Saturday, October 16, 2010
Back in July 2008, a recipe for chocolate chip cookies was featured in the New York Times. Talk of those cookies went viral across the food blog world and it seemed like every site I read had the recipe and some kind of cookie story attached to it. I remember seeing that recipe and pictures of those cookies and thinking that they’d most definitely be on my list of recipes to try.
Well, two years later, when I finally got around to making these (that’s got to be a procrastination record, there), I knew they were going to be special, right from the beginning of the process. I made sure to buy all of the ingredients a few days before I wanted to bake so that I could prepare the batter and throw it in the fridge for as long as possible, which the recipe recommends you do.
The result was FABULOUS. Rarely do cookies come out of home ovens looking and tasting the way these did. And I don’t credit myself, that’s for sure. I attribute the amount of time the dough spent in the fridge to the way they rose and the sea salt sprinkled on top to the palate zinging flavor and roundness that cookies don’t always have.
A few things: I did not use two types of flour. All purpose was what I had, so all purpose was what I used. My batter was in the refrigerator for about 40 hours before I used it. I got the chocolate disks which this recipe calls for at Fairway, where I happened to get the rest of the ingredients. If they weren’t available here, I would most definitely have used chocolate chips instead of taking the trip to another store. Last thing- I don’t have a stand mixer, so I just used a wooden spoon, and everything still went fine.
If you can find the time to make these, you’ll be very happy you did. These cookies are addicting, and TOO delicious to keep rambling about….
The BEST Chocolate Chip Cookies
Yield: 2 dozen cookies
3 2/3 cups plus 2 tbsp all purpose flour
1 1/4 teaspoons baking soda
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 1/2 teaspoons coarse salt
2 1/2 sticks (1 1/4 cups) unsalted butter
1 1/4 cups light brown sugar
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
2 large eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 1/4 pounds bittersweet chocolate disks with at least 60 percent cacao content (I used Ghirardelli)
First, sift the flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt into a bowl. Set aside.
In another bowl, using a mixer fitted with paddle attachment or a wooden spoon (my kitchen aid-less method), cream the butter and sugars together for about 5 minutes, or until they're well blended and creamy.
Then, add the eggs, one at a time, mixing after you add each one. Stir in the vanilla. At this point, add the dry mixture a small bit at a time (if you're using a mixer, lower the speed so to avoid a flour storm), and mix until JUST combined, no longer.
Mix in the chocolate pieces by hand, trying not to break them. Once everything is added and ready to go, cover the bowl with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 24 hours.
Once you're ready to bake the dough (if you haven't eaten it all raw by this point after stealing a bit each time you open the fridge during the duration of its stay there!), preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Line your baking sheet(s) with parchment paper.
Scoop from 8-10 balls of dough onto the baking sheet (they should be a little bigger than golf balls, and make sure they have a good amount of distance between them. Then, sprinkle the top with sea salt and put in the oven, baking until they're golden, which will take about 18-20 minutes.
Remove from oven and, once they're stable enough to handle, let them cool on a wire rack.
Tuesday, October 12, 2010
The New York City Wine and Food festival took place this past weekend, and it was an event that I wasn’t too sure about initially. Not surprisingly, demand for tickets to many of the events was extremely high, and when tickets went on sale a few months ago, we jumped at our chance to get into anything that sounded interesting and that wasn’t obscenely expensive. One of the events that fit this criteria was the Masaharu Morimoto demonstration on Sunday.
I really like Food Network; it’s how I learned how to cook. (you’d be surprised that it’s possible for a person to learn how to cut particular vegetables, temper warm milk into eggs and fold a chocolate mousse from watching enough Everyday Italian and Emeril episodes, but, I am a product of this “learning by absorption” method, so it’s possible!) The chef that’s most elusive on that channel, it seems, is Morimoto. He marches into kitchen stadium, cooks the most creative, clean looking dishes, and then marches out.
