Monday, April 30, 2012

Spicing it up.

Way back when,  one of the very first recipes posted on this blog was for bucatini all'amatriciana. Yes, I've long been a fan of this sauce, made with tomatoes, red onion, bacon and crushed red pepper. Can you blame me? Because it's pretty freaking awesome.

A few weeks ago, while perusing my Pinterest stream, I spied something truly amazing: baked eggs all'amatriciana. And I realized that I'd been missing an incredible opportunity for many, many years. After all, I love eggs - especially when run under the broiler to set the whites and leave the yolks all runny and delicious - and I really, really love bacon, tomatoes, red onion and crushed red pepper.

And so, when I grabbed some local-but-not-yet-seasonal tomatoes at the Greenmarket this weekend, I supplemented them with a few teeny red onions and made my way home to make what I suspected would be one of the best lunches I'd had in quite some time. Spoiler alert: I wasn't wrong.

Turns out these eggs are not only delicious, they're brunch-worthy. They're the food equivalent of a Bloody Mary, minus the booze: spicy, rich, bursting with umami, and loaded with hangover busting powers. And since you can make the sauce the day before, they're perfect for those mornings you know you'll need a little something extra to get moving.

If you're feeling especially sluggish, I recommend extra red pepper.

Baked Eggs All'Amatriciana

1 slice bacon, cut into batons
1/2 small red onion, finely chopped
1 clove garlic, sliced crosswise
3 plum tomatoes, cut into 1-inch pieces
Kosher salt, to taste
Crushed red pepper flakes, to taste
2 eggs
Parmesan cheese, finely grated, to taste

Heat a saucepan over high heat. When quite hot, add the bacon and immediately turn the heat to medium. Cook until the bacon is crisp and most of the fat is rendered, stirring occasionally. Using a slotted spoon, remove the bacon to a plate, and pour off all but a very thin coating of the fat.

Return the pan to the heat and add the onion. Cook for a few minutes, until softened and just turning translucent. Add the garlic and cook for a minute or two more, then add the tomatoes and season with salt. Cook for three to five minutes, stirring constantly, until the tomatoes have melted and the sauce is becoming watery.

Add the bacon back in, along with a half teaspoon or so of red pepper flakes. Reduce the heat to a simmer, and cook, covered, for ten minutes or so, until the tomatoes have well and truly released their juices.

Remove the lid and allow the sauce to cook 10-15 minutes longer, until the sauce has thickened. Taste for seasoning (it should have a decent kick).

(Everything up to this point can be done up to a day before serving; let the sauce come to room temperature, cover it tightly, and stick it in the fridge. Warm it back up before moving to the next step.)

Turn on the broiler. While it warms up, spread the sauce over the bottom of a large ramekin (I use my 16 ounce models). Crack two eggs on top of the sauce, being careful not to break the yolks. Sprinkle with the cheese.

Place the dish under the broiler for about 5 minutes, until the egg whites are set and firm, and the cheese is browned.

Remove the ramekin to a plate (to protect your table from the heat), sprinkle with a touch of salt and a bit more red pepper, and dig in. 

Serves one as a main course.

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Queenie's Treasury

Happy weekend, my lovelies! It's been a busy week chez Queenie, topped off by this morning's rather chilly visit to the Greenmarket. I snagged asparagus, ramps, garlic scapes, lilacs and peonies, though, so it was well worth the frozen fingers and runny nose. As I warm up with a pot of Stumptown, let's take a look at this week's Treasury.

First up, one of my very favorite blogs. Little Green Notebook is the work of interior designer (and DIY goddess) Jenny Komenda. She has a marvelous eye, effortless style, and the Ikea hacking skills of a master. Everything she touches turns to gold - often literally, with the help of a little gilt spray paint. Her reupholstery projects are among my favorites, and the tufted headboard she made for Jo Goddard is stunning. Jenny, you're my home makeover heroine.

Next up, Rifle Paper Co.'s most excellent spring collection. If the lilacs and peonies at the market haven't gotten you in the mood, their new floral notebooks certainly will. I've become something of a digital note-taker of late (I'm obsessed with the TeuxDeux app, for example), these make me want to return to my analog ways and start jotting ideas down in tiny little journals.

Finally, something I never thought I'd type: look at these adorable sugar cubes! Well, not cubes, really - shapes. Chambre de Sucre will help you have the best tea/champagne cocktail party ever. Just hang one of these angel wings off the edge of each teacup or flute, and your work is done. Or you can go dainty with the tiniest, most perfect cubes you've ever seen. No matter what, you'll never think of sugar as boring ever again. (Photo via The SoHo.)

