Sunday, June 17, 2007

Shock and awe.

Sometimes I think I'm an adventurous, engaged cook. And then I see something like this. A topic over on eGullet where people are discussing their efforts at phyllo dough - homemade, paper-thin, and way too intimidating enough for me. Puff pastry is one thing; this is intense. Bravo, people - bravo.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

My New York Times debut...sort of.

My phone rang early this morning, while I was still in the shower. The excited voice mail, from my friend Hall, declared that he had seen a "huge" picture of me in the Times, and that I was to check on it immediately.

I opened my computer, started up Firefox, and clicked through to the Dining and Wine section. There, alongside Frank Bruni's Critic's Notebook piece on the trend of fat, fat, fat everywhere (pork belly, chicken livers, etc.), was a picture of me, along with a few other foodblogger/eGullet types, drooling over Momofuku Ssam's Bo Ssam (giant, slow-cooked pork butt).

The photo was taken back in February, when I went out to dinner with a group of foodies during my second eGullet foodblog.

It's not a flattering picture, and they don't mention my name, but, hey - I'm in the Times!

Thursday, June 7, 2007

Make like the Greeks and squeeze a lemon over your orzo.

A few weekends ago, Manhattan experienced an early, unexpected heat wave. Windows were thrown open, AC's were hastily installed after their winter hibernations, and I found myself with a craving for chicken salad.

But it was too hot for something laden with mayonnaise (typically one of my more favorite things), and I decided to experiment a bit with the box of orzo that has been in my kitchen cupoboard for, oh, about a year now. Orzo always reminds of Greek and Sicilian cuisine, which leads me to think of lemons, and of cucumbers (though the latter are never far from my mind, admittedly).

I dressed a boneless chicken breast with a little olive oil, salt and pepper, and grilled it on my well-seasoned grill pan (It's now about 1 1/2 years old and really coming into its own.). Then I seeded a plum tomato and half a cucumber, chopped a quarter of a red onion, and tossed it all with a little olive oil, lemon juice, and basil.

I added some cooked orzo, the finished chicken, cubed, and ate the salad at room temperature. I'm completely convinced that it would have been better had I let it hang out and allowed the flavors to meld a bit more, but it was still awfully good, and perfect for the weather we had that day.

I might just make it again this weekend - we've got a forecast for 85 degrees Fahrenheit.

Queenie's Chicken and Orzo Salad

2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts (about 3/4 pound)
3 tbs. olive oil
Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup orzo pasta
2 plum tomatoes, seeded and cut into 1-inch chunks
1 cucumber, peeled, seeded, and cut into 1-inch chunks
1/2 small red onion, cut into 1/2-inch chunks
2 tbs. basil, cut crosswise into strips
2 tbs. freshly-squeezed lemon juice (about one lemon)

Pour 2 tbs. of the olive oil over the chicken breasts, and sprinkle with the salt and pepper to taste. Allow to sit for a few minutes while you pre-heat your grill or grill pan.

Grill the chicken breasts on medium-high heat for about 5 minutes on each side; cooking time will vary by grill/stove. Once cooked, set the chicken aside to rest for a few minutes while you prep the salad.

While the chicken cooks, prepare the orzo according to the directions on the package (making sure to salt the water in which it cooks). Once cooked to al dente, drain and set aside.

Toss together the tomato, onion and cucumber, adding the remaining olive oil, the lemon juice, and the salt and pepper to taste. Once that mixture is well combined, add half the basil and toss gently to incorporate evenly.

Add the chicken and orzo, and toss gently again to combine all ingredients evenly. Add the remaining basil, adjust seasonings, and serve.

Serves two as a main course

Sunday, June 3, 2007

Girl gone wild.

Oh, wild do I love thee? Let me count the ways...thou art graceful, low in calroies, high in folic acid and Vitamin C, and oh-so-easy to cook. Thou art also fleeting of season and a bit dear to procure.

I went to brunch today (with my friend Cristin) at Eli's Vinegar Factory, up at 91st and York. The restaurant sits atop the store, which is owned by the same Eli Zabar of E.A.T. on Madison and Eli's on Third Avenue. So, of course, after stuffing ourselves with omelets and the bread basket, we had to browse through the store. I wasn't planning on buying anything (since most of the stock at Eli's, excepting the excellent bread, is overpriced), but then I saw the wild asparagus.

Wild asparagus, a slimmer, more delicate version of its domesticated cousin, is available only for a few short weeks at the beginning of June, and I couldn't let the opportunity pass me by. I grabbed a bunch, then tossed some chives into my cart to go along with. Tonight for dinner, I combined those two with spaghetti (the perfect foil for the asparagus, since they're about the same size), a little garlic, and a touch of butter.

The result? Bliss.

Wild Aspargus with Spaghetti and Chives

Serves 2 as a main course

1/2 pound spaghetti
Kosher salt
2 tbs. olive oil
1 tbs. butter
2 cloves garlic, thinly sliced crosswise
1/4 pound wild asparagus
3 tbs. chives, finely chopped
Freshly ground black pepper

Cook the spaghetti in a pot of boiling, salted water. While it cooks, add the oil and butter to a 12-inch skillet and cook over medium-high heat until the butter melts. Add the garlic and cook until fragrant and slightly golden.

Add the asparagus to the skillet, reduce heat to medium, and saute, tossing frequently, until tender. Add half the chives and salt and pepper to taste, and toss the asparagus with the chives to mix evenly. If the spaghetti is not yet ready, turn the heat off under the skillet, and turn it back on when ready to add the pasta.

Otherwise, add the spaghetti and a bit of its cooking water to the skillet, and cook the pasta and sauce together for a minute or two. Taste to adjust seasonings, divide between two bowls, top with the remaining chives, and serve immediately.
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