At yesterday’s demonstration, Morimoto threw out all his stops. He had his huge ice smoker (seen on one of his previous Iron Chef episodes), put his extremely well practiced knife techniques to use (he shaved a piece of ginger in record time and minced a scallion so thin that you could hardly see the pieces), and had a personality that, despite not being able to verbalize everything he wanted to say, was infectious, happy, jovial, and excited. Watching him cook was a treat, and we really loved it.
Even though I’d never actually make what he did (he killed a lobster right in front of our eyes and I had to look away…), his food looked very good and very appetizing. He made a king crab leg cooked in kelp leaves and topped with scallion ginger oil and some fresh ginger, scallion & lime garnish, and a lobster roll with an Asian inspired mayo on a hot dog roll made out of doughnut batter and baked instead of fried. While I loved watching Morimoto cook, I pretty much decided that watching someone prepare food and not being able to eat what’s been made is pretty anti-climatic. (Good thing we showed up full!)
Oh, and one more thing: Before visiting, I didn’t know that 100% of the Wine and Food Festival proceeds went to Food Bank of NYC and Share Our Strength, but it turns out that they did. To enjoy food-centric activities that completely benefit charity is another reason why I’ll be happy to go again next year. That, and another chance to win a Whole Foods raffle will surely bring me back for more!
Friday, October 8, 2010
The time of year when tomatoes are at their ripest point and when they’re not terribly expensive at the grocery store or farmer’s market is a time I know we all look forward to. Besides eating those luscious, juicy, bright red fruits all alone, in their glory, or with a sprinkle of sea salt on top (crazy good!), I love using them for fresh tomato sauce to put over pasta, of course!
Maybe you don’t quite know about my “thing” with pasta. Now’s as good a time as any to come clean about it, I guess. I was hardwired as a small, carb loading child to obsess over, dream about, and, above all, devour, pasta of any kind with any topping, in any quantity (someone special took me here for the pasta and wine tasting menu for my birthday and it was incredible! I could hardly eat for 3 days afterward, though.) Pasta is my favorite food, and is what I most look forward to cooking and eating at restaurants. The possibilities are endless.
And I digress. Back to the fresh tomato sauce. Obviously, because the tomato sauce is served over pasta, it’s something I love to make. This particular sauce is so simple and requires very few ingredients, which makes it particularly weeknight friendly. It’s perfect for the end of summer when the weather is exhausting, when the evening seems to last all night, and when you don’t feel like slaving over the stove for too long.
Fresh Tomato Sauce
Yield: 4 servings
Total Time: 30 minutes
1 pound pasta
6 or 7 large ripe tomatoes, washed
extra virgin olive oil
4 medium cloves garlic, minced
kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 tbsp. tomato paste (optional)
1 tsp. red pepper flakes (optional)
handful of fresh basil leaves, chopped
Fill a large sauce pot with water and bring to a boil. While the water is heating, draw an "x" into your tomatoes using a knife.
Once the water is boiling, add the tomatoes and cook for just a few minutes, until they soften a bit. Remove them from the water and let them cool.
Using the same pot, bring the water back to a boil and then salt liberally before adding the pasta. Only cook the pasta until nearly al dente. It'll finish cooking in the skillet with the sauce, allowing the pasta to absorb the tomato flavors and meld better.
Once tomatoes are cool, peel the skin off (the purpose of the x mark is to allow the skin to break off easily. It shouldn't be difficult to take off the skin at this point.) Then, chop the tomatoes.
Heat a skillet on low heat and pour in enough olive oil to coat the pan. Add the minced garlic, and allow to cook for 2-3 minutes, or until you can smell a soft garlic flavor. Be sure your garlic doesn't burn.
At this point, add the tomatoes to the garlic (it'll smell really great!), coat with olive oil, season with kosher salt and pepper, and let cook for about 10 or 15 minutes until the tomatoes burst and expell their juices. If your sauce is too watery, add some tomato paste and stir. Let the tomato paste cook off for a couple of minutes so it doesn't taste piercingly sweet. Alternatively, if the sauce is too dry, put in about 1/2 a cup or more of the pasta water to lighten it up.