Friday, April 27, 2012

An edifying view.

Last weekend, I paid a very brief visit to Boston and Cambridge. We stayed just off of Harvard Square, and my run on Friday morning took me down to Memorial Drive, where the views of Harvard's distinguished buildings are only interrupted by crew teams rowing through the frame. Pretty idyllic, right?

And not a bit chilly, to be honest.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

They have Manhattans in Boston, too.

And I highly recommend the one they pour at Drink, Barbara Lynch's cocktail bar on Congress Street. It was ridiculously well-balanced and satisfying.

Plus, they make sure you have plenty of water to go with your booze, which is, in my opinion, the mark of a place that wants you to enjoy your drink as opposed to wallow in it.

348 Congress Street
Boston, Massachusetts

Monday, April 23, 2012

In the neighborhood.

When I moved to the Upper East Side, it wasn't because the neighborhood was a happening hot spot. I needed a place in a hurry, and a friend's cousin was subletting her super-cheap studio. It seemed like kismet, and I moved in a week after I first visited the place. Seven years and two apartments later, I'm still here - mostly because it's a ridiculously easy commute (to work, to the East Village, you name it) and pretty cheap, in Manhattan terms. But, of late, it's turning into a halfway exciting place for food and drink, too.

Spigolo has been a big part of the neighborhood's self-improvement plan. It opened a few years back, and has been serving delicious Italian food to standing room only crowds ever since. Every time I visit, I realize I don't go often enough.

On my most recent trip, I started with a house cocktail, the Bulleit Burlesque. A mixture of rye, cherry and ginger (I honestly can't remember the exact ingredients), it was a spicy take on a Manhattan - so of course I loved it.

For my starter, I ordered Spigolo's take on the Caesar, a half head of romaine topped with anchovy dressing, Parmesan and piping hot, lightly fried rock shrimp. I loved the flavors in this, but it was a bit overdressed. I ended up pushing about half the sauce to the side - but nothing could ruin the contrast of the plump, toasty shrimp with the crisp, cold lettuce.

On my insistence, Kyle and I split an order of the Romano potatoes. From what I can tell, these bad boys are boiled, then smashed, coated with a bit of cheese and salt, and crisped on the grill. They are, in a word, ridiculous.

I was lucky enough to visit early in the evening, before the restaurant sold out of their house-made chicken and broccoli rabe sausage, which was split, grilled and served on top of a cold farro salad. The sausage - unlike so much chicken sausage - was moist, flavorful and a perfect texture. And the salad was a little creamy and peppered with roasted tomatoes and cold cucumber. So, as you can imagine: I loved it.

Dessert at Spigolo is particularly good - the co-owner is also the pastry chef, and she does a fantastic job. My favorite of the two we sampled last week was the sticky toffee bread pudding. I'd even go so far as to say that the sticky toffee sauce was as good as my own, and I loved the whipped cream/mascarpone combination that topped things off. (So much so that I might copy it.)

Over the next few weeks, I'll be offering up a few more reasons why the Upper East Side isn't seeming like such a bad place to be these days. Stay tuned! In the meantime, get your butts to Spigolo before they take that bread pudding off the menu.

1561 Second Avenue
Between 81st and 82nd Streets

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Queenie's Treasury

Happy weekend, kiddos! I'm headed home this morning from Cambridge, Massachusetts, where I've spent a couple of days visiting with friends, family and my firm's Boston office. In the meantime, I've been collecting all sorts of goodies to share with you all, so let's get to it, shall we?

Let's start with this incredible Rhinebeck home, photographed by the one and only Jamie Beck. I absolutely love the way this space combines rustic and glam elements. The result? A stunning retreat to which I'd like to invite myself for every weekend from now to eternity.

Next, some seriously beautiful art. Mike Geno paints portraits of cheese. I know. I'm particularly partial to this Winnimere. The texture leaps off the painting, and I can practically taste the creamy goodness. (I also can't think of a better housewarming gift for cheese lovers than a pair of Geno's cheese and bread depictions.)

Finally, I'm currently loving Dear Hancock's Culinary Desk stationery. The butcher block island, the chicken ready for roasting, the Mac displaying a recipe - it calls something very specific to mind for me. Shocking, I know.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Something new.

