (aka Swedish Cucumbers)
Kettle Chips: Cape Cod 40% Reduced Fat get my vote 100 times over.

Little table decorating tip: Collect the prettiest mussel and/or oyster shells you can find at the beach, bring 'em home, wash them well, then use them for salt vessels all down the table.

Due to a power outage, this post was written entirely by hand. This photo is proof.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

thank you, fine cooking

The recipe for that big, beautiful bowl of pasta has been folded up and hanging on our fridge for a few months now and last night, I finally took it down to give it a better look. A photocopy made by my roommate, Meghan, I couldn't make out what magazine it was taken from but loved the simplicity of the two recipes on the page: Penne with Ricotta, Arugula, and Basil and Grilled Lamb Chops with Charred Red Onion Chutney. A quick punch into google revealed: Fine Cooking--a magazine I rarely flip through but one that I will now make a point to. The pasta is the perfect thing to throw together for a light dinner or catch-up lunch to please vegetarians and carnivores alike while the lamb chops are an unexpected combination of exotic flavors with minimal ingredients.

Add just like that, they've both been added to my recipe queue, and hopefully yours too.

Penne with Ricotta, Arugula, and Basil
Recipe Courtesy of Lori Longbotham for

Kosher salt
1 lb. dried penne pasta
8 oz. whole-milk ricotta (about 1 cup)
1 oz. freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano (about 1 cup); more for serving
2 Tbs. extra-virgin olive oil
2 tsp. lightly packed finely grated lemon zest
Freshly ground black pepper
5 oz. baby arugula (about 6 loosely packed cups), coarsely chopped
1-1/2 oz. fresh basil (about 2 loosely packed cups), coarsely chopped

Bring a large pot of well-salted water to a boil over high heat. Cook the pasta in the water until al dente, about 11 minutes. Reserve about 1/3 cup of the cooking water and drain the pasta.

Meanwhile, in a large bowl, mix the ricotta, Parmigiano, 1 Tbs. of the oil, the zest, 1/2 tsp. salt, and 3/4 tsp. pepper.

Heat the remaining 1 Tbs. oil in a 12-inch nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add the arugula and basil and 1/2 tsp. salt and cook, tossing with tongs, until just wilted, about 2 minutes. Transfer the arugula mixture to the bowl with the ricotta and mix well.

Add the hot pasta to the ricotta mixture and toss to coat. Add the reserved cooking liquid as needed to moisten the pasta. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Serve, passing more Parmigiano at the table.

Grilled Lamb Chops with Charred Red Onion Chutney
Recipe Courtesy Liz Pearson for Fine Cooking

1 large red onion, cut crosswise into 1/2-inch-thick slices
3 Tbs. canola oil
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 tsp. whole cumin seeds
Pinch crushed red pepper flakes
1 medium ripe tomato, cored and chopped
2 Tbs. apple cider vinegar
1 tsp. granulated sugar
Four 3/4-inch-thick bone-in lamb shoulder chops (2 to 2-1/2 lb. total)

Prepare a medium-high gas or charcoal grill fire. Rub the onion slices with 1 Tbs. of the oil, keeping the rings intact, and season with 1 tsp. salt and 1/4 tsp. pepper. Arrange them on the grill in a single layer and cook, flipping once, until lightly charred, 8 to 10 minutes. Transfer the onions to a cutting board and chop into small pieces.

Heat 1 Tbs. of the oil in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat. Add the cumin and pepper flakes and cook, stirring constantly, until toasted and fragrant, about 1 minute. Add the chopped onions, tomato, vinegar, sugar, 1/2 tsp. salt, 1/4 tsp. pepper, and 1/3 cup water. Bring to a boil, cover, reduce the heat to medium, and boil until the onions are soft, 5 to 7 minutes. Uncover the pot and continue to boil, stirring often, until thickened, about 5 minutes more. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Meanwhile, rub the lamb all over with the remaining 1 Tbs. oil and season with 2 tsp. salt and 1/2 tsp. pepper. Grill, flipping once, until deep golden-brown outside and medium rare inside, about 8 minutes total. Serve topped with the chutney.

Photos above courtesy of Fine Cooking

swedish midsummer festival


There's nothing I can say that is not already clearly evidenced in these snapshots: The Swedish Midsummer Festival is the world's most charming celebration. Gravlax and Schnapps for everyone! Skol!

Monday, June 28, 2010

meet chuck hughes. no, really.

