Corn and Tomato Panzanella

I haven’t been eating anything new this week. I cooked a little something new, but y’all have to wait to see that – don’t worry, it’s coming!

In the meanwhile, I thought that I should dust off one of my favorite end of summer recipes.  Enjoy the old fashioned (lack of) formatting and the always scrumptious taste.

Corn and Tomato Panzanella

No matter the time of year, it’s always best to cook in season. The food tastes fresher, the cost is often less and it leaves less of a carbon footprint.
And it’s important to care about things like that, because…well I don’t really know WHY but I know that it IS.
And nothing is more seasonal that a Corn and Tomato Bread Salad.
Ingredients:
8 ears corn
2 pints cherry tomatoes
1 onion
2 loaves bread, stale if possible
1.5 cups olive oil, plus more for croutons
3/4 cup sherry vinegar
1 tbsp.  mustard
salt and pepper to taste
1. First, the corn: Grasp the top of the green husks
 and just strip them away from the cob.
 Be careful to strip all the corn silk away from the cob, too. A few errant strands won’t kill you, but more than that and you might feel like you are eating handful of hair.
2.  Once the cobs are all husked, toss them into a huge pot of boiling water
and boil to taste, JUST until it is tender. You do NOT want to overcook  this corn.
Also, preheat the oven to 350 Fahrenheit.
 3. Take your tomatoes and cut them in halves, quarters, pieces…any bite-sized pieces will do.
4. Now dice the onion very finely. You want to use a whole sweet Vidalia onion or half of a red onion. The point here is to accent the flavors of the corn and tomatoes, not to add an incredibly biting or abrasive component.
5. Cut the bread into bite size pieces and drizzle additional olive oil over the whole thing before you pop it in the oven for about 15 minutes or until golden brown.
You want to really pour the olive oil on thickly here, because you want a crispy, slightly greasy crouton.
Greasy in that good way…is there any other way?
6. Now make the dressing with the olive oil, vinegar, and mustard. Taste and adjust or add seasoning as you prefer. 
7. Now combine the tomatoes, onions and dressing in a large bowl and toss.
 8. Now, you are going to stand a small bowl upside down in a larger bowl and balance the corn cob on top of the bottom of the small bowl. Scrape a knife down the cob, and all the kernels will fly off into the surrounding bowl. This is absolutely the ONLY way to scrape the kernels off the cob without them flying all over the kitchen.
I speak from experience.
It takes awhile, but you end up with the most fabulous bowl of delicious corn.
9.  Now you add the corn (which should still be slightly warm)
 and the croutons(which should also still be slightly warm) to the salad. Toss and let it marinate for at least 2 hours or up to 12 hours.
 When you are ready to serve it, taste it for salt and pepper, and take a bite of one of the most delicious salads you have ever eaten. The juice from the tomatoes release while the salad marinates and tempers the pungent salad dressing, making it sweet with it’s juices. The corn is milky and toothsome, the tomatoes are soft and sweet, and the onion gives the dish just a touch of bite. The bread is crunchy on the outside but gets wonderfully soft and soaked with that vinaigrette, delightfully creamy yet light from the mustard. This is a perfect side dish for steak or fried chicken, and the best part is…it gets even better as it sits in the fridge.
Not that we ever have any leftovers here.

Pizza Eggplant

I was inspired to make this after seeing a droolworthy recipe on Serious Eats.

Of course, when I look at a recipe, I just generally look at the title and the picture of the final product, then kind of make up all of the in between steps on my own.

This is a GREAT pasta free lasagna type recipe. It’s rich but not greasy and filling but not uber heavy. It’s a great way to use up those late season eggplants and tomatoes.

And it’s especially tasty for a vegetarian crowd.

Pizza Eggplant

2011-07-25 tomatoes aspic and pasta salad Ingredients:

3 eggplants, skinned and sliced into thin slices, lengthwise

1 lb or so fresh, low moisture mozzarella

2-3 cups your favorite tomato sauce

1/2 cup fresh parmesan cheese

1 cup olive oil

A ton of salt…no, really, a ton of salt.

IMG_1380 1. Lay your eggplant on a couple layers of paper towel on a sheet pan and salt the hell out of them. No reall…mountains of salt. This isn’t to season the eggplant (thought it does), it’s to both draw out the bitterness and the moisture, so the final dish isn’t too soggy. Do it anywhere from 45 minutes to 2 hours. When you are doing this, there may be droplet of moisture on the tops of the eggplant and the paper towel will become soaked. That’s all okay, full steam head.

IMG_1388 2. Then, rinse the eggplant WELL and dry it even better. You don’t want it to be a a salt lick and you DON’T want to get hit with water-meets-oil splatters in the next step.

