Sunday, August 31, 2008

Fatty Crab

Fatty Crab logo
Word of mouth - after the Dining and Wine section of the NY Times - has to be the absolute best way to learn about restaurants in New York City. I've been turned on to some real winners by friends and acquaintances in that fashion, and Fatty Crab is no exception. I first visited about two years ago on someone's recommendation and was blown out of the water by the fresh ingredients in the dishes, the intense heat of the chilies, and the casual intimacy of the setting. I've since taken several parties there and the verdict has always been a resounding validation of my first good impression.
Fatty Crab store front
Along with Chef de Cuisine Corwin Kave, owner Zak Pellacio opened Fatty Crab in October of 2005 after stints at 5 Ninth in the Meatpacking district and the Chickenbone Café in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. Previously, Pellacio spent some considerable time in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia cooking and snooping around the food stalls for which most of Asia is justly famous. There, his aesthetic evolved with exposure to exotic flavors and ways of cooking. And the rest, as they say, is history.
The back-lit bar at Fatty CrabFatty Crab has a neat interior and an unfussy, eclectic atmosphere. There is a grudging nod to southeast Asian culture with elaborately carved wood chairs, ritual masks, and in the lavatory, aggressively red walls and hung bamboo. The space however can only be described as cramped. If you go, choose your dining companions with care. You'll be knocking knees with them most of the night at the tiny tables. The only relief that I've discovered is a stool at the bar where one can spread out a bit. You get a view of the kitchen and the dishes coming out, and free entertainment from the ever-cordial bartenders. I suspect they're hired not only for their mixing skills, but for their critically chic musical tastes, as you can always count on something interesting yet obscure blasting from the speakers.
On this latest visit, I was stood up by my date, who thought it would be more fun to catch a summer cold. I didn't want to miss the opportunity though, so after making sure my friend had nothing really seriously wrong, I headed out solo instead. It was relatively early for New York dining. Most of the tables inside and out were taken, but there was no waiting list, and I easily found a seat at the bar. I introduced myself to Devon, a bartender unfamiliar to me and we went over the menu. I wanted to capture a good cross section, but with a party of one, it is often difficult not to over do it. I settled on a couple of signature dishes and another that I had seen others order but had never tried myself. Instead of the predictable Asian beer, which can confidently hold its own against fiery dishes, I wanted to find a good wine pairing. Devon pointed out a Sicilian red that I had never heard of before, but since I love taking risks with unknown wines, we agreed on the Valle dell'Acate "Il Frappato". The frappato grape is found only in Sicily and is usually put into service as blending fruit. Standing on its own though, its freshness and acidity stand up admirably to spicier foods.
Watermelon Pickle and Crispy PorkLine cooks John and Jesse brought out my starter. I went with the Watermelon Pickle and Crispy Pork salad. Tender chunks of roasted, fatty pork are tossed with fresh watermelon and pickled rind. They're complimented by a mound of julienned scallions, Thai basil and Vietnamese mint. You simply cannot fathom the genius of combining watermelon and pork until you've tried it. "You got your pork on my watermelon! You got your watermelon on my pork!" Somehow, the sweetness of the melon heightens everything you worship about pork. The herbs and pickling add a complexity that resolves itself into a light, almost sensual finish. It's as if someone were nibbling on your earlobe, only very subtly and in your mouth. (My worst analogy yet.)
Wet Wonton MeeNext was a new dish for me, the wet Wonton Mee, or soup. I say wet, because you can also order the soup without the soup. In Malaysia, evidently, mee, or noodle soup, often times comes dry with a broth served on the side. You can either add the broth to the dry ingredients, or sip it separately. Crazy, right? But then again, Americans smother their meat in A-1 sauce, so go figure. Fatty Crab's mee consists of thin, crispy-fried ramen noodles, steamed shrimp and pork wontons, wilted greens and more julienned scallions. The vegetable broth, seasoned perfectly with sesame and herbs, is added to the dry ingredients just before serving allowing the noodles to remain crisp for some time. On the side is a chili oil which I caution you to use with the minutest care. Just a couple of drops go a very long way. The overall impression of the mee is sesame. The noodles are fried with some sesame oil, and it stands out in the broth as well. Yet here again, subtleties come through as herbs, greens and scallions mix in the mouth. The wantons wontons are very nicely steamed and the mixture of the ground shrimp and pork compliment one another. Were I to change one thing, however, it would be the stock. A lighter liquid, I feel, would allow the other flavors to come forward on the stage.
Fatty SlidersFinally, and since my last post was about burgers, I ordered the Fatty Sliders. Simple, straightforward, perfectly executed. They come sandwiched in a little bun with a fresh slice of cucumber, butter lettuce, and what must be a spicy aioli. Because these mini burgers are a combination of ground beef and pork, they are cooked a little longer than I would normally prefer, but remain very juicy and quite flavorful. There is a wallop of black pepper mixed in the ground meat, and the garlic stands out in the mayonnaise, but not abruptly so.
I've had many of the other dishes on previous visits to Fatty Crab. Most have been exceptionally well thought out and prepared. Some of the fish paste items may initially challenge the palate, and other offerings like the Quail Egg Shooters never come to full effect, but the overall experience is always positive. The confined space and moderately high prices might keep some diners from becoming regulars, but this is a place that ought to be tried at least once. Just cozy up to your neighbors and keep your elbows off the tabletops!
Line cooks John & Jesse
Line cooks John and Jesse
Fatty Crab
643 Hudson Street (between Horatio & Gansevoort Streets)
New York, NY 10014
Open noon to midnight Monday through Wednesday, noon to 2:00am Thursday and Friday. Open for brunch at 11:00am on Saturday and Sunday. Reservations are not accepted.

