Saturday, February 27, 2010

Queenie's Treasury

Happy snowy Saturday, folks! New York is digging out from another big storm this morning, and I'm about to venture out (clad in wellies, natch) to run a zillion and a half errands. Before that, though, it's time for a look at this week's Treasury!

First, a very exciting development in Manhattan's Mexican food scene. Hecho en Dumbo is moving to a new space on the Bowery, just a few short steps from the Bleecker Street stop on the 6 train. Score! I can't wait to try the Berkshire pork tacos with pickled red onion. Don't they look amazing? They open next Friday!

Next, some sad/happy news. The sad part is that, thanks to an incident with a slippery Le Creuset pot full of chicken stew, I am in desperate need of new woven cotton rug for the floor of my kitchen. The happy part is that I get to pick something from Dash & Albert. Their colorful stripes make me happy every time I see them. I'm still not sure which one I'll ultimately choose...any ideas?

Finally, an exciting event is taking place tomorrow! Those crazy kids over at NYC Food Crawls are hosting a pork bun crawl in Manhattan's Chinatown. Sadly, I am otherwise engaged, but I'm keen to recreate the experience on my own one day soon. If you want to meet up with fellow pork bun lovers, head to the intersection of Mulberry and Bayard tomorrow afternoon at 3 PM - and don't forget to report back!

Photo of barbecued pork buns via The Cookbook Chronicles.

Friday, February 26, 2010

Just visiting!

If you guys want to hear all about my favorite places to shop, eat and drink, head over to Cherrypatter NYC and check out the guest post I wrote! As you all know, I love Cherrypatter, and when Laura (the blog's fabulous editrix) asked me to contribute a post of my own, I was incredibly flattered.

So clickety-click on over to see the post (And the squintiest picture of me in existence! And, yes, my bangs are in an awkward stage. What of it?). And thanks again to Laura for the opportunity to share my faves!

Thursday, February 25, 2010


So far, I've been...just ok about keeping up my walk-across-the-park-once-a-week resolution. I've done it a couple of times, but not even close to once a week. This weekend was one of those times, though, so let's take a look!

The walk was a bit labored - I entered the park at 90th Street and 5th Avenue, and had the idea of walking around the reservoir. However. Once I got up to the path (after passing the creepy, funereal urns decorating a memorial to John Mitchel), I discovered a river of slush, ice and mud. The path around the reservoir, you see, is made of dirt and gravel, the better to run on. Snow melts slowly on that surface, and tends to melt and refreeze - apparently for weeks on end.

So things were a bit slow-going, at least until I reached the reservoir's southern tip and broke off to follow a paved path around the Great Lawn.

All in all, though, a gorgeous walk on a gorgeous day. Not a cloud in the sky.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Austria,minus the plane ticket.

On Sunday, I treated myself to an I Love NYC kind of afternoon: early lunch at Café Sabarsky, a visit to the Cooper-Hewitt, a walk across Central Park, and a cappuccino at Joe. Let's begin at the beginning, shall we?

Café Sabarsky is part of Kurt Gutenbrunner's ever-growing empire of Austrian food. His other outposts include Blaue Gans and Wallsé. While Blaue Gans is a rustic, tavern sort of place, and Wallsé is all refined cool, Café Sabarsky is Gutenbrunner's tribute to fin de siècle Viennese café culture. Located in the Neue Galerie, the café's menu features an impressive assortment of Viennese pastry, delicious coffee and a bowl of spaetzle with tarragon.

For me, Café Sabarsky is typically all about two things: the Einspanner (double espresso with whipped cream) and the decor (reproductions of classic Austrian designs in a Gilded Age mansion's paneled parlor). This time, though, I branched out.

First up, a double espresso; more specifically, a Grosser Brauner, which is served with a teeny bit of milk on the side. As usual, it was delicious. I seriously wish I could stop here every morning for coffee. Rarely have I found more perfect coffee on this side of the Atlantic.