There he is, my friends. Chuck Hughes, alive and kickin' on the corner of 9th Ave. and 16th St., graciously showing his devastatingly adorable self in a seersucker button down (I assure you, he's even BETTER looking in person) to fans and unknowing fans alike. Chuck was on hand to help promote his show, Chuck's Day Off with the Cooking Channel food truck which was serving up free People's Pops. After exchanging more than a few words with the man of the hour, doing my best to play the whole thing cool, I walked away desperately hoping he hadn't heard my knees knocking while we were chatting (it could have been the fact that I was sporting a pair of 4" wedges, but let's be honest here).

Whether or not I was able to accomplish that is up for you to assume (be kind) but my plum-tarragon People's Pop certainly helped attempt to chill me out after my steamy (Friday was hot, y'all) and much-anticipated encounter with...Mr. Chuck.

And I'm still not over it.

monday meal planning

This week, I'm advising you to do the following: go get yourself a couple ears of corn. It's the mascot of summer produce which means it is so in season. And when you're buying produce at the peak of its season, you know what it's going to taste like? The way it's supposed to. And when corn tastes more like corn, we're in a really good place.
I realize that for the most of you, corn tastes best when it's simply steamed or grilled and rubbed down with plenty of butter and a sprinkling of salt (or like this). And listen, I'm not disagreeing. Not one bit. But I urge you to try using corn as an ingredient in a few different dishes this week. The sugary sweet burst of the kernels play beautifully in a number of unintimidating, approachable variations.

First up? A corn salad. It's unavoidable, really. I've said it before and I'll say it again: basil is one of corn's greatest pals. Once the corn in removed from the cob, a chiffonade of fresh basil, a squeeze of fresh lime juice, a drizzle of olive oil, and some salt and pepper and you could stop right there. Of course I love to add a bit of finely diced red onion but feel free to add some chopped red bell pepper or diced avocado, too. Leftover corn salad can then easily re-appear on a quesadilla: add some canned black beans (drained and rinsed) to the corn salad then spoon on to a tortilla with a bit of your favorite shredded cheese, slide it into a pan or in the oven or onto the grill to warm through and dinner is served.

I recently watched my boy Chuck make a creamed corn recipe(don't roll your eyes just yet) that could not have been simpler: corn, cream, and a bit of butter. With a spoonful of that as a bed, I'd nestle in a piece of pan seared cod, and serve a campari tomato and basil salad alongside. No one would scoff at that plate. NO ONE.

Ok. Sufficiently drooling.

Make one or all of these corn-centric recipes this week: the variation in flavors will undoubtedly keep you interested.
Image above courtesy of Serious Eats

Thursday, June 24, 2010

meet chuck hughes

I am crushing so hard on Chuck Hughes it's almost hard for me to watch his show, Chuck's Day Off, without getting that panicky feeling you experienced at about age 14 or so when the boy or girl you liked walked into homeroom. Heart starts beating at an irregularly high rate, chest and neck feel a rush of heat that makes you feel a mixture of uncomfortably hot and short of breath, and your stomach flips. And it's all welcomed in the name of unrequited love.

Chuck's Day Off (a Food Network Canada import) is airing on the new Cooking Channel which I'm also crushing on. It's a 24 hour network targeted towards foodies, and I've gotta say, the majority of the shows and content on there have kind of blown me away. They're the perfect combination of edgy meets accessible. And at this point, it's beyond refreshing to flip on a cooking program produced in an imperfect environment (no studio sets here) with hosts that aren't bombarding you with catch-phrases and acronyms, and racing against against a 30 minute clock. But hey, I'm not naming any names.

Last night, while tuning in to see my tat-sleeved dream boy (never thought I'd say that), he was whipping up a tapas party for three lucky ladies (step away, ladies) in which he made an arugula pesto to drizzle over seared slices of chorizo. And while arugula pesto might not be incredibly new and innovative to some of you, it is to the other half. Has it been done before? Well, yes. But I think we can all appreciate a friendly reminder of easy alternatives to perk up our go-to weekly meals. So try switching out the basil for some arugula, throw some linguine into a pot of boiling water, throw a dollop of ricotta on top of the finished product, pour a glass of grassy New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc, and start decorating your bedside table with framed pictures of Chuck Hughes like any other normal 20-something would.

Arugula Pesto
Recipe Courtesy of Chuck Hughes

1/2 cup grated romano or parmesan cheese
1/2 cup walnuts, coarsely chopped
1 clove garlic
2 big handfuls of packed arugula leaves
A drizzle olive oil
salt and pepper


Grate your cheese.

Pop all ingredients in a food processor or blender and while it’s running drizzle in about ½ cup good olive oil. Season to taste with S&P. If too thick you can thin out with a bit of water.