N.B. (web link), Current prices are way out of line with what are listed on their web menu - almost double in most cases. The curse of overhead and success, I guess.
Thanks for taking the time - Blog.O.Food

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

On the Road to Burgerville

J. Wellington Wimpy
I've enlisted... the great Best Burger wars. Things - I've been told - can get pretty hairy in the trenches; real and perceived snubs, catsup/ketchup flare ups, true believers vs. the casual burger fan... we've all been there. So before wading in, here are some criteria for grading my Best Burgers:
What am I willing to spend on a burger?
Was the burger worth the price?
What would I absolutely refuse to shell out for ground meat on a bun?
I wouldn't care if I had a pile of F-you money under the mattress. There is no way in hell I'm forking over fifty bucks for what is essentially a sandwich. You can take that Japanese cow, bathe it in lotus blossom-infused oil, lovingly massage it by hand, and sing it to sleep each night. I'm not paying to have it turned into an over-priced menu item. If you are, well then you're an idiot. People that irresponsible with their money ought to be horsewhipped.
Meat quality:
USDA Grade
I do believe in quality, Kobe beef notwithstanding, so the beef ought to be graded Prime or Choice. Even granny's meatloaf deserve a good grade of meat.
Let's face it, if all you can taste in your burger is the caramelized onions, sautéed mushrooms, or pickled white asparagus tips, then what's the point? But, if you can find a burger of good quality, at a reasonable price, why not have some fun building upon it? Excess for excess' sake will be pointed out for what it is: pure hype. Do I include fries? Maybe. If they're remarkable on their own, they may get a nod along with the burger review.
Now let's have some fun!
Prime Burger cook
If you Google "best NYC burgers", the Prime Burger always makes the cut. An old family friend has been badgering me for months to go there. She's been eating her lunch there every Thursday for the past 27 years. She built up expectations to such a frenzied extent that I was sure of having a burger epiphany with the first bite.
It pains me to say this, but the experience didn't live up to the hype. Sure the Formica counters and schoolhouse desk seating were cool, but the service was lousy and my burger was nothing to write home about. I ordered a cheeseburger and onion rings. I discovered after the fact that lettuce and tomato were an extra charge on the bill. Even Burger King doesn't try to rip you off like that.
Cheeseburger from Prime BurgerThe burger itself was just okay. It came served on a bun that had been crushed by something heavy, and while the meat was juicy and cooked to order (medium-rare), twice I bit into what I'm sure was bone and gristle. After the second time, I just put the burger down. (My friend doesn't know this, until she reads this of course, but I grabbed a slice of pizza after our lunch.)
Onion ringsAnd the onions! A solid mass of greasy, under-cooked, and poorly sliced rings. You had to tear them apart with two hands just to get something close to a bite-sized piece. Even then it wasn't worth the effort. I was so disappointed. I didn't know what I was going to say when my friend asked me how I liked Prime Burger. It then dawned on me that I had built up the place in my own mind. It was almost impossible not to come away with a negative impression. I had never been promised the ultimate hamburger, just a good, quick lunch at someone's long-time favorite diner. I looked again at the menu. Prime Burger is famous for fast, cheap breakfasts and burgers. No hype. No fanfare. We were unlucky enough to get a new, inexperienced waiter, and there was some connective tissue in my sandwich. Big deal! While Prime Burger will struggle to make my Top 10 list of Best Burgers, I know where to go for a quick burger fix. I'm sure my next experience will be cast in a whole different light, and to be fair, they will get a second chance. Another bad experience though, and they're off the Christmas card list!