Once I'd caffeinated, I switched to water and ordered the wiener schnitzel. It arrived a few minutes later, piping hot, topped with lemon and accompanied by potato salad and lingonberries. I have to say, I was a bit underwhelmed by the schnitzel itself. The veal was tender and flavorful, but the breading was completely separated from the meat in most spots. The potato salad was tasty and creamy, and the lingonberries were tart and offered a lovely contrast, but all in all, I think I'll stick to the spaetzle from now on.

For dessert, I skipped the pastry (I do recommend the apfelstreudel, though.) and went for a Viennese hot chocolate. While it was a bit thinner than the Pierre Hermé version I make at home, it was deeply chocolatey and came topped with a generous amount of freshly whipped cream - both qualities I can get behind with little trouble.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

A little light reading.

After finishing Moby-Dick for last month's book club meeting, I've been engaged in a binge-like round of comfort reading. I re-read Ruth Reichl's superlative second memoir (Comfort Me With Apples) and am deep into a session with Northanger Abbey (which I've read too many times to count). In between, I picked up Lunch In Paris, a memoir by Elizabeth Bard.

The book is, in fact, billed as a "love story with recipes," so I was excited to read it and get inspired. I was a bit disappointed, as the food mentioned - and often described with loving tenderness - rarely matched the recipes presented at the close of each chapter. (The thematic connections were there, to be fair.) That said, some of the recipes that were included seemed interesting, most notably Chapter Three's poulet basquaise.

Basque cooking is perhaps best known for its inclusion of piment d'espelette, a dried pepper that is the region's answer to paprika. It's delicious, sweet and smoky and spicy and complex. I love it, but had never cooked with it before. One order from Kalustyan's later, I was ready to get moving.

Poulet basquaise combines the d'espelette pepper with fresh sweet peppers and copious amounts of onion. Not everyone's cup of tea, surely, but I've rarely heard two words I love more than "onions" and "peppers." The recipe also called for a decent amount of bacon, some canned tomatoes, and had a fabulous sauce to meat ratio (read: high).

However. For an entire chicken, 28 ounces of tomatoes, 8 ounces of bacon, three peppers and four onions, Bard calls for only 2 teaspoons of espelette. Sorry, honey - not gonna cut it for this pepper lover. In fact, the recipe in general seems written for someone who's already a pretty comfortable cook; for example, she asks you to brown the chicken in a skillet, but doesn't offer a suggestion for which fat to use. So, I've taken it upon myself to put her fantastic formula into a format that will hopefully work for you - it's a bit time-consuming, as one-dish meals go, but it's truly delicious, and it fed me for five days.

You can't beat that.

Poulet Basquaise
Adapted from Elizabeth Bard's Lunch in Paris

One whole chicken, cut into six pieces (or six assorted legs & thighs)
3 tbs. piment d'espelette*, divided
Kosher salt
2 tbs. neutral oil, such as canola
3 slices bacon, cut crosswise into batons
2 white onions, thinly sliced into rounds
3 cloves garlic, halved lengthwise
3 red bell peppers, ends removed, sliced into 1/2 inch rounds
3 tbs. sherry vinegar
28 ounces plum tomatoes, with juice
1 bay leaf
4-5 sprigs thyme, leaves removed and stems discarded
3 tbs. parsley, finely chopped

Pat the chicken dry and place, skin-side up, on a plate. Season the chicken, on the skin-side, with a teaspoon or so of the d'espelette and a pinch of salt. In a large saute pan or dutch oven, heat the canola oil over medium-high heat. Place the chicken in the oil, skin-side down, and cook until golden brown. Meanwhile, season the bottom side of the chicken with another teaspoon of d'espelette and a pinch of salt.

Turn the chicken and brown on the other side, then remove the chicken pieces to a plate to rest. (Brown chicken in batches if need be; do not crowd the pan.)

Add the bacon to the pan and cook over medium heat for several minutes, until most of the fat is rendered, but the bacon isn't quite crispy. Remove the bacon with a slotted spoon and set aside. Pour off all but a couple of tablespoons of the fat in the pan and place the pan over medium heat. Add the onions and garlic and cook slowly until the onions are well-softened, about 10 minutes. Add the peppers, a tablespoon of d'espelette and half a teaspoon of salt. Continue to cook over medium heat until the peppers are very soft, about 15 minutes.