Sometimes when I make this sauce, depending on the tomatoes I use, it tastes sort of acidic. If you encounter this problem, too, you can do one of two things to remedy it. Choice one is to add a teaspoon of sugar. This will add a sweetness which will contrast the acidity. Another option is to add a tablespoon of (unsalted) butter. The creaminess of the butter will also balance out the acidity. Either option will work fine.
Once the sauce is finished, check to see if there is enough salt & pepper, and add the chopped basil leaves. I often add a teaspoon of red pepper flakes for a bit of spiciness, but this isn't necessary. Then, add the pasta right to the sauce, coating it with the tomatoes, and finish cooking it for a few minutes until the pasta is tender and al dente.
Sunday, October 3, 2010
On the first Saturday I spent in my new apartment, I knew it was time to devote some time to the kitchen and really break that place in.
Generally, I’m a savory sort of person. I go out to dinner and could leave without having dessert (blasphemy?). I hate the idea of measuring ingredients when baking; I’d rather just cook something savory and eyeball the ingredients or add them to taste.
Despite that, I knew I needed to bake on this particular day. I had cooked weeknight dinners here and there, but I’d never baked in my new kitchen. Something about baking in a kitchen makes it your own; the smell that fills the house, the flour that coats the counter and the soul warming feeling you get when you bite into a warm, rich dessert scream “home” in a real, tangible way.
A dessert I’ve never made before, but which I love, is pretty simple. It’s the blondie, the purer yet just as sweet sibling of an all-time-favorite, the brownie.
I’m much more partial to blondies than I am to brownies. Brownies are often too rich for my liking, and I think I’ve eaten so much of the boxed variety throughout my life, that I’m just kind of over the whole brownie “thing.” The first time I had a blondie was at a coveted local coffee shop called The Cup located in Wantagh, Long Island served warm with a side of vanilla ice cream. I haven’t been able to eat anything at The Cup besides blondies since I had my first one, and I knew I wanted to try to make them myself as soon as I had my own oven.
The recipe I found had spent some time on various food blogs, and is pretty hard to mess up. The final result is amazingly good and will taste superb with a side of vanilla ice cream! The blondies come out thick, chewy, and also have a nice crust. To my blondie batter, I added a mixture of chocolate and peanut butter chips. You can really use whatever kind of chocolate chip or small candy you want, though (m&m’s, reese’s pieces, etc.).
Yield: 9-12 squares, depending on their size
Cook Time: 1 hour
10 tbsp. unsalted butter
1 cup packed dark brown sugar
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1 large egg
2 tsp. vanilla extract
1/4 tsp. kosher salt
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/4 cups sweetened flaked coconut
1 1/4 cups peanut butter/chocolate chip blend
To start, preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Spray your brownie tin (8x8 will work well) with non-stick spray and line with parchment paper.
Heat butter in a small saucepan over low to medium heat (depending on the strength of your stove, lower might be better.) until it browns (about 8-10 minutes). It will burn easily, so stay on close watch to make sure it only browns and doesn’t burn. You’ll see the butter turning a brown color, and it will begin to smell nutty and fragrant when it’s ready.
Then, let the butter cool until warm. I got really impatient with mine and shoved it in the freezer for 5 minutes, and it was just fine. Once cooled, mix the butter with both sugars, and mix until combined. To the butter/sugar mixture, stir in vanilla, egg and salt until blended. Then, add flour, coconut, and peanut butter/chocolate chips to this batter.
Once all ingredients are combined, put the mixture into your prepared baking dish and bake for 25-30 minutes. (25 minutes will yield cakey, more gooey blondies, while closer to 30 minutes will give you fully cooked, stable ones.)