IMG_1389 3. Preheat the oven to 350 F, then fry the eggplant over medium high heat in a pan with olive oil. You don’t want the eggplant to be brown, the point here is to make it lightly golden and flexible – a minute or 2 per side should do it, and you should do it in batches so they can fry in an even layer.

A word about flying eggplant: eggplant is a sponge. It soaks up moisture immediately. So, use just a little oil at a time – a  few teaspoons at first. If you need more go for it, but just use a little at a time, because you will have to re-oil for each batch.

IMG_1403 4. Drain the fried eggplant well on a few paper towels - it will be really greasy and you are gonna want to dry them off as well as possible. If they tear a little while you drain them, it’s okay. Now, the layering starts:

IMG_1409 5. Sauce…

IMG_1411 eggplant…

IMG_1420 cheese, and repeat until the eggplant is al used up. I threw some tomatoes in there because they were going bad - feel free to use the same. Now, bake it for about 30 minutes, or until the cheese is totally melted, the dish is bubbling, and you are drooling.

IMG_1421 6. Let rest for 15 minutes for the juices to redistribute and serve.

Oh, this is gooood. This is big bowl on the couch with comfy pajamas and trash tv good. This is cold for breakfast he next day good. This…is…good. It will seem quite watery when it is first finished, but I promise that the juices get soaked right back up. Though, truth be told, I spooned up those juices and ate them as an appetizer before they even got a chance to redistribute. This is so delicious.

IMG_1423 The eggplant is silky but still firm enough to stand up to the tomato sauce, the salty Parmesan, and the stretchy mozzarella. It’s pizza without the dough and lasagna without the ricotta. It’s easy to make (Even though it’s time-consuming), and any meat eater will be shocked that they can feel so satisfied with nary a pork product in sight. Make this stat and thank me tomorrow.

Or don’t. Because you will be too busy stuffing your race with leftovers.

BBQ Oven Fries

Did you know that if you keep potatoes in your fridge, they will last for, like, months?

I’m serious…I found a couple of potatoes in my fridge that I must have bought in 2012. They weren’t shriveled. There were no eyes growing – not one! There were no brown or mushy spots. It was like I had just bought them earlier that week. Wow.

So, I made a recipe that I haven’t ever made for the blog, even though it’s been in my repertoire since I was in elementary school. It was on my kitchen table growing up at least once a week. It’s the kind of homey, comforting food that is perfect for any weeknight meal. It’s not a fast recipe, but it’s almost stupidly easy.

And, oh, I make it with bbq sauce because my husband is WEIRD and doesn’t like ketchup.

BBQ Oven Fries

Collages Ingredients:

2 russet potatoes, washed, dried, and cut into about 8 long strips

1/2 cup of bbq sauce

2 tsp. olive oil

sprinkling of salt and pepper

IMG_1427 1. Preheat the oven to 425F. That hot temperature is very important, unless you want to be cooking for 8 days and nights. Drizzle  the potatoes with the olive oi, season lightly, and put them on a baking sheet. Then, pop in the oven for about 40 minutes or…

IMG_1432 2. Until they are golden brown on the bottom, when flipped over. They should have a nutty, savory aroma, and come on…you know what fries look like, right? Flip them and cook them for another 10 minutes or so, and then…

IMG_1436 3. Add the bbq sauce. Just pour it on then flip the fries over and pour a little more on those suckers. I like mine pretty saucy. Cook for another 10 minutes, or until the bbq sauce caramelizes and gets sticky and then…

IMG_1449 4. Serve.

Sorry there isn’t another photo, but these were gone in seconds – they always are. And why not? They are crispy on the outside and fluffy on the inside. They are covered in a sticky-sweet sauce that clings to the fries and eradicates the need for any dipping sauce. And…msot of all…they are homemade. Even if you get a rotisserie chicken from the grocery store and a salad in a bag, this is so wholesome and homey that you will feel like you made the whole damned meal from scratch.

Refrigerated potatoes FTW.

September – The 4th Month of Summer

Is it actually September? Who cares?! Eat like summer lasts forever!

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The watermelon and feta salad from The Smith

Yes, I know that I go here all the time, but it’s just so delicious. Love the buzzy vibe, the buzzier drinks, and the seasonal and reliable menu. Watermelon season is rapidly coming to a close, so enjoy this salad while you can! Sweet watermelon with freshly cracked pepper and coarse salt is one of life’s great pleasures – sweet and savory defined. Paired with delicate microgreens, juicy tomatoes, and some crumbly, piquant feta, it really hits the spot for a light lunch. Don’t overlook the drizzle of syrupy balsamic vinegar, perfect for swiping with some of the excellent tabletop French bread.