Deglaze the pan with the vinegar, and then add the tomatoes one by one, crushing them between your fingers as you go - and don't forget their juice! Return the bacon to the pan and add the remaining d'espelette, bay leaf, thyme and parsley. Bring the mixture to a simmer, place the chicken on top, and cover. Keep the pan cooking at a simmer for 30 to 40 minutes. Remove the bay leaf, adjust for seasoning, and serve.

I like to serve this with couscous, which does a great job of soaking up the sauce. Since I ate most of the stew well after it had been made, I added a few pinches of fresh herbs to the couscous to brighten things up.

Serves 4-6 people. The sauce is more filling than you'd expect.

*If you can't find piment d'espelette, hot (not sweet) paprika makes a good substitute.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Queenie's Treasury

Happy Saturday, my lovelies! It's a bright, crisp day here in New York, and I'm enjoying a weekend of theatre (I saw Present Laughter last night and am headed to Equivocation this afternoon!), cooking and design binging (Trip to Cooper-Hewitt? Check!). Before all that, though, it's time to take a look into the treasury.

First up this week, we have the (relatively new) foodblog Fresh New England. The three posts on El's front page all involve chocolate. And one involves whipped cream - and palmiers. Need I say more?

Next, some exciting news about Target's latest limited edition collaboration with a high-end design house: Liberty of London is coming to Tar-jay! My biggest memories of Liberty are of the dresses my mom would bring back for me from her annual piligrimage to London. When I was little, I thought they were each just another dress for church, but now I know better - those gorgeous, sprigged prints were works of art. Personally, I'm drooling over the teapot and the bike. And the dishes. And the pillows. And...anyhoo. The collection is due out on March 14th. In the meantime, I've settled for a hot-pink desktop background.

Finally, a super-cool flower arranging class: Bodega Flowers 101 from Sarah at Blossom & Branch. I am seriously considering signing up for one of the public classes, though this would also make an excellent wedding shower activity, no? (Via 100 Layer Cake.)

Friday, February 19, 2010


That's right, folks! I used the maionese de leite as a sauce for some simple, pan-roasted lamb chops, and the result was absolutely delicious. I sprinkled a bit of salt and some lemon juice over the whole mess, and added some parsley for good measure, too.

More uses for this deliciousness coming soon!

Thursday, February 18, 2010


Last Sunday, in between coffee at Joe and a wonderful trip to the theatre with my friend Miya and her mom, Judy, I stopped into Kefi for a bite to eat.

Kefi is one of those rare success stories - a tiny neighborhood restaurant that flourishes to the extreme. In Kefi's case, that's meant a move to a larger space and attention from the Times, New York Magazine and the major food blogs (no, I don't mean Queenie). And with good reason. Kefi's food is simple and delicious - it's rustic Greek done very, very well and presented with friendly service for a reasonable price.

I'd eaten at Kefi for dinner a couple of times - the lamb chops are stupendous - but Sunday was my first time there for lunch. I decided to try a couple of the mezze, since I was feeling peckish and in need of variety. As it turns out, the two mezze were way too much food for one person, but not quite enough for two - if you're paired up, I'd recommend trying three!

My first choice was the homemade cypriot sausage, which came with a tangle of radishes, cucumbers and scallions tossed with lemon juice, herbs and olive oil. The sausages came nestled in a little pool of creamy Greek yogurt with a little stack of fresh pita triangles alongside.

The crispy calamari, my next choice, came complete with crispy lemon slices (battered bits of sunshine) and Greek yogurt for dipping. The calamari itself was simply cooked - lightly battered and then fried to golden - but the yogurt was seasoned with parsley, garlic and bits of fried shallot. The two combined were utter happiness on a plate. Seriously - I could eat this every day and not be bored. It was like having little fireworks go off in my mouth - like Pop Rocks of the sea.

In short, if you're in the market for a tasty Greek meal north of 59th Street, Kefi is the place to be. And you should get the calamari, lamb chops - oooh, and the sweetbreads, if they're still on the dinner menu. The sweetbreads, too.