Adapted from The Newlywed Kitchen
Tuesday, September 28, 2010
There’s a lot to say about eating at home, cooking at home, and sharing food with others at home. And as much as I love home cooking and the self expression that being in the kitchen can allow, I also really enjoy going out to eat. I don’t do it often, maybe once or twice a week for dinner (since I usually pack my lunch and cook big meals to eat for dinner on weeknights), so when I do go out, I try to research places that I think I’ll like, or look for restaurants in my favorite neighborhoods that I think will provide an entertaining, delicious night out.
On a recent Saturday night at around 8PM, Scott, who had just finished his usual 10-hour Saturday work-day, and I were ready to head out for dinner, but with no particular plans in mind. We decided to take the train to the West Village and see where our meanderings would lead. The night was mild but with a slight, refreshing breeze, and it was beautiful to walk around in this neighborhood, one of my favorites, with that end of summer/almost fall feeling all around us. Once we decided to narrow down the options to an Italian restaurant, thanks to ever-popular Yelp, we found a small, laid back place called “Malatesta,” (the Italian word for “headache,” in case you are wondering!) located rather close to where we were. So, we aimed there.
I’d never heard of Malatesta before, so I was kind of curious as to what might be going on there at 9PM on a Saturday. When we approached the restaurant, it turned out a lot was going on! It was packed, and the place was really cool, just my kind of locale, for sure. We waited about 10 minutes for a table, and were seated outside (my favorite!!). I love laid-back, relaxing, living room type restaurants, and this one fit that bill perfectly. The waiters were dressed casually in jeans and t-shirts or cool button downs, and the menus, attached to what looked like hard-covered newspapers, were rustic looking while still providing a sheek look. The inside dining room was lined with exposed brick, had great, dim lighting, and was decorated with vintage-looking art and, of course, some wine bottles scattered all around.
The service was incredibly attentive. Water never ran low, we never had to beg for anything or search for our waiter, and the staff was friendly, to boot. My kind of people. They also must’ve known I was hungry, because immediately upon being seated, we were served thin slices of focaccia bread seasoned with sea salt and rosemary. Mmhmm, delicious.
Our appetizer, the bruschetta ($6.50), was very simple. Almost too much so, but it was obvious that the ingredients were top notch, and the flavors, while mild, gave the fresh food room to shine. The bread, which wasn’t very toasty and kind of bent with each bite, had every inch covered with fresh, diced tomatoes, and a hint of garlic and basil, but not much. What I tasted, above all, was the glowing, silky olive oil. It was very satisfying and light enough not to spoil dinner appetites! (always important!)
Malatesta makes all their pasta in-house (score!), so that’s the part of the menu I scoured most. I wound up ordering their garganelli special ($14.50) served with a fresh tomato sauce, asparagus and shrimp. The dish was truly excellent. It was prepared with deliciously fresh, cooked just right shrimp (and they didn’t skimp! There were about 9 pieces throughout my dish, which I thought was generous.), diagonally sliced, tender asparagus, and pasta that was perfectly al dente. Topped with just a bit of fresh parmaggiano reggiano, I licked this plate clean! It was fresh, well prepared, and the portion was just right, leaving me full but not about to explode. Oh, and paired with a glass of the house cabernet ($6), we were able to enjoy an incredible meal without breaking the bank or eating too heartily for our own good.
Make sure you bring cash if you visit Malatesta, though, because they don’t accept cards! (There is a deli next door which has an ATM if you’re desperate..of course, we were…but you’ll incur a fee if you use it.) To get there, your best bet is to take the 1 train to the Christopher Street stop and walk West on Christopher Street until you reach Washington Street.
649 Washington St
New York , NY 10014
Price range: $$
Tuesday, September 21, 2010
Somehow, Sunday nights turned into “pizza night.” I don’t know exactly how it started, but I believe a Sunday evening trip to Trader Joe’s so that we’d have food for the upcoming week inspired us to see what we could come up with for dinner that night that would be easy, delicious, and somewhat inexpensive.