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Guacamole at Rosa Mexicano

Though the dinner fare here was generally overpriced and unimpressive, the guacamole was legitimate! It’s made tableside to your specifications – extra spicy, no cilantro, squeeze of lemon instead of lime…your wish is their command. It’s as fresh as it comes, and once you have had a margarita, the presentation really qualifies as dinner theater. I would come here for some guac and drinks and go elsewhere for a main course.

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Claw Daddy’s

I haven’t eaten here yet, but I had to miss a press event this week and I. Was. BUMMED! Just click over and look at the menu – it’s all shellfish all the time! Louisiana home cookin’ at its finest – crawfish, 2 kinds of crab, lobster, gumbo…come to mama! I can’t wait to try this restaurant soon – have any of y’all been there? (PS, I haven’t been compensated for this post in any way…I just think it looks super awesome and after my trip to New Orleans last year, I am always looking for good N’awlins food!)

Let’s jump into what I am now calling the last month of summer!

Andanada 141 – Hidden Tapas on the UWS

In New York City, you have to look down or you will miss stuff.

You will miss a pile of dog poop you are about to step in, a dropped 20 dollar bill, or sometimes a hidden neighborhood gem.

I mean, have any of you even looked into the basement level of 69th Street near Broadway, into the charming restaurant Andanada 141?

It’s a tapas place with live flamenco dancers and music twice a week, a beautiful covered garden out back, and a jovial, upbeat atmosphere that is perfect for a date with a loved one or close friend. It’s lively but not too noisy and the by-the-glass wine list is varied. The rose cava is especiallydelightful.

20140826_193855 Patatas Bravas

Not the best version of the dish, but it fits the bill. The potatoes are peeled and very creamy with an exterior that could be a little saltier and crisper. The tomato sauce is weirdly sweet, but the mayonnaise is clearly homemade. It’s rich and eggy – the perfect foil for those hot potatoes.
20140826_193422 Cod Croquettes
On the money. Be sure to dip them in the accompanying red pepper sauce, which is smoky and a little sweet instead of spicy, or they will taste too fishy. The sauce eradicates any note of fishiness or funk. All you are left with is a thick, crispy crust and soft interior. Don’t miss the garlic shrimp either, which come snappy and swimming in garlicky oil that is the perfect bread dip.

20140826_191248 Fried Artichokes

Crispy and dense with a flurry of nutty Parmesan cheese. It needs some acid and salt – maybe a Caesar-like vinaigrette would help? But as it stands, I wouldn’t get these again.
20140826_191230 Ham Croquetas

Hit of the night. A thin, crunchy breadcrumb shell outside soft, mashed potaot-meets-Ibercio-fatty-porky-goodness inside. Steaming hot and the right mix of hot, soft, crunchy, and salty. We should have ordered another dish of these!

Andanada 141 isn’t going to win the best tapas restaurant of the year. But the food is very good, the prices are great, and the service is friendly. Sit there for hours or get out of there in an hour flat – it’s up to you. I would totally come back here, get the shrimp, potatoes, and both croquetas again.

See what happens when you look DOWN to smell the roses?

Stuffed Poblano Peppers

As you know, I’m from Southern California.

And the best thing about growing up in Southern California isn’t the beaches, the weather, or even In-n-Out.

It’s Disneyland Grad Night.

That’s right, an entire night where  the theme park is open just for the seniors in a few CAlifornia high schools. It’s all churros, Space Mountain, and shoppin on Main Street until the sun comes up. So, of course, you need to have a good foundation of food for the night ahead.

That night, my mom made me chile rellenos. I’m going to have to make those for the blog – deep fried smoky poblano peppers, stuffed with oozy mozzarella and cheddar cheeses encased in puffy batter. They are labor intensive, but so insanely delicious and great fuel for a night of running around.

But, for those times when you want a little less deep fried and a little more protein, you can go for these slightly easier versions, that you may like even better.

Stuffed Poblano Peppers

stuffed peppers

Ingredients:

4 poblano peppers

1-1.5 cups cooked long grain rice or orzo

1 lb. ground meat

1 small can Mexican style diced tomatoes

Assorted taco seasonings (oregano, cayenne, coriander, cumin, etc)

1 clove diced garlic

1 cup shredded sharp cheddar cheese, plus more for topping

hot sauce, salsa, guacamole, sour cream for serving

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1. Put the peppers on a pan and put them under the broiler for about 7 minutes per side, or until they are TOTALLY charred on the outside. We are talking black, burned, and they might pop in the oven. That’s okay. You need to get them completely charred. Dont forget to turn them so all sides get blackened.