505 Columbus Avenue
Between 84th and 85th Streets

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

The milky way.

Last week, Amanda Hesser posted what looked like an incredible recipe to the blog at Food52. For those of you who haven't discovered it for yourselves quite yet, Food52 is an online community of home cooks dedicated to creating a fantastic repository of recipes as well as a series of thoughtfully and collaboratively curated cookbooks. I am personally addicted to it, and follow the site (as well as its founders, Amanda and Merrill) on Twitter - you should, too.

Anyhoo, back to the point. Amanda posted a recipe for a milk-based mayonnaise last week, and I was immediately intrigued. For starters, how would the emulsion work? And how would it taste? The answers, as it turns out, are: very well, and just as Amanda described - pillowy goodness.

Since the protein here comes from whole milk, as opposed to the sticky substance that is egg yolk, the mayonnaise produced is lighter than the usual - pillowy is absolutely the right description; cloudlike would also work. The touch of garlic adds a piquancy to the mix and lends depth to the overall flavor.

Mine ended up looking a bit like vanilla ice cream, but don't be deceived - those black flecks are not vanilla bean, but freshly ground black pepper, since I didn't have any white pepper on hand. Either way, the mayonnaise was delicious folded into my go-to chicken salad, and I'm pretty excited to try it out as a sauce for pan-roasted lamb chops tomorrow night. Yum.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Bring on the buttah.

Last Tuesday night, Nick, Louisa, Jeremy, Miriam and I went for dessert at Momofuku Milk Bar. We ordered an insane assortment of desserts, including the chocolate chip cake (Miriam's favorite), crack pie (like shoofly, but better), cookies, cookies, cookies, and cinnamon bun pie (my personal favorite).

I, of course, had to buy a cookie or two for the next day. I sprang for a blueberry cream, which I shared for breakfast with my friend Mary, and a chocolate chip-cornflake-marshmallow, which I saved for my mid-afternoon snack.

It was, predicatbly, delicious. One of the secrets of a fantastic cookie is, of course, not slacking on the butter. If you're going to do it, go whole hog. Given the transparency of their paper bag the next morning, I can confirm that these cookies are buttery to the max. Another secret is finding the perfect balance of salty and sweet, another place Momofuku (mostly) excels. While a couple of their items are a bit too simply sweet for me, most, like this cookie, are a perfect blend of salt, sugar, crunch and chew.

And butter. Lots and lots of butter.

(Don't forget - if you live in parts distant, you can make your own chocolate chip-cornflake-marshmallow cookies, thanks to Ms. Lorna Yee!)

Momofuku Milk Bar
207 Second Avenue
Corner of 13th Street

Monday, February 15, 2010

Blast from the past.

OK, kids. Here is a lesson in preparation.

Remember way back when in April when I reminded you of the virtues of ramp compound butter? My personal stash (a ten-inch log stored in the freezer) has been very good to me over the last eight months or so. I've used it in pastas, tossed bits of it on top of lamb chops & steak, and spread it on toast to give sandwiches some extra oomph.

This past weekend, I used a bit of it to make the most delicious green peas I've had in ages. I was having lamb chops for lunch and wanted to have peas alongside (I always keep a bag of Birds Eye in the freezer). I contemplated mashing them, but then remembered how delicious ramp butter was with lamb, and decided it would also be great with lamb-accompanied peas.

And I was right! The ramp butter lent the peas a slightly funky flavor, and the different greens of the ramps, parsley and peas looked so beautiful together. A pinch of salt helped everything sing.

Without further ado, then, I present what is pretty much the easiest recipe of all time - or, at least, the easiest recipe ever to appear on this blog. Enjoy!

Peas with Ramp Butter

1 cup of good quality frozen peas
2 tbs. ramp compound butter, cut into a few bits
Pinch of kosher salt
1 tbs. finely chopped flat leaf parsley

Place the peas in a small saucepan and fill with just enough water to cover. Set the pan over low heat for a few minutes, keeping an eye on it to make sure it doesn't quite simmer. Cook the peas until they are very warm (since they've already been cooked, you're really just reheating them).

