Saturday, April 30, 2011

Queenie's Treasury

Happy weekend, readers! Today was an absolutely stunning day here in the city; I spent it hanging out with my mom. We walked the High Line, visited Mary's Fish Camp, strolled through the West Village and wound up at the Van Cleef & Arpels exhibit at the Cooper-Hewitt. And, you know what? I feel a little less guilty for being wiped out after reading all of that. Thank goodness this week's Treasury kicks off with some serious coffee.

Coffee in Paris is a lot like coffee in New York: it is often good, sometimes very good, but rarely amazing. It seems, however, that Paris is following in New York's footsteps: a haute coffee scene is burgeoning there, and that sounds pretty exciting. HiP Paris has a story about the latest barista competition held in the City of Light, featuring enough caffeine to power those lights from here through Bastille Day.

Next up, I'm a little obsessed with this Dutch farmhouse renovation from The Style Files. While I'd likely add a bit more color with art and such, I absolutely love the grey and white palette and the natural finishes. And that slinky white pendant light is to die for.

I'm a bit of a magpie these days, what with summer on the way and loads of adorable clothes on offer. This sea green necklace from Oliphant would go smashingly with the white t-shirts I bought by the armful last week, don't you think?

Friday, April 29, 2011

Improving myself.

Louisa, my cousin Jason and I took a pickling class at Murray's Cheese a couple of weeks ago, and it was awesome! The class was led by the lovely and patient Bob McClure (Of McClure's Pickles, of course!), who put up with all of our inane questions, most of which went something like, "If I do XYZ, will I poison myself by way of pickled goodness?"

A lot of the technique focused on canning, as opposed to pickling itself, but since canning has always scared the bejesus out of me (see above question), I found that pretty helpful. I'm willing to mess about with flavoring and ingredients, but I like to know how to do it without risking botulism, you know?

(One cardinal rule: always follow the brine proportions in the recipe. They're there for a reason. Muck about with spices and herbs as much as you like, but keep the ratio of salt to water to vinegar, mmmkay?)

We made cauliflower pickles (garnished liberally with bell peppers and cucumbers), but I haven't tasted mine yet. (Or Louisa's, which she left here for my snacking enjoyment.) I promise a full update - and recipe - when I do.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Shake Shack, 4 PM, 9 April 2011

Pancakes and bacon custard. My take? Too salty, not maple-y enough. I feel like a traditionalist-slash-provincial, but there you have it.

Super creamy, though.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Asparagus: check!

The rhythm of spring is, for me, measured by the gradual arrival of my old friends. First come the tulips and daffodils, then the ramps, and then the asparagus. Asparagus, in all its grassy glory, is the first substantive vegetable to make its appearance in the Northeast. The early harvest is typically the best - both boldly flavored and delicately textured.

I got my hands on my first pound of asparagus on Saturday morning and promptly returned home to make myself an asparagus-centric lunch to remember. Eggs and pork are classic partners for asparagus, and so I decided to saute my spears in bacon fat and top the lot with a fried egg. Chives are delightfully peppery and are simply everywhere right now, so I added a healthy handful of those for good measure. (I love pork and pepper - love!)

Now, if you're veggie, I'd skip the bacon and go for butter here - a little animal fat goes a long way, even if it's just dairy. (I say "just," but let's face it: butter is amazing.) And if you want to use this as a side, skip the egg. Or not. Your call.

Asparagus with Bacon and Shallots

2 slices bacon, cut crosswise into 1/4 inch batons
1 large shallot, peeled and thinly sliced
1/2 pound asparagus, trimmed and cut crosswise on the bias into two-inch pieces
2 tbs. chicken or vegetable stock
2 tbs. chives, finely chopped
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

Heat a large skillet over high heat. Add the bacon and reduce the heat to medium-high. Saute until most of the fat is rendered, but the bacon is still a little chewy. Using a slotted spoon, set aside the bacon.

Add the shallot and saute for a few minutes until a little soft. Add the asparagus, season with salt and pepper, and continue to saute, until the asparagus turns bright green. Add the stock to deglaze the pan stir until it is mostly evaporated. Add one tablespoon of the chives and cook for a minute more.

Transfer to a bowl, top with the rest of the chives (and a fried egg, if that's how you roll), season to taste, and chow down.

Serves one as a main course, two as a side.

What a woman's gotta do.

My refrigerator was full of Easter feast goodness, and my kitchen was super warm from the oven going all day long (cream puffs and ramp tart), so the eggs had to live on the windowsill for a bit.

I think they liked it there.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Queenie's Treasury: Caffeinated Edition

It's a very rainy Saturday here in New York, but I've already been below 14th Street - twice! I visited the Greenmarket (ramps, asparagus AND lilacs on offer - spring is truly here) and stopped in to say hello to Miss Holly and have my bangs trimmed. Now I'm reveling in the aftermath of a delectable asparagus-egg-and-bacon lunch (recipe to come) and pondering all of the Easter-related cooking to come this afternoon. In the meantime, let's take a look at this week's all-coffee Treasury!