Burger Joint signBut let's end on a positive note, shall we? There are great hamburgers out there, and I've eaten plenty. The Burger Joint ranks among the best in price, quality, atmosphere, and overall experience. It is hidden behind a rust-colored velvet curtain off the lobby of Le Parker Meridien Hotel in mid-town. It has developed something of a cult following and is probably listed with travel agents as a "must see" right after the Empire State Building and the Statue of Liberty. The Burger Joint gets two serious and impressive rushes. One is the business week lunch crowd; guys in ties, women in heels, tourists in the know. The other, more boisterous following appears late night when appetites are roused from NYC's plethora of diversions. Come at the right time, and you can witness a line out the lobby doors, a sight that always startles considering the posh setting. You catch several European languages competing with our native tongue while folks jostle for coveted seats inside the tiny space. In a word, the crowd is fun.
Burger Joint how to orderExplicit ordering instructions are plastered conspicuously in front of your face at the counter, but people still get it invariably wrong. The menu consists of prime beef, flame-grilled burgers (cooked to order), fries bagged in brown paper, soft drinks and beer (Sam Adams, take it or leave it). Your burger comes topped with the standards: lettuce, tomato, pickle, onion, ketchup, mustard and mayo. A burger, fries and a beer will set you back $15, or a steal at twice the price. For those of you who blanche at that, this is New York, get over it. The Burger Joint is another no-frills hole in the wall establishment. It just happens to be tucked into a four-star hotel. The scene is: there is no scene. Get in, order quickly, eat and go.
'BurgerIn a civilized world, beef would be served one way: medium-rare. But then again, nobody's asked me to run things in a while, so I'll concede to others more delicate sensibilities. With beef this fresh however, don't be afraid to push the envelope. Flavor and moistness really come through the rarer your burger is prepared. My burgers are always perfectly cooked. Slightly charred outside -with beautiful sear marks from the grill - and pink and juicy on the inside. With every bite, you can actually taste how flavorful the beef is. Even "the works" can't mask its fresh, nutty taste. The bun doesn't get in the way and the fries are superior. To avoid the rush, get to the Burger Joint for lunch before 11:45 and before 9:00pm every evening. Lines do move quickly but can be quite long.
The Prime Burger is located at 5 E. 51st Street in Manhattan between Madison and 5th, and directly across the street from St Patrick's Cathedral. Burgers start at $4.25 and there are several optional toppings. Their special is the Prime Burger Deluxe: two burgers and French fries. Cheese and drink are extra. They open at 6:00 for breakfast Monday through Saturday. Closed Sundays. The Burger Joint is located at 118 W. 57th Street off the main lobby of Le Parker Meridien. They are open for lunch every day beginning at 11:00 and stay open until 11:30pm weeknights, midnight on the weekend. Burgers start at $7.
Thanks for taking the time - Blog.O.Food

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Enzo's of Arthur Avenue

Enzo's of Arthur Avenue
Here in the Belmont section of the Bronx, an old Italian neighborhood is polishing up its faded image with a peppering of new restaurants, cafes and pastry shops to compliment the staid establishments that your father's father used to frequent. Arthur Avenue is once again a street you feel compelled to walk along well into the evening hours.