Drain the peas in a strainer or colander and return to the saucepan (but turn off the heat). Add the compound butter, salt and parsley and toss to combine. Once the butter is pretty much melted, taste the peas, adjust for seasoning and serve.

Serves two as a side.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Queenie's Treasury

Happy long-weekend Saturday, people! It's been a fairly busy day chez Queenie; I've whipped up some homemade mayonnaise (a new recipe - more on that later), given myself a manicure, and met up with a fellow blogger for a little sweet treat. All of this is my way of excusing the tardiness of this treasury post - I hope the goodness of the content makes up for the lateness of the hour!

First up this week, a fantastic resource for your next trip to France. I stumbled on this guide to Parisian restaurants, etiquette and norms last week, and I think it's a godsend for Americans headed for the city, be it your first trip or your twentieth. Seriously good stuff - especially the post about restaurant etiquette. Thanks for sharing your wisdom, Jake & Mo! (And thanks for an excuse to post a photo of Camille's superlative creme brulee!)

Next, something a little closer to home. For a couple of weeks now I've been following this cool blog called Scouting New York. Written by a film industry location scout, it's already opened my eyes to sights I've missed right here in my own fair city, and taught me more about those I thought I knew well. It's a ton of fun, and I highly recommend you add it to your daily reading roster.

Finally, another awesome recipe from Design*Sponge's In The Kitchen series. This week's recipe was for Boston cream pies, and man oh man do they look delicious. Yellow cake, pastry cream and chocolate glaze? Sign me up, because Beantown here I come.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Making it my own.

As soon as I spied a recipe for a tortilla with potatoes, parsnips and watercress on Cannelle et Vanille last week, I knew I had to make it. I halved the recipe to make a single-serving version for lunch, and it was delicious - but the egg-to-filling ration was too low for my liking. I decided to tweak things a bit and make my own version, heavy on the egg, lighter on the potato and parsnip, and generous with the watercress.

The genius move of the recipe - poaching the parsnip and potato in olive oil - remains, because it is just damn tasty. Seriously, intensely, ridiculously tasty.

(A quick aside: watercress is one of my favorite greens, and is especially good sauteed in olive oil with a bit of garlic. Top it off with a sprinkling of soy sauce and a pinch of red pepper, and you have a side dish worthy of a king.)

I also changed the equipment called for by the original recipe; due partly to storage space concern and partly to my belief that there's no reason to own two of everything, I don't own non-stick pans, so the flipping action called for in the Cannelle recipe was a bit tough. use the broiler, though, and there's no need to flip the thing when the egg is still quite runny - and you won't dirty a plate, either!

This recipe makes a generous lunch for one, or part of a lunch for two, but it should multiply easily - just use a bigger skillet.

Tortilla with Parsnip, Potato and Watercress
Adapted from Cannelle et Vanille

1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil, plus an additional teaspoon or so
1/4 medium onion, chopped
1/2 medium russet potato, cut into a 1/2 inch dice
1 small parsnip, cut into a 1/2 inch dice
1/4 tsp. salt
3 eggs
1/2 cup of watercress, roughly chopped
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

In an oven-proof 8 inch skillet, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the onions and sweat them for about 2 minutes - you want them cooked, but not browned. Add the diced potatoes, parsnip and the salt. Cook the vegetables at medium for about 2 minutes, then lower the heat to medium low and cook for another 15 minutes. Meanwhile, pre-heat the broiler.

In a separate bowl, whisk together the eggs. Add the watercress. Using a slotted spoon, remove the poatoes, parsnips and onions from the olive oil and add to the egg mixture (It's ok if the eggs cook a bit from the heat of the vegetables.). Wipe out the skillet with a paper towel and return to the heat. Add the teaspoon of oil and swirl to coat the pan, including the sides.

Add the eggs to the pan, turn the heat back to medium and stir the center so the egg starts to cook. When the center starts to scramble, let it be and don't stir anymore. Tuck in the edges nicely with the spatula and cook for about 2-3 minutes. When the edges begin to set, transfer the skillet to the broiler and cook until the tortilla is done to your liking. (I like it crispy on the edges and a bit runny in the middle, which takes about 3 minutes.)