Photo above courtesy of Food Network Canada

UPDATE: CHUCK HUGHES WILL BE SERVING ICE CREAM OUTSIDE OF CHELSEA MARKET IN A COOKING CHANNEL TRUCK TODAY AT NOON. I DIE.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

weekend dinner party

summer rolls made by me, photographed by aimee herring

You can thank my friends Carey and Rob from Corks + Caftans (If you haven't yet checked out their blog, I'm not quite sure what your deal is and/or what you're waiting for. It is utterly fabulous. He loves wine*; she loves fashion; I love their life.) for being the driving force behind this weekend's dinner party menu. By now, I should hope you know that I aim to please. Which means, I love requests; thrive off 'em, really. So when the dynamically well-dressed duo asked me to "whip up some mind-blowing recipe that involves roasted pork and asian spices" I immediately knew what I had to share not only with them but with all of you, too. (*Be sure to check out a shining example of one of Rob's wine reviews by clicking on the wine pairing linked below.)

summer rolls with shrimp, avocado, and mango
with sweet chili dipping sauce
Tsing Tao Beer
hoisin pork tenderloin
asian slaw
sticky rice
cantaloupe melon and yogurt parfait

The great thing about this hoisin pork tenderloin recipe (courtesy of Ming Tsai) is that you can take the leftovers and turn them into a dangerously delicious sandwich: place a few pieces of the pork and a spoonful of the slaw on a bun and you're going to make up as many excuses as humanly possible to make this again and again and again. You won't believe how much flavor the marinade imparts on the pork. It should also be known that upon serving this pork to a friend, she was legitimately moved to tears. When was the last time that happened to you?

Also: Please don't be intimidated by the summer rolls. The rice paper takes a little getting used to but once you've got the hang of handling it, you won't believe how quickly they come together and how impressive they look once completed. Your friends will be speechless.

And/or in tears.

summer rolls with shrimp, avocado, and mango
Adapted from a Gourmet recipe
serves 4

12 large cooked shrimp, halved lengthwise
4 (8-inch rice paper rounds)
a few sprigs of fresh cilantro
a few leaves of fresh mint
1 mango, peeled and sliced into matchsticks
1 avocado, thinly sliced

Put a double thickness of paper towel on a work surface and fill a shallow baking pan with warm water. Check rice-paper rounds and use only those that have no holes. Soak 1 round in warm water until pliable, 30 seconds to 1 minute, then carefully transfer to paper towels.

Arrange 3 shrimp halves (cut sides up) in a row across bottom third (part nearest you) of soaked rice paper. Arrange a few pieces of cilantro, a few pieces of mint, some mango, and avocado on top of the shrimp. Fold bottom of rice paper over filling and begin rolling up tightly then fold in ends and continue rolling. Transfer summer roll, seam side down, to a plate and cover with dampened paper towels. Make the remaining rolls in same manner and serve, cut into thirds, with store-bought sweet chili dipping sauce.

hoisin pork tenderloin
Recipe courtesy of Ming Tsai
serves 4

1 cup hoisin sauce
2 tablespoons finely chopped garlic
2 tablespoons finely chopped ginger
1/2 cup dry red wine
1/4 cup chopped scallion, white part only (save the green part for the rice)
2 (8-ounce) pork tenderloins
fresh ground pepper
2 tablespoons canola oil

In a baking dish large enough to cook the pork, mix hoisin sauce, garlic, ginger, wine, and scallions. Add pork and turn to coat. Cover and refrigerate for 3 hours; preferably overnight.

Heat oven to 350 degrees. Season pork with salt and pepper. Heat a skillet over high heat. Add oil; swirl to coat pan. Add pork turning only once and cook for 5 minutes total until browned. Transfer to oven. Roast 12 to 15 minutes until done. Let pork rest 5 minutes then cut into 1/4 inch slices to serve (pork should still be a pleasant shade of light pink).

spicy asian slaw recipe adapted from gourmet magazine by cookin' canuck

cantaloupe melon and yogurt parfait courtesy of paul lowe of sweet paul

my trick for sticky rice: bring a pot of water (2:1, water to rice ratio) to a boil with a good sprinkle of salt and a generous pat of butter then add your rice, stir, and cook according to package directions (about 18-20 minutes). top with the reserved greens of the scallions.