Pizza, for me, was never about big, square boxes and 8 triangular slices. As a kid, my mom, the healthiest eater I know, would make her own pizza for us, usually on Friday nights. I know this isn’t unheard of, of course, but while all my friends talked about their Friday night pizza delivery traditions (especially during Lent – I went to Catholic school and everyone at least pretended to follow the “no meat on Fridays” rule.), I’d rival them with the stories of my mom’s pizza with her homemade sauce, very little cheese, and PILES of vegetables on top. Sometimes my mom would make her own dough. Other times, we’d load into the car and drive to a nearby pizzeria to pick up some. (This was the closest to eating “real pizza” that I’d ever come!)
Now, years later, I’ve strayed from the homemade path and eaten maaaany slices of “real pizza.” Some have been amazing, some have not. And, while I’ll go weak at the knees for a slice of eggplant rollatini pizza, or even a corner sicilian slice, the best pizza I eat these days is the kind I make myself.
Back to that fateful day when we decided to make our own pizza. Well, it was SO good that we just can’t stop making it each week. It’s not very complicated, but it’s really good.
Oh, and feel free to add or omit anything you’d like for this. Incorporating your own favorite ingredients is what’ll keep you going back for more!
Sunday Night Personal Pizza
Yield: 1 personal sized pizza
Total Time: 1 hour
For some reason, we found white truffle oil in our cabinet recently, so we’ve been drizzling it sparingly over our pizza ever since instead of olive oil before putting it in the oven. It is quite decadent and delicious, but is by no means necessary for this recipe.
1/2 Trader Joe’s whole wheat pizza dough
3 tbsp. Trader Joe’s pizza sauce (found in refrigerated section, not the jarred kind)
2 cups Trader Joe’s light shredded mozzarella cheese
1/2 red onion, sliced thin
2 cloves garlic, minced
extra virgin olive oil
1 bunch fresh basil
red pepper flakes, to taste
First, preheat your oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.
Then, heat a non-stick skillet on medium and cover the bottom with extra virgin olive oil. Once oil is hot (not too hot!), add the onions and 1/4 tsp. salt and stir until translucent, about 3 minutes.
Then, add garlic to the pan, but do not let the garlic get brown or burn. Let the onion/garlic mixture cook for about 10 minutes, or until the onion is very soft.
Now, Spray the bottom of a cookie sheet and flatten out your pizza dough. Sometimes I even sprinkle corn meal on the bottom to create a rustic taste and to also prevent sticking. If you’d like a visible crust, be sure to roll in the edges.
Coat the dough with pizza sauce, add cheese as desired, and spread the onion/garlic on top.
Cut the basil and add on top of pizza. (You can either let the basil cook with the pizza or add it after it’s out of the oven. I personally like it to go on top before-hand.)
Sprinkle red pepper flakes over the top, as desired, in addition to salt, pepper, and a little bit of olive oil (or truffle oil).
Bake pizza in oven at 400 degrees for 15 minutes, or until crust is brown and cheese is melted.
Then, cut the pizza, and serve with a large, cold beer, or some red wine!
Tuesday, September 14, 2010
I finally got internet in my new apartment, so now I can really start blogging. I was worried that I’d lose the itch to write during that brief moving and no-internet hiatus, but it’s still here, and I’m ready to share.
I never expected London to be a city with much culinary flare. British food, if you categorize it, isn’t all that exciting; fish & chips, bangers & mash and shepherd’s pie aren’t the most exciting dishes on earth. (To be honest, though, I love fish & chips, but it’s so difficult to find them done right…even in London!) Surprisingly, the food that blew me away when I went to London wasn’t British. It was Indian. (My mouth is watering right now, I swear.)
When visiting Scott’s parents in London, I was treated to two of the most out – of – this – world Indian meals I’ve had in my life. You know what? They were two of the best meals I’ve ever had, period. Not only did I leave both restaurants feeling so full, I didn’t think I’d make it home alive, but every aspect of both meals, from service to wine to food to dessert to atmosphere, was absolutely perfect.
These two restaurants, Quilon (in Westminster) with one Michelin star, and Indian Zing (in Hammersmith), which has won high praise in the London community, are places you just can’t find in New York. I’m not sure why. Here are pictures of lunch at Quilon. It’s like art!