Use a spatula to gently loosen the tortilla from the skillet and transfer to a plate. Slice in wedges if you plan to serve to more than one eater. Season with a bit of black pepper and salt, and serve.

Serves one generously, or two as part of a meal.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Not roasted, for a change.

My love for cauliflower is well-established, as is my love for wine. But what happens when you combine the two? Delicious, delicious things. Last week I saved a quarter of a head of cauliflower from the roasting pan and reserved it for a pasta dinner. I'd seen a couple mentions of that a red wine barley risotto with cauliflower, and since I didn't have any barley (or arborio rice) sitting around, I decided to improvise with a pasta instead.

I chopped some onion and minced some garlic and decided to keep the florets intact. Cavatappi was the only pasta I had on hand, so it won out automatically. I had about a glass of red wine left in the bottom of a bottle. And since I can always go for something spicy, I added a sprinkling of red pepper flakes to the mix.

The result was a fairly nutritious, hearty, satisfying lunch. As much as I love the sweet, crunchy experience of roasted cauliflower, a quick saute in wine and garlic does a great job of bringing out its sharper, more vegetal side. Good stuff.

Pasta with Red Wine and Cauliflower

1/4 pound short pasta, such as penne rigate or cavatappi
Olive oil
1/4 white onion, thinly sliced
1 large garlic clove, minced
1/4 head of cauliflower, chopped into 1-inch florets
1/2 cup dry red wine
Generous pinch of red pepper flakes
Finely grated parmesan cheese

In boiling, salted water, cook the pasta to al dente. Drain and set aside; do not rinse. (You can also cook the pasta while you make the sauce.)

Set a large skillet (I used my 12-incher) over high heat. Add enough olive oil to lightly coat the bottom of the pan, turn the heat to medium-high, and add the onions. Saute the onions for a few minutes until soft and fragrant, but not browned. Add the garlic and saute for a few minutes more, until you can smell the garlic and it has turned golden.

Add the cauliflower to the pan and saute for 4-6 minutes, until it has acquired a bit of color and begun to release its water. Sprinkle the mixture with a pinch of salt and deglaze the pan with the red wine. Add the pepper flakes and continue to cook, stirring frequently, until the red wine is reduced to a syrupy glaze. Add the pasta to the skillet and cook for a minute or two, mixing it with the sauce and letting everything get to know each other.

Transfer the pasta and sauce to a shallow bowl, top with the cheese, taste for seasoning, and eat!

Serves one.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Queenie's Treasury

Happy Saturday, my lovelies! Despite forecasts to the contrary, I woke up this morning to a disappointingly snow-free landscape. To soothe my sadness, I've made a giant pot of coffee, put a little Felicity on the DVD player (Whatever; I know you have guilty pleasures, too!) and am ready to share some tidbits with you.

Speaking of coffee, my first pick this week is a super-cool Etsy shop (Brookish) selling mugs decorated with literary sayings. Sounds corny, I know, but the sayings are written in a gorgeous-but-still-only-dashed-off way, and Jane Austen abounds. And you know (or maybe you didn't but now you do) how I feel about Jane Austen: she is balm for my soul, as coffee is balm for my...well, soul. So the two belong together, truly.

I'm coming across as a bit of an Anglophile (or at least UK-phile) today, but I don't care. Next up is the work of illustrator Lehel Kovaco, featured on the lovely blog Ink & Wit. I'm particularly taken with the depiction of Edinburgh. And I love how the illustrations look like they've been sketched in a splayed-out Moleskine travel notebook - nothing beats traveling with Moleskine.

Finally, some seriously adorable (and slightly nerdy) jewelry. I love these mid-century chair charm necklaces, which I discovered through the blog Design Milk. I think I need one, right now. If I had to choose, I'd go for the bent plywood Eames. I think. Which one would you pick?

Thursday, February 4, 2010

My two granddads.

A few Fridays ago, , I had dinner with two of my oldest friends. Lisa, Keith and I met in college doing what is probably the nerdiest thing I do: musical theatre. Oh yes, my friends. Singing, dancing, jazz hands.