First up, a super-helpful guide to New York's coffee scene, courtesy of Eater. Ever wanted to know the difference between Cafe Grumpy and Joe, or what the heck the deal is with Abraco? No longer shall you have any excuse to visit Starbucks.

In further coffee news, Merrill of Food52 has published her definitive guide to homemade iced coffee, just in time for the warm weather that (I'm told) is currently sweeping much of the nation. (Jerks.) As opposed to the oft-advocated cold brew, Merrill suggests a cooled, strong French press coffee and espresso ice cubes. Approved on both counts!

Friday, April 22, 2011


Did you guys know that I'm totally obsessed with cauliflower puree right now? Seriously - it's that good. I wrote a recipe for my current version for my twice-a-month column at You + ME* Equals. Check it out!

Doughnut Plant, 16 April, 8:30 AM

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Seasonal goodness.

Last weekend, I paid a late night visit to Momofuku Noodle Bar with my friends Nick and Louisa. We enjoyed our bowls of ramen to the utmost, but it was the first and last courses that caught my fancy.

Momofuku's potato and ramp dish is worth a special trip. The creamy potatoes play beautifully off of the funky wild leeks, and the whole thing is a plateful of spring. You can't have this dish three weeks from now, you know? So get your butts over there.

And dessert? A cup of salted chocolate ice cream. Marvelous, icy, exciting. I don't always love saltier ice creams in the way I love salty desserts in general, but this one worked like a charm. I must have it again soon, as should you.

Bar Boulud, 9 April, 7:00 PM

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

They're heee-eeere!

What? Ramps!

That said, I'm feeling a bit guilty about indulging this season. Apparently the ramp-rich lands upstate and in New Jersey are being positively denuded of their crop, which of course threatens our long-term enjoyment of the delectable wild leeks. And, let's face it, it can't be good ecologically.

Are you planning to eat a lot of ramps this season? Why or why not?

Dress to impress.

You may remember some of my past odes to cream puffs. And I don't mean profiteroles - I mean cream puffs. Profiteroles, you see, don't do it for me. The ice cream makes the choux pastry shells go hard and cold, and then cold and soggy.

But cream puffs? Filled with whipped cream, pastry cream, cheese, whatever - those, I love. I've had some delicious ones in Pennsylvania and in California, but I'd never attempted them at home. Until now. Turns out, they're the kind of dessert that will impress your guests way out of proportion to the amount of effort you need to put in.

Basically, you make a choux pastry, then bake it into little puffs. Does that sound fancy? Well, trust me: it ain't. You boil some water with some butter, mix in some flour and eggs and...well, that's it! Drop those suckers onto parchment-lined cookie sheets and bake for twenty minutes or so, and you have seriously French, seriously tasty little shells that you can fill to your heart's content.

To keep things simple, I filled mine with a mixture of whipped cream and mascarpone cheese. The cheese adds heft and complexity, but is way easier to deal with than pastry cream (one requires opening a package; the other is, well, pastry cream). You can do whatever you like, though - even fill them with ice cream, if you so choose. (Different strokes for different folks, right?)

I topped mine with hot fudge for a festive touch; you can also dust them with confectioner's sugar for a perfectly decadent breakfast or afternoon tea. Pastry puffs: the chameleons of the dessert world, am I right?

Cream Puffs with Chocolate Sauce
Choux pastry recipe adapted from Mastering The Art of French Cooking

For the pastry puffs
1 cup water
6 tbs. unsalted butter
3/4 cup flour
1 tsp. granulated sugar
5 eggs, one beaten with 1/2 tsp. water

For the filling
3/4 cup mascarpone cheese
1/2 cup heavy cream
1 tbs. granulated sugar

For the chocolate sauce
6 oz. semi-sweet chocolate
1/4 cup heavy cream
2 tbs. turbinado sugar

Make the pastry puffs:
Move the oven racks to the bottom and top thirds of the oven. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit.

Place the water, butter and sugar in a 1 1/2 or 2 quart sauce pan and bring to a boil. Continue to boil until the butter melts. Remove from the heat and immediately add all the flour. Beat vigorously with a wooden spoon to blend. Replace the pot over medium high heat for a minute or two, beating with the spoon all the while, until the dough begins to come away from the sides and the bottom of the pan is coated with a film of flour.

Remove from the heat and make a well in the middle of the dough. Add one egg at a time, beating thoroughly with the spoon until well-mixed. Continue with the remaining eggs, one by one. Once all the eggs have been added, mix for another minute more, until smooth.

Line two cookie sheets or jelly roll pans with parchment paper. Drop 2-inch diameter rounds of dough onto the pans, leaving about two inches between them. Wet your fingers and shape the rounds into even shapes, if need be. Brush with the tops with just a bit of the egg and water mixture.

Place in the pre-heated oven and bake for 15-20 minutes until puffed, firm and golden brown, switching the pans positions' halfway through. Remove from the oven, steel yourself, then cut a slit in the side of each puff with a sharp knife. Replace on the pans and place back in the (now turned-off) oven for ten more minutes. Remove to a rack to cool completely.