Enzo's of Arthur Avenue is turning two this year and has been a smash hit almost since its doors opened. It is owned and operated by Enzo DiRende (his first restaurant, also called Enzo's, is in Morris Park). DiRende is a local through and through. As a kid he worked as a bus boy right next door to Enzo's at his father's place, Dominic's. A student at Fordham University and graduate of the Culinary Institute of America, he opened his first restaurant nearly 12 years ago.

Enzo's celebrates simple, hearty fare with no fuss, and generous portions. Pasta, veal and chicken are the stars, with sauces and vegetables playing a muted but stellar supporting role. Mostly Italian, the wine list is strong on pairing with food and friendly on the wallet. The staff is amazingly friendly and attentive, as if this was their first and only calling. I've eaten at Enzo's many times and haven't had a bad meal yet.

Enzo's draws a faithful crowd of regulars and it can get quite crowded on a Saturday night. If you're like me though, you're just as comfortable eating on a barstool, chatting up the bartender, as you are at one of its dozen or so tables.
My latest visit was a spur of the moment decision. It had been an incredible day spent outdoors. It was a warm, August evening and I just wasn't up to standing over the stove, and Enzo's just happens to be only a few blocks away.

When I arrived, I discovered I wasn't the only one without the ambition to cook for himself. The place was standing room only. I squeezed into a gap at the bar, ordered a Peroni, and waited for the other patrons to be shown to tables. Less than 10 minutes later I was ensconced at the bar with my favorite bartender Alex conducting the night's orchestra.Peroni beer bottle

Alex started me another beer while I perused the menu, but I had already made up my mind as to what to order before ever arriving at the restaurant. One person simply cannot eat an entree all by himself, so I decided to have a couple of appetizers instead.
Baked polenta with sausage and bean sauceEnzo's has come up with this fantastic baked polenta starter that is so light and fluffy, that I suspect they've doctored the dish with something illegal, but I can't prove it. The polenta is silky and completely free of grittiness. It comes topped with a light, but very flavorful sauce of tomatoes, beans and bits of sausage. The broth is so clear, but by no means watery. There is a flirtatious hint of tomato, and just enough sausage to act as counterpoint to the beans. By the last couple of bites you're wishing for a bowl of sauce just for dipping.
A hard act to follow, but I knew Enzo's could deliver with something to satisfy the appetite they had just peaked: fried meatballs with onions and peppers. Put away any thought of comparison to sausage and peppers. This dish is in a completely different league.

Fried meatballs with onions and peppers The chef combines ground veal and ground beef with herbs and a little egg to act as a binder. I've dissected these babies in search of breadcrumbs and have never found any. They're just pure meaty goodness. The outside of the meatball is pleasantly crunchy without being hard. The inside is flawlessly moist and seasoned. The onions and peppers are always perfectly cooked; a little caramelized, and never ever mushy. I have to stop myself from shoveling them into my mouth whole. This is one dish you want to savor.

Rosso di Montalcino wineAlex had recommended a Rosso di Montalcino - a Tuscan Sangiovese clone - and it brought out every subtle nuance of the dishes. Thanks to New York's enlightened capping laws, I was able to "doggy bag" the unfinished bottle and had a pleasant reminder of my meal with the next night's chicken Caesar salad.
Enzo's of Arthur Avenue is located at 2339 Arthur Ave. (between Crescent and 186th Streets), in the Bronx. You cannot go wrong with the place. It's great for a casual meal, or a place to impress the in-laws. I give it two enthusiastic thumbs up, and now forbid you to mention it to anyone else!
Thanks for taking the time - Blog O. Food

Manly Men Doing Manly Things

Master chef Ken RobertsThere are two things my father and I do when I pay a visit: golf and cook. Well, we eat too, so better make that three things. Usually, I can't get an elbow in the kitchen when Dad's around, but lately he's relinquished his apron and wooden spoon. I still defer to the master, however.