Lisa lives in Englewood, just over the George Washington Bridge, so I see her fairly often. But Keith's been living in Philadelphia for a few years and is spending just a few weeks here in New York. Therefore, dinner was in order. We decided to meet up in the West Village at the new-ish Joseph Leonard, described by its owner as a "bar with food" and named for his two grandfathers.

The bar, a right angle set in the middle of the small room, is indeed the heart of the enterprise, where the two mixologists are a constant whirl or shaking and stirring. All that activity turns out some delicious drinks, including one of the best Manhattans I've ever had. Lisa's Saint-Germain and gin concoction was pretty good, too, though I'd have served it up instead of on the rocks. We had a good amount of time to savor our drinks; Joseph Leonard doesn't take reservations, so we spent our 20 minutes of waiting time sipping peacefully in a corner of the dining room.

We sat down at a table set with red checkered napkins, sturdy silverware and a mason jar full of cornichons. Keith, a lover of pickles, was very pleased at this last development. The menu skews toward haute barnyard, with lots of farmer's market veggies (carrots, brussels sprouts and turnips all made the list) on display. We ended up ordering a wide variety of dishes; I went for the friseé aux lardons salad, a steak tartare special and a side of brussels sprouts.

The frisée salad arrived topped with fresh tarragon - something I'd never seen before - and accompanied by a soft-fried egg perched atop a lightly toasted crouton. The egg was creamy and slipped softly down my throat. The salad itself was lovely, dressed in a red wine vinaigrette and taking a pleasantly herbal note from the tarragon. While it wasn't the best frisée aux lardons I've ever had, it was darn satisfying.

Lisa ordered the glazed carrots, which came out of the oven looking like something from a Thomas Keller cookbook - with good reason, it seems. The chef (James McDuffy) used to work for Keller at Bouchon Bakery. Perfectly turned and tossed with butter and chives, the carrots (and turnips) were sweet, tender and delicious.

My steak tartare - a special that really should go on the permanent menu - didn't photograph well, but it was absolutely delicious. The meat was finely chopped, mixed with a healthy amount of shallots, capers and mustard and topped with a poached egg. Though the disc of tartare was surrounded by more than enough toasts to go around, I ended up eating each of my bites with the prototypically American onion rings (thick and beer-battered specimens) that sat alongside.

Best of all, though, were the brussels sprouts. The leaves were separated from the cores, roasted till they were black around the edges, and tossed with copious amounts of butter. Topped off with a squeeze of Sriracha and a healthy pinch of salt, they were like green leaves of crack. None of the three of us could get enough.

(It's also worth noting that the service at Joseph Leonard was fantastic - attentive and friendly, enthusiastic (I love when I can tell that the staff adore the food at a restaurant.), and just plain sweet. The staff did a fair job of corralling an increasingly obnoxious crowd, and were happy to help me extract our coats from underneath an outerwear mountain.)

Finally, dessert. Keith and Lisa were partial to the chocolate pot de creme with cherries, I fell for the caramel pudding topped with whipped cream and cookie crumbs. Yes, cookie crumbs. Oh. My. Gah. This was just too delicious. The pudding was creamy and rich and had a mellow kind of sweetness that I found really satisfying. The cookie crumbs took the whole thing over the top into full-on retro nostalgia land, a place I'm enjoying these days.

Joseph Leonard
170 Waverly Place (At Christopher Street)

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Same old, same old - and some new, too.

I've blogged about my favorite cauliflower recipe before (roasted cauliflower with lemon and honey), but given that cauliflower is still one of the (very few) vegetables in season here in the northeast, I thought it bore repeating.

I also thought that - since I'm boring you by showing you photos of the same salad - I'd share a few of my other favorite cauliflower recipes with you. Check out the list below for inspiration, and find all kinds of new ways to enjoy winter's albino goodness.

Cauliflower pickles (Gourmet Magazine)
Cauliflower gratin (Bouchon Cookbook)
Cauliflower barley risotto (Gourmet Magazine)
Cauliflower with almonds, raisins and capers (Smitten Kitchen)
Roasted curried cauliflower (Epicurious)

Eat up, and enjoy!