Make the filling:
In a medium bowl, beat the cream and half the sugar until it forms stiff peaks. In a separate, larger bowl, beat the mascarpone and half the sugar until it is lighter and somehwat fluffy. Fold the cream into the mascarpone and mix gently until evenly blended.

Make the chocolate sauce:
In a double boiler set over low heat, melt the chocolate, cream and sugar together. Stir occasionally with a wooden spoon. When the sauce is evenly melted and smooth, remove from the heat.

To assemble the cream puffs:
Slice a puff 2/3 of the way around - it should look like a Muppet with a mouth that opens and closes. Fill with as much of the filling as you can. Place two or three filled puffs on a plate, then top with the warm chocolate sauce. Serve immediately.

Serves four.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Queenie's Treasury

Happy Monday evening, all! I'm so sorry that this week's Treasury is late. I had quite a whirlwind weekend, between Nick and Louisa arriving in town, making dinner for Jeremy and Miriam on Friday night, and seeing theater on Saturday (Company) and Sunday (Jerusalem). I'm ready and raring to go with the Treasury, though, so let's get to it!

First up, take a look at these mouthwatering doughnuts from LA's Donut Man. Fresh doughnuts stuffed with, fat, juicy, sweet in-season strawberries. My mouth is watering at the thought, let alone the image. Thank goodness Louisa and I already have plans to visit Doughnut Plant this weekend. (Via Serious Eats.)

A couple of weeks back, I spotted this incredible Stockholm apartment on the blog Bodie & Fou. I'm in love with its all-white kitchen, its giant windows, and its wall of bookshelves. I think I'll move in tomorrow.

Finally, courtesy of the always inspirational SwissMiss, an amazing wood mug. I agree with Tina - I'd love to know what it feels like to drink out of this. I think it would be a perfect gift for a tea or coffee enthusiast.

Friday, April 8, 2011

Pool time is the best time.

So, the weather in Austin was pretty insane. While the mornings would start off foggy and misty, the clouds generally parted by lunchtime to reveal a sunny sky and 85-degree temperatures.

Pretty much the most perfect pool weather on earth, and we'd be fools not to take advantage of it.

And we are no fools.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Getting around.

Hey, folks! It's my day for posting over at You + ME* Equals, where I've shared one of my very favorite recipes: romaine hearts with lemon, creme fraiche and fried capers. So clickety on over to read about why salad is comfort food, and why you should make this one today.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Bloody Marys for the beer lover.

While I'm not normally much of a vodka fan, I do love a good Bloody Mary. And by "good," I mean spicy, salty and preferably garnished with a wedge of lime and at least one pickle. I also love all things bubbly - soda, seltzer, champagne and beer. And so the idea of a Michelada - essentially a Bloody Mary made with beer instead of vodka - appealed to me immediately.

While I'm sure that Micheladas have a healthy, rewarding life outside of the city of Austin, I'd never seen one on a menu before my visits there. I can't help but hope that they'll somehow magically catch on here in New York before the summer sets in (Twitter campaign, anyone?). I can't think of a better summer brunch drink, especially if you factor in local August tomatoes.

The ones we drank at South by San Jose (a free mini-festival sponsored by the amazing women behind the Hotel San Jose and the folks at Jo's Coffee) were delicious: salt-rimmed plastic cups filled with peppery tomato juice and topped with cans of Modelo. A squeeze of lime and they were good to go.

Like Bloody Marys, Micheladas are really all about personal taste. (Here's Rick Bayless' recipe, for inspiration.) How spicy, salty or peppery you make yours is entirely your business. Will you make yours with Tabasco? Sriracha? Cholula? Worcestershire sauce? Do tell!

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Remember The Salt Lick?

My favorite Austin barbecue? From this post? Well, we went back.

And this time, we brought beer.

Winter's on the wing.

I went to the Union Square Greenmarket inhumanly early this Saturday in the hopes that I'd snag a healthy portion of the season's first ramp haul. Sadly, it was not to be.

No ramps appeared, but I did see some gorgeous flowers (tulips, hyacinths and potted ranunculus), lovely lettuces and adorable, teeny little onions.

I skipped home with dug legs, pea shoots, farm eggs and a few handfuls of the tiniest, sweetest cipollini onions I could find.

Consolation prizes these are not.

Oh, and, yes: that title is something of a wink to my fellow musical theater nerds. Hi there!

Monday, April 4, 2011

Serious business.

Austin is pretty serious about queso.

In Austin-speak, queso translates to "cheesy dip served with tortilla chips, often garnished with or served alongside particularly tangy salsa." It's somewhat reminiscent of Velveeta (but is way better), and is arguably the city's signature food - certainly its signature snack. In my two trips there I've sampled many a version.

My favorite thus far is made by Torchy's Tacos, a small local chain that started (as many Austin and New York restaurants now do) as a food truck. While Torchy's makes a perfectly solid taco (see my review of them here), it's their queso that I crave. It's creamy but not too thick, and coats the warm tortilla chip just enough. It's also the spiciest version I've found; its zest comes from the toppings (salsa, guac and peppers), but also from within. It's well-seasoned, is what I'm saying.

And nothing goes better with a cold Mexican coke.
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