food stylist, paul lowe

Photo Courtesy of Dreyer Hensley for Sweet Paul

I just came across Food Stylist, Paul Lowe's beyond gorgeous online magazine, Sweet Paul Magazine, and nearly died. How had I never seen this before (in my defense this is the premiere issue)?! The photography is bonkers and the food is incredibly sophisticated yet approachable. I urge you to click through the issue and then I dare you to not come away with at least three recipes you want to try. The eeriest part? He's got a "From Mor-Mor's Kitchen" column. Need I remind you to take a quick glance to your right and read my "Who I Am"? Shivers.
Incidentally, Paul is obviously Scandinavian; hailing from Oslo, Norway, he immediately had my attention (and also my heart). Recently he posted a recipe on his blog, also called Sweet Paul, for a Salmon and Potato Salad with Lemon Yogurt Dressing: a quintessentially Nordic summer salad that could not be more targeted towards my palate if it tried. This is my kind of food. And in my mission to show the world the beauty and simplicity of Scandinavian food, here is yet another reason to introduce yourself to it. Serve this for lunch, brunch, or a light dinner--it will undoubtedly be universally well received.

serves 4

4 large slices fresh salmon
salt
pepper
2 tablespoons olive oil
14 small potatoes, boiled
1 head of lettuce, shredded
2 tablespoons capers
2 tablespoon dill, chopped
1 teaspoon lemon zest
2 cups plain yoghurt
2 tablespoons lemon juice

Place the salmon on a baking tray and sprinkle with salt and pepper.
Drizzle with olive oil.
Bake at 350F for 8 minutes.
Remove, cool and cut into pieces.
Slice the potatoes and mix with lettuce, capers, dill, lemon zest and salmon.
Mix yoghurt and lemon juice in a bowl and taste with salt and pepper.
Pour the dressing over the salad and serve.
Enjoy!

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

taking my own advice

I have a confession to make. And given the reaction I received upon hearing said confession from my dinner guests this past weekend, I hope this doesn't upset the rest of you too much. But here goes: I don't always follow my own weekend dinner party posts.

Burning. It burns. I don't like how hot my face feels right now. It's really, really hot. And I'm covering my face with my hands, but kind of wincing through my fingers to see if anyone's still here. Anyone? Do I still have an audience? Here's to hoping.

The thing is, I couldn't possibly swing a dinner party every single weekend, and I don't expect you to be able to do the same (although if you can, I haven't yet seen my invite come through the mail). But what I do hope to provide for you is a menu and a party plan that seems accessible and mouth-watering enough for you to press File, Print, and have this in your arsenal when an opportunity to entertain arises. And when it does, you're armed with a sure fire win.

And this weekend, we had a Birthday party, folks. So it was straight to last week's weekend dinner party menu I went: salmon burgers with lemon-chive aioli, orecchiette with arugula (subbed for radicchio) and sweet orange vinaigrette, and fennel-apple slaw. With Petit Nevat (goat's milk cheese shown below), green olive tapenade, and some pizza dough I threw on the grill and then cut into pieces for flatbread (you're welcome, that's the single greatest entertaining tip EVER), with a pop of a bottle of Spanish Rosé, we were well on our way to a particularly memorable evening. Because by the end of it, Michael Jackson's "Off The Wall" album could be heard in every home in the tri-state area.

A night that ends in dance, sweat, and laughter is a job well done. Done very well indeed. Turns out, I can plan a serious weekend dinner party menu.

happy birthday, nadina!

It's been a long time, my friend. Count it: for over 10 years I've been a totally lucky and humbled gal to call you my friend, Nadina. Through the awkward formative years, the innocent ones, to driving around aimlessly, to Ain't No Mountain High Enough, to Paris, and now New York, New York, it appears we can't really get rid of each other. I wouldn't have it any other way. And on your very special day, I wish you nothing but perfect bites and sips the whole day through. You can guarantee I'll make sure that happens. Here's to hoping our dramatic and wholly embarrassing home movies never end up in the wrong hands. I've got a future I'm vying for. Pretty sure you do too. And it's not on daytime Soaps.

Celebrate, YOU. Love, love, love.

Monday, June 21, 2010

make this. seriously. part two.

I clicked too soon. Wouldn't be the first time, I'm afraid. I didn't realize I wasn't done with Chef White just yet. Because as soon as I turned the page, I came across yet another no-brainer: crunchy vegetable salad with ricotta crostini.

Look, when the barometer is hitting the temperatures it has as of late matched up by nearly perverted humidity levels, I'm looking for something cool and quick and predominately vegetarian so as to allow more time for my head to hang out in the freezer. My mom is going to claim the rights to the ricotta crostini so let's just give it to her. She's realized (without White's guidance or approval) how down-right special a piece of charred bread can taste when smeared with a bit of ricotta and a thoughtful sprinkle of salt and freshly ground pepper. It perks up any salad, any night of the week.

This recipe will undoubtedly be making repeat appearances (on a weekly basis) in my kitchen.