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2. When they are charred all over, put them on a plate in a single layer and cover tightly with cling wrap. Leave until the peppers are cool enough to handle. Now, the skins should just slip right off.

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3. While the peppers cool, prepare the filling. Sautee the beef, garlic, and spices until the beef is cooked.

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4. Add the tomatoes….

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5. The rice, and the cheese. Taste for seasonings – the rice absorbs a lot of flavor, so you may need more salt or hot sauce than usual.

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6. Now split the peppers lengthwise and stuff them with the stuffing. I mean overstuff them. Pregnant with twins stuff them. It’s okay if they tear a little and are overflowing – that’s what you want. And yes, I top mine with extra cheese.

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7. Bake for 15 minutes, or until the cheese is totally melted.

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8. Serve.

These are the perfect weeknight meal. Healthy, inexpensive, and tasty. The peppers are smoky and mild. However, when cooked with the rice and cheese, they really assert their flavor. It’s a great way to use up leftover rice – and if you have any canned black beans or corn, throw those in there, too! Fresh scallions – even better! It’s a great way to use up leftover rice and other stuff that’s about to go bad, in a way that is so tasty that no one will guess that it’s a leftovers meal.

And I can’t help but think of Disneyland every time that I eat them.

These Are a Few of My Favorite Burgers

As Fraulein Maria might sing: “These are a few of my favorite burgers”:

DB Bistro Moderne Burger

The first thing I said when I tasted this was “I felt like I have never eaten beef before.” This was SO beefy, with its double hit of medium rare ground sirloin, rosy and robust in taste with the tender shortribs. The short ribs were not stringy or gamy, but cooked until the flavor was mellow and deep against the vibrant ground beef. The bun was soft and squishy, but did not deteriorate from the copious meaty juices. The taste of truffle was delicate but ever-present, savory and heady next to the sweet madeira in the short ribs. The piece de resistance was, of course, the sizable disc of foie gras, melting and rich. It swam in my mouth, almost dancing, the sweet, buttery component of the dish. I still don’t know how these ingredients all worked so well together – even describing it seems like overload – but the taste is one that I will never forget. One half was perfect – more than that and I would have gone into cardiac arrest. Happy cardiac arrest.

Louis Lunch

This is all about the beef. It’s as close as you will get to eating a steak on bread. Louis Lunch uses a custom blend of 5 different cuts of fresh meat, hand rolls the patties daily, then cooks them in those old-fashioned grills. The patty is coarse and lightly salted – it is really just the taste of meat. Buttery, iron-y, almost funky in its meaty heft. This is a power-filled burger that is all about the meat.  Ignore the soft white bread, the strong white onion, and the somewhat mealy tomato – these are just there for show. The cheese, velvety smooth in texture, is also delightfully melty and provides a wonderful counterpart to the bite of the burger.

Shake Shack

Come to mama. I am so sorry In-n-Out, but I am leaving you for Shake Shack. THIS is what a classic “fast food” burger should taste like. I mean, this is just insanely good. The potato bun is soft and stretchy; pleasantly saturated by meaty juices. The patty itself is thin but not flimsy, with enough heft to have a bit of pink inside, contrasting with the salty, charred exterior. The vegetables are crisp and vibrant, and the only thing I can say about the cheese is: what have I been missing all my life?! It is, of course, some unholy fatty and carb-laden cheese flavored sauce, and it is OUTRAGEOUSLY tasty – melty, tangy, all things cheese should be. The shack sauce is almost unnoticeable between the meat, the bread,and the cheese, but it adds a slightly sharp/sweet taste towards the end of the bite. The only way that I would change this is to add some of the excellent chopped cherry peppers found on the SmokeShack burger. They have a particularly piquant heat that would be welcome here. This went down way too fast…next time, I’m getting a double.

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Lamb Burger at Greenhouse Tavern

This lamb was so strong, so amazingly lamb-y that it almost electrified me.It was juicy and cooked a perfect medium, with a funky cheese and acidic shallot topping that re-emphasized the strong lamb-y flavor. Served on a soft bun with a side of tangy spiced mayonnaise, this was the most incredible burger I have had in ages.

David Burke Burger

This burger is unreal.  It is humongous, yet it is ideally cooked. A thick, craggy crust surrounds a rosy interior. Well, two rosy interiors. Each stuffed with sharp, tangy cheddar cheese and sweetly caramalized onions. The patties are coarsely ground and so chock full of flavor that any ketchup or mayonnaise is merely gilding the lily. This burger is possibly the best I have eaten since Louis Lunch. It is really all about the meat – it eats like a steak. The patty is juicy but does not spill all over the plate – rather, it holds its moisture as you eat it. The toppings are delicious, but the meat is absolutely the star. The bun is standard, but holds up well. This burger feeds 2 easily, though if you eat it alone in 25 minutes, you get a free T-shirt. Antacid not included.