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Lorna strikes again!

There are very few things I love more than browned butter. Cucumbers are up there, as are tomatoes, lamb and Vietnamese food. But browned butter is the top ten, for sure.

It's no surprise, then, that I fell in love with Lorna's browned butter pound cake the second I added the cooled butter to the two sugars. The smell of butter and sugar being creamed into one fluffy mass is always delightful; when it's browned butter that's involved, the aroma is downright intoxicating.

This cake is as easy as can be to make; its prep time is even folded into the recipe, since you can gather and measure your ingredients while the browned butter cools in the freezer. It bakes up beautifully, the crumb a deep golden color specked with brown, and the crust a crunchy, dark brown shell. It's so dense and fine that you don't even need a serrated knife to cut it, and the smell of the whole thing will linger in the house for at least 24 hours.

This is a dense cake, one that takes well to ice cream or crème fraiche. Last night, Miriam and I ate our slices topped with her homemade ginger whiskey ice cream, a most perfect combination. Lorna herself recommends crème fraiche and toasted pistachios. It's also fabulous eaten standing up while slurping your morning coffee. It may not be dignified, but that hardly matters, does it?

Paris, crowdsourced.

I am not the only one, it seems, with Paris on the brain.

Yesterday, Decor8, one of my favorite shelter blogs, posted a reader question that went like this: "Hi Holly, I am going to Paris in March with my husbands band, Montage Populaire, do you or any of your readers know of places to go/shop/eat/visit which wouldn’t be in the tourist guides?"

Obviously, I immediately chimed in with a vote for Camille (Naturellement!), and was thrilled to see the other fantastic suggestions from Holly's creative, inspiring readers. I can't wait to try them out for myself - and since I'm already getting nibbles on my home exchange ad (more on this soon), it seems I won't have to wait too long!

Monday, February 1, 2010

Almost summer.

I'm a sucker for a change in season. I love the first crisp evenings of autumn, the puffy breezes of early spring, and even the first day or two of summer's sweltering heat. And I truly love the frigid cold of winter. I love bundling up in my coat and scarf, pulling on my gloves, and heading out into a world whose edges seem somehow more sharply defined than in warmer weather.

But when winter's doldrums descend, I start to miss summer's bounty in earnest. I crave tomatoes and corn and berries; I yearn for bunches of peonies and dahlias, and I dream of ice cream and cold coffee. And while I've found frozen corn to be a decent, craving-sating substitute for its fresh counterpart, I've never been a huge fan of canned tomatoes. They've always seemed a bit cloying to me, somehow lacking in the earthy, muddy flavor that makes their fresh brethren so delicious.

Finally, though, I think I've found a reason to keep canned tomatoes in the pantry. Thanks to Smitten Kitchen's post about Marcela Hazan's simple, winter-friendly tomato sauce, I'm now prepared to invest in multiple cans of San Marzano tomatoes.

The recipe is the epitome of ease; you open the can of tomatoes and dump them into a three-quart pot along with the better part of a stick of butter and a halved onion. Turn the heat to medium, simmer for about an hour - and you're done. You should stir it every once in a while, and don't forget to use the back of your spoon to mush the increasingly tender tomatoes against the side - it's what passes for pureeing in this recipe.

I disagree with Deb on one point - I think the sauce profits a good deal from a modest sprinkling of Parmesan cheese; it adds to the creaminess already going on, and adds a funky note to things that really gets the party started.

Tomato Sauce with Butter and Onions
Adapted from Marcela Hazan’s Essentials of Italian Cooking

28 ounces whole peeled tomatoes from a can (San Marzano are the best!)
5 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 medium-sized yellow onion, peeled and halved
Salt to taste

Put the tomatoes, onion and butter in a heavy, 3-quart saucepan over medium heat. Bring the sauce to a simmer then lower the heat to keep the sauce at a slow, steady simmer for 45 minutes to an hour, or until drops of fat float free of the tomatoes.

Stir occasionally, crushing the tomatoes against the side of the pot with a wooden spoon. Remove from heat, discard the onion, add salt to taste and keep warm while you prepare your pasta.

Serves four.
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