Photo Courtesy of Stephanie Foley for Food & Wine

Crunchy Vegetable Salad with Ricotta Crostini
Serves 6

6 slices of rustic white bread
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for brushing and drizzling
1 garlic clove, halved
3/4 cup fresh ricotta
salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons white balsamic vinegar
1 tablespoon dijon mustard
6 large radishes, thinly sliced
1 fennel bulb, thinly sliced
1/2 pound asparagus, thinly sliced on the bias
1 large carrot, finely julienned
1/2 small seedless cucumber, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch chunks
1 head of Boston lettuce, torn into bite-size pieces 2 tablespoons shredded basil leaves
1 tablespoon coarsely chopped taragon

1. Preheat the broiler (I'm sorry, but that's not happening in my tiny kitchen at this point in the season. Either utilize the grill pan or throw the bread in the toaster until well toasted, nearly charred). Brush the bread with olive oil and place on a baking sheet. Broil 4 inches from heat for about 1 minute per side, until golden. Lightly rub the cut sides of the garlic over the toasts and spread with the ricotta. Season with salt and pepper and drizzle with olive oil.

2. In a large bowl, whisk the white balsamic vinegar with the Dijon mustard and the 1/4 cup of olive oil; season with salt and black pepper. Add the radishes, fennel, asparagus, carrot, cucumber, lettuce, basil, and tarragon and toss gently to coat. Serve the salad right away with the crostini.

Click here for the printable version of the recipe.

make this. seriously.

How do I know you'll make this? Because this recipe comes straight from the genius that is Michael White of Marea, Alto, and Convivio (by ways of Food & Wine, of course). Here, the approachable and rustic deliciousness of Italian cuisine is highlighted simply and beautifully. Invite someone over for dinner and flat out shazam them with this impressive yet totally accessible recipe. Make the caponata (might I suggest adding some golden raisins?) a day or two ahead of time (it keeps for 3 days) and you're steamrolling to an end zone touchdown dance.

If you're assuming I'm implying you'll be "scoring" after serving this meal, the answer is, well, err, I like don't want to be awkward and stuff, but, like yeah, I guess, yes. The answer is yes. Don't make me say it again. Or louder. Ok?

Photo courtesy of Stephanie Foley for Food & Wine

grilled fish with artichoke caponata
makes 6 servings

1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for rubbing
4 tender celery ribs, diced (1 cup)
1 onion, finely chopped
3 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
1/2 cup prepared tomato sauce
1/4 cup dry white wine
1/3 cup white wine vinegar
1/2 pound marinated artichoke hearts, drained and chopped
1/2 cup pitted green olives, chopped
1/4 cup pine nuts
3 tablespoons sugar
2 tablespoons small capers, drained
kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
3 tablespoons shredded basil
six 7-ounce mahimahi fillets

1. In a large deep skillet, heat the 1/4 cup of olive oil until shimmering. Add the celery, onion, and garlic and cook over moderate heat until just softened, 4 minutes. Add the tomato sauce, wine, vinegar, artichokes, olives, pine nuts, sugar, and capers and season with salt and pepper. Simmer until the vegetables are tender and the liquid is reduced, 8 minutes. Stir in the basil and let cool.

2. Light a grill or preheat a grill pan. Rub the fish with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Grill over moderately high heat until cooked through, about 9 minutes. Transfer the fish to plates, top with the caponata and serve.

Make ahead: The artichoke caponata can be refrigerated for up to 3 days.
Wine: Crisp, ripe Italian white: 2008 Pieropan Soave

Click here for the printable version of the recipe.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

weekend dinner party

Photo Courtesy of Serious Eats
The forecast for this weekend is looking more and more spectacular with each passing day. And to to that, may I just say, it's about damn time? A co-worker so kindly complimented me on my "tan" this morning to which I said with a look of utter shock, "What?! When was the last time it was sunny over the weekend?" She then followed that up with "So then where did you go away to?"

Let's try this again.

As for the inexplicable tan, I suppose that the lovely shade of lemon yellow top and bold turquoise necklace I happen to be sporting today, are particularly complimentary to my complexion. Kiira: 1. Count it.

Anyone still reading? So in anticipation of the sunshine this weekend, I'm dying to throw some salmon burgers on the grill. And nothing screams SUMMER at the top of its lungs like farm fresh corn. By grilling a few ears of sugary sweet corn, tinged with char, you've got the start of a ridiculously good crostini, perked up with fresh, aromatic basil.

grilled corn, basil, and goat cheese crostini
2007 Gunn Estate Unoaked Chardonnay

salmon burgers with avocado and lemon-chive sauce
orecchiette with radicchio and sweet orange vinaigrette
shaved fennel slaw
2007 Argyle Pinot Noir

limoncello granita

grilled corn, basil, and goat cheese crostini
serves 4 to 6
2 ears of corn, shucked and brushed lightly with oil and seasoned with salt
1/2 small red onion, finely diced
1/4 cup fresh basil, chopped
1/2 tbsp. olive oil
log of goat cheese
salt and pepper to taste
baguette cut into 1-inch thick slices

Grill the corn, turning occasionally until it's evenly charred on all sides, about 10 minutes. Remove and allow to cool then cut the kernels off the cobs.