Jaleo Iberico Pork Burger

That’s right. The same Iberico pork I worship in slices. Here, it is coarsely ground and loosely packed into a juicy burger. Served on a brioche bun with sweet peppers and more of that creamy alioli, it is a very meaty and almost woodsy slider.

SoNo Seaport Seafood is So So Perfect for the Weekend

What to do when you have access to a car on a nice day in NYC:

1) Get the GPS

2) Get in the car

3)Drive to SoNo Seaport Seafood, only 1 hour outside the city, for a delicious seafood lunch on the water.

Sure, there are plenty of great lobster rolls and fish ‘n’ chips in the city, but very few of them have the room to spread out with a beer, some crayons for the kiddies, and a view like this:

20140823_113858 I mean, it’s nothing fancy, but that’s the charm of it. It’s a simple seafood market with an attached tavern that serves the freshest fish possible, in all the ways that you love it; ie, doused in butter and fried whenever possible.  20140823_113903 It’s the ideal place to have lunch with the family, because there is stuff for landlubbers as well as those of us who are more adventurous.  20140823_114838 Seafood bisque

Well, it just about puts clam chowder to shame. Pale pink and studded with tender lobster, tiny shrimp, and buttery pieces of scallop. It’s not as thick as a chowder - it’s a true bisque with a creamy but not super thick texture. There are soft potatoes in there and a slightly spicy backnote of crushed red pepper. However, it isn’t aggressively hot – just well spiced. If you like New England clam chowder, this may be the greatest thing you have ever tasted.  20140823_115232 Hot lobster roll

Until, that is, you try a Connecticut style lobster roll. These things are the best. Though not quite as delectable as the first rate version at Abott’s, this is wonderful. Large pieces of claw and knuckle meat dressed in plenty of clarified butter and served warm inside a toasted, top spit hot dog bun. You can get some of the excellent tartar sauce alongside if you need it, but you won’t need it. This is pure lobster taste. no mayo, no celery, no filler at all to get in the way – just all lobstah, no working for it. The lobster salad roll also looks good, but for the money, this one is where it’s at.
20140823_115245 Fries are generic, but since when are generic fries bad?

SoNo Seaport Seafood is a lovely and delicious weekend afternoon outside of the city. The prices can’t be beat, the service is great, the atmopshere is ideal, and the food…well, I cleaned my plate. Don’t miss the flaky fish and chips, either.

And there is a Ttarget only 7 miles away. So, happy Sunday indeed.

Bites to Savor This Weekend and Beyond!

Food I’m enjoying around town:

20140525_195750 Chocolate mint ice cream bar from Treat House

Generally, I find these gourmet Rice Krispy treats overpriced and dry – nothing beats licking the spoon of some still warm, freshly made treats. But this ice cream version does surprisingly well. The ice cream is what kicks it up the notch – it’s really, sharply minty 0 this is a grown up’s treat. It’s coated in a thick layer of crisp chocolate and the “cookies,” which are really Rice Krispy treats, provide a crunchy, chewy counterpart. This is a fun, light ending to a meal out on the UWS.
20140809_115858 Haul from Tucker Square Greenmarket

SUNGOLD TOMATOES SUNGOLD TOMATOES SUNGOLD TOMATOES. This year, the sungolds are INSANE. Sweet, light, juicy, firm…they are perfect raw and even better slowly roasted. The peaches are just going out of season now, but you can still find some wonderful late season ones - yellow peaches;  the whites have been super mealy. Tiny bell peppers and sheep’s milk cheeses in pungent blue and tangy yellow. This farmer’s market is never too crowded and never too expensive – the vendors are lovely and invite you to try anything that looks delicious and the variety is usually excellent. Give it a go, and say hi if you see me! 20140819_184057 20140819_191126 Mexican food at Dahlia’s

Nothing groundbreaking, but there are strong margaritas, fair prices, and an adorable patio looking over Harrison Street – worth the price of admission! You have to savor this sunlight as long as you can – September is upon us and this lovely weather will be but a memory sooner than we can imagine. The guacamole is plentiful and not crazy expensive and the menu is full of lots of familiar Tex-Mex fare – order up and enjoy!

I Pushed Publish…Right?

Um, no…no, I did not. I clearly THOUGHT that I pushed “publish” until this very moment in time. So sorry about that…I will save it for tomorrow when, more likely than not, y’all will check back!