 Last Friday, Anica and I paid a visit to a  tiny new cocktail bar down at 9th and Avenue C, called The Wayland. I'd first passed it a couple of weeks ago, and made a mental note to visit as soon as possible. Anica is as obsessed with a good cocktail as I am, so I knew she'd be the perfect partner in crime.

We arrived close to opening (7 PM), and the petite space was already filling up. By the time we left for dinner, around 9, it was packed with people. And for good reason. The vibe is incredibly chill, and the cocktails are delicious.

For my first drink, I tried the Bermuda Black, a concoction made with white & black rum and fresh ginger & lime juice,  topped off with a smidge of dark beer. It was sweet, yes, but also sour, tangy and rich. Definitely a summertime sipping drink, a sort of dark and stormy for those of us who like a little more citrus in the mix.

To finish up, I ordered a Manhattan, which came garnished with an orange peel. It was perfectly balanced - not two sweet, not too spicy - always a good sign of a quality bartender. After all, fancy custom cocktails are one thing, but proving you can tackle the classics? A must.

The Wayland
700 East 9th Street
(Corner of Avenue C)

Monday, April 16, 2012


I've been gravitating toward simple, delicious food recently. I think it's in anticipation of summer's bounty, which barely needs any help to be amazing. Among the things I've been eating are the granola from Peels, which is unbelievably delicious, and...

...a couple of loin lamb chops, which I trimmed a bit, rubbed with garlic, sprinkled with salt and pepper, and cooked on the stovetop. I whipped up a little cucumber-yogurt sauce to go alongside, and the whole thing took about 15 minutes, start to finish.

There's nothing wrong with simple.

Monday, April 9, 2012

Spring is, well, springing.

Hyacinth at the Union Square Greenmarket. Spring has sprung, and I'm back in the Greenmarket swing. Expect an uptick in pictures of flowers, fruits, vegetables and oddly-dressed shoppers.

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Ramps: a debrief.

Well, folks, I'm pleased to say that the ramp-alicious dinner party went off without a hitch! We sipped our Gibsons, nibbled our toasts, slurped up our pasta and devoured our lamb. (And the strawberry-rhubarb crostata wasn't half-bad, either.)

Most of what I made last night were tried and true favorites, starting with the Gibsons, which I garnished with pickled ramps in lieu of cocktail onions (click here for the recipe) . (Gibsons are just Martinis with onions instead of olives.) I enjoy a wet Gibson, with four parts gin to one part dry vermouth. A couple dashes of bitters don't hurt, either. The slightly sweet, sour ramp pickles go gorgeously with the spicy gin and herbal vermouth - altogether a truly elegant cocktail.

The Gibsons worked very nicely with the only new recipe I cooked up for this dinner: ramp toasts with Parmesan. The toasts are based on a favorite recipe of mine from the Gourmet cookbook, which is one of the easiest, most basic, most delicious concoctions known to man: finely chopped sweet onion mixed with mayonnaise, spooned onto cocktail bread, topped with cheese and black pepper and toasted in the oven for a few minutes.

I subbed in ramps for the sweet onion and decided to go all out and leave the ramps raw rather than blanch them. The result? A spicy, pure-ramp flavor and general awesomeness. One of these goes a long way, which is really what you want from a cocktail nibble, right? (The new recipe is all yours at the bottom of this post!)

Next up came my personal favorite, fresh fettuccine with ramps and bacon (I left the egg off of this version, since we had small, appetizer-sized helpings.). I made the sauce ahead of time and just warmed it up and tossed it with the freshly cooked pasta when the time came. Super easy, and a huge crowd pleaser, especially when topped with dangerous amounts of Parmesan cheese.

Earlier in the day, I marinated a boneless leg of lamb in olive oil, salt, pepper, smashed garlic and a splash or two of vermouth. I roasted it while we drank our cocktails and ate our pasta, then served it topped with some ramp compound butter and alongside some sugar snaps. (I blanched the sugar snap peas in salted water in the afternoon, then warmed them up in some of the ramp compound butter and a handful of minced chives before sliding them onto the plate next to the lamb.)

After a simple green salad, we moved onto dessert: strawberry-rhubarb crostata with some softly whipped cream. (I threw some dark brown sugar into the cream before whipping it, the better to complement the rhubarb's tang.) This crostata is one of my favorite desserts of all time. It's insanely easy to make, presents beautifully, and is really, truly satisfying to eat. The only change from my original recipe? I subbed in vodka for half the water in the crust recipe, which definitely helped keep things tender and flaky instead of tough and chewy. I'm a convert.