In a medium-sized bowl, combine the corn, red onion, basil, and olive oil. Toss and season to taste.

Grill the baguette slices for just under a minute per side. While still warm, rub one side of each piece with a piece of garlic. Spread some goat cheese on each piece of baguette and top with a small spoonful of the corn mixture. Serve.

salmon burgers with lemon-chive sauce
serves 4

4 (6 oz.) skinless salmon fillets
1 tbsp. sesame seeds (optional)
3 tbsp. chopped fresh dill
lettuce, tomato, avocado, thinly sliced cucumbers* for toppings
4 kaiser rolls
lemon-chive aioli (recipe follows)

Add salmon fillets to the food processor and pulse until its a course grind to form the burgers. Transfer the fish to a bowl and add sesame seeds and dill. Mix and form into 4 patties. Drizzle both sides with olive oil.

Cook the salmon burgers on the grill (or grill pan) for about 3 minutes per side. Place burgers on kaiser rolls dressed with avocado, butter lettuce, tomato, and top with a dollop of lemon-chive sauce.

lemon-chive sauce
1/2 cup hellman's mayo (no substitutes allowed)
1/2 cup reduced fat sour cream
1/4 cup chives, chopped
1 lemon zested, juice from half
salt and pepper to taste

Combine all ingredients in a bowl. Taste for seasoning.
*I suspect some swedish cucumbers would be a ridiculously yummy addition up on top of these burgers as well. I encourage you to go that extra mile, if possible.

Shaved Fennel Slaw (halve the recipe)

Cork'd wine pairings are explained by Nate Scherotter:

"The appetizer of grilled corn with basil and goat cheese crostini is a good mix of light and heavy and needs a wine that can accentuate both aspects. Something with a little weight, but also some acidity to balance it out and make the grilled corn feel like the appetizer it is. Enter unoaked Chardonnay. The 2007 Gunn Estate Unoaked Chardonnay from New Zealand should satisfy these requirements very well. With good acidity and loads of tropical fruit it will bring out the appetizer's fresh flavors, especially in the Summer months that are upon us. This wine shows off its body by shedding the oak. Are we still talking about wine, here?

Traditionally, fish and white wine go together like peas and carrots. Exceptions and alternatives do exist though. After you nibble on your corn and proceed to the salmon burgers your palate may scream for something red. In this case, we have a perfectly safe pairing. Instead of Cali Pinot, its neighbor to the north, Oregon, makes some really interesting and food friendly Pinot Noir that the wine world has been taking very seriously the past few years. Try the 2007 Argyle Pinot Noir."

Monday, June 14, 2010

wines for all: albarino wine and food pairing

Nights like last night reaffirm what I already know but always welcome a friendly reminder: I love what I do. And I love that I can say without a hint of hesitation or glimmer of doubt that I know what it is I love to do. I know what makes me happy. I know what makes me tick. And so skipping on over to City Winery last night for an Albarino (from Rías Baixas Albariño) tasting led by WR Tish and food pairings prepared by Top Chef Harold Dieterle of Perilla, filled me with not only pure excitement, but the confirmation that that's exactly what I should have been doing. Surrounding myself with fellow wine and food lovers and learning and discussing and sharing our common passion with one another. Amateurs and savants alike can exist, quite comfortably, in one space. Because nothing about this is meant to be intimidating. It's meant to be fun.

You'd think, considering the fact I live a total of three blocks away from City Winery, that I'd be a regular by now. Yet, every time I've jaunted over to the spacious spot, I've been rejected. Meaning, they were holding private concerts and no ticket? No entry. Needless to say, I was thrilled to discover that the tasting would be held there--in the winery, no less. And, yes, there is a real, live, functioning winery (note the picture below) with a French winemaker, playing with different grape varietals from all over the world. In the meantime, you can guarnatee I'll be overeager and slightly fidgety until I get the chance to race back and taste through a couple of those.

Albarino is an interesting grape; hailing from the coast of Spain. And if you're not familiar with the varietal, might I suggest you make it a priority to seek out the next time you're at the wine store. Tish mentioned, "This [Albarino] is a story about acidity." This is true. He used the example of how you can't cook without lemon or vinegar. They're the "zing." This is also incredibly true. More often than not, when you're cooking and go for a taste and it needs that little something to perk it up, to add a freshness, a vibrancy, you grab a lemon. Add some zest. Throw a dash of balsamic in. It will help. It always helps. Albarino, by means of acidity, can thus be a dish's BFF.