The top is a piece of curry leaf & ginger crusted fish and crispy, curried cauliflower. The fish was so light and had a great sharp flavor, and the cauliflower had a refreshing crunch and a light flavor.
Underneath was my entree. I couldn’t BELIEVE this was mine when they served it. It’s huge! I wish I could remember the name of everything I had, but, I’m just not that good. There’s raita, potato & cauliflower with fenugreek leaves (my favorite!), chana masala, coconut with asparagus & beans, spiced grilled red snapper, some kind of okra, and something else I can’t remember. It was all incredible. Served along with our meals were pieces of appam and paratha. The experience was a revelation.
Sadly, I wasn’t able to take any pictures of the food at Indian Zing, but the style was definitely different. There, we had several appetizers, including vegetable bhanavla and curried scallops. As an entree there, I had the only kofta on the menu, made with bananaflower and colocasia leaves. A kofta is similar to a dumpling. It’s usually some kind of vegetable or ground meat mixed with cheese and then shaped into little balls, served in a thick curry sauce. Koftas are my favorite dishes at Indian restaurants, and this one, served in a very thick, brown gravy, was lovely and rich…maybe even too rich for a summer meal.
Even our trip to Brick Lane, a block in Northwest London inhabited by many South Asian immigrants, was a culinary treat. Some say that eating at restaurants here is kind of touristy, so we didn’t. We did visit, per my demanding requests (!!), and, while there, were able to pop into one of the small stores and enjoy some pakoras and samosas. They were excellent and spicy. Sadly, no pictures of those.
I loved it. I loved every minute of London, but I just loved eating and discovering new flavors and a new culture through the food. These restaurants, understandably, held themselves up to a high standard, and I enjoyed seeing the knowledge in the staff members, and looking at the presentation of the dishes. It was an education, for sure, and I can’t waiiit until I have the opportunity to experience that kind of culinary joy again. Hopefully…soon!
41 Buckingham Gate
Westminster, London SW1E 6AF, United Kingdom
020 7821 1899
Subway: St. James Park
236 King Street
London W6 0RF, United Kingdom
020 8748 5959
Subway: Ravenscourt Park
Tuesday, August 24, 2010
The idea to start my own blog began in my mind several months ago. Life started taking new turns, interests began shifting, and the inspiration from other blogs, mostly ones devoted to food, planted a certain seed within my head that I knew needed to be explored. Until now, I never had the push I needed to begin this blog journey, but the icing on the cake was a recent trip I took to London & Paris which reawakened my spirit and my mind in a way that I really haven’t known in a long time. So many moments of that trip were too glorious for me to comprehend; certain things I saw, emotions I felt, and food I ate put me in a state of overwhelming bliss. Even better, this trip helped me to forget some of the recent issues I had been dealing with before I left. That, above all, made it easy to finally let go and to appreciate the magnitude of what I had been seeing.
So, a little about me. I’m a mid-twenties female from New York City trying to find her niche in this large, always moving place. By day, I do the 9-5 routine in a job that’s a bit less than ideal. In the evenings you can usually find me in the practice room trying to work on my recently discovered soprano voice. I also love cooking, eating, reading about food, talking about food, eating at new restaurants, and looking over recipes and flavor combinations. Experimenting with new ideas is one of my favorite ways to play around. I hope to share those new ideas, experiments, flops and wonders with you here. All of this, hopefully, in the context of my life.
Sure, it may get personal. I think that’s okay. I’ve spent so much of the past 5-8 years trying desperately to shield people out of my life that I think it’s finally time I let them back in. I want people to learn who I am again (in case they forgot!), and I want to, above all, embark on this journey without knowing where, if anywhere, it’ll lead. All inhibitions are out the window, and it’s me and you.
So, this is the blog. It’ll be about travel, food, eating food while traveling, living, experiencing, being, discovering…all that, that’s what I want my blog to be. Let’s see where this goes…