I sent everyone home with a little container of ramp compound butter for their own personal, private consumption, though what we really needed were entire rolls of Certs. Ramps: delicious and delightful, though possibly not for the person sitting next to you on the subway on the way home.

Ramp Toasts
Adapted from The Gourmet Cookbook

2 bunches ramps, well washed and the root ends trimmed
1 cup mayonnaise (Hellman's is my favorite for this; homemade is too thin)
1/4 tsp salt
25 slices cocktail bread
1/2 cup grated Parmesan
Freshly ground black pepper

Pre-heat the oven to 450 degrees Fahrenheit. Slice the ramps crosswise, as thinly as possible. Place in a medium mixing bowl along with the mayonnaise. Stir to combine until the ramps and mayonnaise are evenly mixed. Mix in the salt.

Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper, then fill with as many slices as cocktail bread as possible. Top each slice with a tablespoon or so of the ramp-mayonnaise mixture, then top that with a generous pinch of the cheese. Finish each toast off with a few grinds of pepper.

Toast for 5-7 minutes, checking occasionally, until the bread begins to darken and the cheese is melted and golden-brown. Serve immediately.

Makes 25 toasts.

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Queenie's Treasury

Happy weekend, everyone! It's a glorious spring morning here in New York - it's only 9 AM, and I've already paid visits to the Union Square Greenmarket and Fairway. After all, I have a ramps-themed dinner party to get off the ground in the next eleven and a half hours. While I enjoy my coffee, let's talk Treasury.

First up, this adorable, personalized iPad case by Etsy seller Pretty Smitten. I love the graphic patterns and the monograms, and am thinking one of these might be just the thing to jazz up my new iPad. And, come to think of it, my Kindle case is looking a bit shabby...

I break far too many glasses to justify investing in these, but aren't these Mark Blackwell highballs absolutely to die for? The gold-dipped base is swoon-worthy, and I can't imagine a more elegant item to class up a bar cart.

I'm off to cook up a storm - the rest of you (if you're in New York) should get outside and enjoy this unreal sunshine!

Thursday, April 5, 2012


A few drinks I've been enjoying recently. No particular order, but there is a theme: delicious, delightful booze. (Yum.)

Lemonade shandy, courtesy of Nick. Louisa's patio, Austin.

Applejack sidecar, courtesy of me. My living room, Manhattan.

Tawny port. The Vanderbilt, Brooklyn.

A Plantation cocktail (grapefruit, gin and basil). Frank's, Austin.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012


On my last night in Austin, Louisa invited our friends Joel and Ted over for dinner. We decided it would be the perfect opportunity for some Italian-style feasting. Joel agreed to make a salad and bruschetta, and we agreed to make a pasta, a meat, and a vegetable side. The games had begun.

For the meat course - well, actually, for all of our dishes - Louisa and I took inspiration from one of my very favorite places, Frankies Spuntino. (Every recipe mentioned here can be found in their cookbook.) Their rib eye roast is a garlicky delight, and they serve it sliced cold. Make-ahead steak with garlic and herbs? Sold.

We bought a 2 1/2 pound rib eye roast, had it deboned, and rubbed it all over with garlic, parsley and thyme. We let it hang out in the fridge for 24 hours, then roasted it slowly in the oven, where it browned gorgeously all over and rendered just the tiniest amount of fat. I resisted temptation and popped that baby back in the fridge, where it stayed for another five or six hours.

Meanwhile, back in the kitchen, Louisa worked her magic on a sweet and sour baked eggplant dish. See, what you do is make a caramel in the bottom of a sauce pan, then deglaze it with vinegar. In go the hand-crushed tomatoes - along with a healthy amount of salt and garlic - to simmer for half an hour.

In the meantime, Louisa roasted some sliced eggplant. We then layered the eggplant with the sauce (saving some of it for pouring later) and roasted it again. Before we served it, we topped the whole thing with ricotta salata and mint. It's eggplant parmesan re-imagined for summer, folks. (And, apparently, Sicilian.)

For the pasta course, I made Frankies justly famous fresh pasta (we used penne) with hot sausage, browned butter and sage. It was damn good, as always.

And then, then - we sliced the roast. Pink all the way through, redolent of herbs and garlic, and a worthy companion to the eggplant. Add in Joel's delicious salad (dressed with his new obsession, white balsamic) and amazing bruschetta with grilled kale and tomatoes, and it's clear. This is how you do summer, Italian-style, kids.

Monday, April 2, 2012


Texans are serious about their bacon, if this display at Central Market is any indication.
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