Montauk Fluke Tartar on Spiced Taro Chips was served with Laxas Albarino 2009. Honeydew and key lime pie on the nose and then BAM. The acidity hits you, slashing your tongue, making you salivate. And that tartar? Well, my tasting notes consisted of : YES!!!!! So that's that.

Chilled Curry Corn Soup with Rock Shrimp and Pickled Ramps was served with Condes de Albarei Albarino 2009. This soup was the finest and most beautiful example of finesse and sensuality. Seductively creamy. Exotically spiced. And the wine played nice. The wine played real nice.

Serrano Ham Wrapped Dates with Blue Cheese and Saba was served with Paco & Lola Albarino 2008. These little savory candied bundles made the entire room erupt with applause. Nicely done, Harold.

WR Tish discussing the wine and food pairings with Chef Harold Dieterle

Grilled Chicken Satay with Chili Jam got paired up with Brandal Albarino 2008. Edamame Falafel with Lemon-Tahini Sauce was served with Pazo de Senorans Albarino 2009. Chilled Calamari Salad with Spanish Olives and Grilled Bread was matched with Santiago Ruiz Albarnio 2009.

And you, young man. Talk about boyish charm. I was beaming like an idiot every time I got to exchange a few words with him but it was really because I'm always so humbled to be in the presence of someone so passionately engaged in his craft (no joke, it gets me all choked up). And it seems silly, but one of the marks of a great chef or cook, is the ability to season appropriately. To be able to taste something and know exactly what (and how much) it needs. Each delectable little bite we were presented was spot-on. Perfectly seasoned and incredibly thoughtful. The room was bursting with smiles.

Tish (formerly of Wine Enthusiast) comically and informatively led the evening with his charm and vast knowledge and engaged every single person in that room, personally. I urge you to read his blog and check in to see when his next tasting will be. Because if last night was any indication, you can be sure I'll be attending as many events as my schedule permits. Priorities are priorities. And this, this is a priority.

Cheers.

cork'd content: food and wine pairings

In lieu of today's Monday Meal Planning (I'm really, really, really sorry and I promise to make up for it this week) let's take Cork'd contributor, Nathan Scherotter's advice and get down with some classic Italian dishes and the wines that beg to be paired with them.

By Nathan Scherotter

With summer here, we always talk about what wines to pair with this hot season of the year. And while light, fun, crisp whites and easy-drinking fruity reds are normally the go-to during these next few months, at some point you have to sit down and switch it up a little. A long day out in the sun makes for a hungry, thirsty individual that just needs some gastronomic pleasure. Enter Italian comfort food – more specifically pasta!

Now we can go many different directions with this versatile grain. We can mix it with red sauce, meat sauce, and white sauce; with chicken, sausage, or various vegetables and oils. Pasta is filling, and when you want to lay back, relax, and replenish your system with carbs, it presents some awesome wine pairing options.
Below are some familiar Italian dishes along with the perfectly paired wine pick. Let the summer breeze blow and the good wine flow.

Scene One (not pasta but a great way to get ready for some):
The dish: An appetizer of prosciutto and melon
Ingredients: Unadulterated! Cured ham and ripe summer melon

The wine: Here is a really fun and light appetizer that brings together sweet and salty, all wrapped into a delicious way to wet your palate. Like any good meal should start, some sort of bubbly will be in order. The Italian Brachetto d’acqui is one of my favorite ways to kick off a meal; awesomely delicious and a touch of sweetness. Good acidity and low alcohol here will go perfectly with the melon and most certainly will hold up to the prosciutto. If you have any leftover after your first course (which is doubtful) it makes for a great after dinner drink too... [Read the rest at Cork'd]

Sunday, June 13, 2010

poco

In theory, our night at Poco sounded hauntingly close to perfect. For starters, some gal pals and I were stopping by for some food and drinks before we cozied up (and then nearly dozed off) to Sex and the City 2. And, we were armed with not one but two Groupon deals which were going to get us $100 worth of food and drink for $50. Split four ways and this was looking like the deal of the century. Seemingly way too good to be true. And so, inevitably, it was.

The food at Poco was quite uninspired and under-seasoned (although the truffle croquettes were unarguably good, the lobster mac-n-cheese hadn't seen so much as a sprinkle of salt, and the cheese plate tasted like flavorless wax), the drinks way too syrupy sweet, and the service, practically comical. Although, towards the end, our server's attitude and inattentiveness became less and less funny and more and more irritating (i.e. not writing down our orders and then screwing things up and blaming it on us kind of thing). Especially when I had to nearly stand up and wave both arms wildly while jumping up and down to really drive it home to our waiter that we were, in fact, ready for the check. We'd been unsuccessfully trying to flag him down for the past 15 minutes.

So if you don't have something nice to say, don't say anything at all, right? Wrong. Because even with a Groupon "deal" we ended up forking over more money than the experience merited. And I've got a big problem with that. When nights out on the town are few and far between for many, mediocrity and carelessness are absolutely inexcusable. And Poco, you should know better.


Mushroom Truffle Croquettes

Lobster Mac-n-Cheese

Calamari with Honey Chipotle Aioli (which was MIA) and Roasted Piquillo Pepper Salad

Cheese Plate. Snooze.

Deep Thoughts by Sarah Eydt

FOOD: 25

SERVICE: 15

LOOK: 12

VIBE: 5

FINAL GRADE: 57

Friday, June 11, 2010

i want, i need

Image Courtesy of edgeofurge.com


I just came across these gorgeous coozies (two words I never in a million years imagined to be in succession) while perusing Refinery29 and for whatever reason, I'm kinda freakin' out over them. They're Summer perfection in every way possible. And for any of you fellow boaters and beach-goers out there, you know that rough seas and sunshine are the kiss of the death for cold, bubbly beverages. But with a Bottle Freaker, not only is the problem partially solved, but you're sure to be the hippest and chicest looking guy or gal on the Sound. Each precious little "sweater" fits around various beer bottles, wine bottles, soda cans, and water bottles. At $8 a pop, this makes a fantastic little spontaneous gift for the cold beverage loving, sun-worshipping friend in your life*.

*If you're wondering if I'm talking about myself, the answer is a resounding, yes, yes, OF COURSE I AM, yes. Discretion? Discretion got tossed overboard.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

go denmark!

In light of the World Cup, I figured the best way (and arguably the only way considering I just had to be reminded that Sweden, had not in fact made it this year, proving my World Cup knowledge to be virtually nonexistant) to show my support for Denmark was by sharing with you all a few Scandinavian recipes to whip up before the game. In Denmark, open-faced sandwiches are called Smørrebrød and they're immensely popular in Sweden, Norway, and Finland alike. While the toppings may vary slightly country to country, conceptually, they are one and the same. Find yourself a loaf of really good rye bread, toast up a few slices and then play around with some of these topping ideas.

Lay a few slices of butter lettuce on a piece of toasted rye bread with mayo and top with sliced hard boiled egg, cold baby shrimp, and a lemon wedge for squeezing.
Smear some good quality, sweet, spicy Swedish mustard on a piece of rye and top with salami and thinly sliced cucumber. Cracked black pepper on top is optional but likely encouraged.

Smoked Salmon, cucumber, dill and a squeeze of lemon makes a simple yet well-received gesture.

Roast beef with roasted onions, cucumber, and a remoulade sauce (mayo, grainy mustard, finely chopped gherkins).

So shimmy a few of these onto your World Cup Smorgasbord spread. And perhaps have a few South African wines on hand to pour? The Man Vintners Chenin Blanc is a personal favorite of mine and an absolute no-brainer at around $9 a bottle.

SKOL! (which coincidentally rhymes with GOAL! which in turn equates my level of wit and humor to that of a 10 year old boy)

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

cork'd tasting: herdade do esporao

Last night's Cork'd Tasting held at the très chic Apiary in the East Village featured Portuguese wines from Herdade do Esporao. The oh so charming winemaker, David Baverstock (incidentally an Australian native with dual citizenship), was on hand and sipping alongside us too. Portugal has been on the radar as of late for producing some serious wines at seriously value-driven price points, making it a wildly attractive region to this frugal wine lover. And wouldn't you know, the wine that flushed my cheeks and flipped me on like a light switch was the 2009 Herdade do Esporao Monte Velho. And it rolls in at around $8 retail. You're looking at my new House White.

"90/100 serious concentration of peach followed up by lemon meringue. hints of vanilla and white flowers are popping up too. absolutely gorgeous nose. no joke, i'm head over heels in love with this nose. in the mouth, i'm floored by the acidity. lemons and limes with a stone component which is interesting. this should come home with me."


Winemaker David Baverstock

The other wines we tasted our way through:
2008 Herdade do Esporao Vinha da Defesa white
2008 Esporao Reserva white
2009 Herdade do Esporao Monte Velho red
2008 Herdade do Esporao Vinha da Defesa
2007 Esporao Reserva Red

Herdade do Esporao wines can be found at the following downtown NYC wine shops: Pop the Cork, Chelsea Wine Country, and Sea Grape Wine Shop.

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