Last visit I managed two whole dinners under his watchful eye. The first wasn't much, just a 4-alarm, three-meat chili with cornbread. Pop loves cornbread. The second, however, was a real winner; my version of chicken cacciatore served over parmesan polenta. Dad was hooked.

Cacciatore is a "hunter" style dish with a tomato, onion, mushroom and herb base. There are lots of variations based mainly on what happens to be in your larder at any given moment. Don't be afraid to experiment. The key is to marry flavors in a hearty and satisfying way.
Chicken cacciatore
4lbs fryer chicken legs and thighs
1 cup flour
2 eggs
1 cup milk
4Tbs extra virgin olive oil
1 medium yellow onion
1½ cups baby portabella mushrooms
4 cloves garlic
2Tbs capers
4 anchovy filets
1 large can crushed tomatoes
1½ cups dry white wine
2½ cups chicken stock
2 bay leaves
Salt and pepper

Parmesan Polenta
1 cup polenta (yellow corn meal)
4 cups chicken stock
4 strips thick cut smoky bacon
½ cup grated fresh Parmigiano Reggiano cheese
4Tbs unsalted butter, cubed
Vegetable prepIt's best to get all your prep work out of the way first so that you can have a smooth-running assembly line once you begin browning your chicken and bacon.

Place the bacon in the freezer while you're chopping the rest of your vegetables. This will make it easier to cube later.

Brush off the mushrooms to remove loose soil, de-stem, halve the smaller caps and quarter the larger ones. Halve the onion and give a medium slice. Set up a dredging station with one large shallow bowl for flour seasoned with salt and pepper, and another for the eggs whisked into the milk.

Remove the bacon from the freezer after about 10 minutes, make thin slices length-wise down each piece (about ¼" wide). Cube each slice at ¼" and brown in a small skillet over medium heat.
Bacon browning in skillet While bacon is browning, sop chicken pieces in egg wash, then dredge through the flour, shaking off excess. Arrange chicken pieces in a Dutch oven pre-heated with oil over medium-high heat. Keep some space between chicken pieces. If your Dutch oven is not big enough to accommodate all the chicken, cook in batches. Brown chicken on both sides (8-10 minutes per side), remove from pot and set aside. Remove browned bacon from skillet and set aside as well.
Browning mushroomsAdd bay leaves, capers and anchovy to the bottom of the Dutch oven and heat through until the filets dissolve. Add onion and garlic and let sweat until translucent. Toss in mushrooms and begin to brown until most of the moisture has evaporated from the caps. Pour in the crushed tomatoes heat through and then nestle the browned chicken into the bottom of the pot. Add the wine and chicken stock. You want just enough liquid to come up to the top of the chicken, but it should not be swimming in sauce.

Reduce heat to medium-low, cover Dutch oven and allow to simmer for 20 minutes or until chicken meat begins to fall off the bone. Remove from heat and allow to set while covered.
While the chicken simmers, slowly pour polenta into a large sauce pan of boiling chicken broth, whisking constantly until all the corn meal is added. Reduce heat to medium-low and continue to stir polenta regularly, making sure to scrape the corners of your sauce pan to prevent burning.

After about 25 minutes the corn meal should have thickened considerably and much of the moisture reduced. Remove polenta from heat and stir in the bacon, add the grated cheese and incorporate thoroughly. Just before serving, stir in the butter a few pieces at a time to add a silkiness to your polenta.

I do not salt my polenta. The cheese should have plenty of saltiness to it, but you should taste the polenta before serving and adjust the seasoning.
Ladle a healthy portion of polenta into a shallow bowl. Spoon chicken and sauce over the top. Garnish with some shaved Parmigiano cheese and serve. Serves four with plenty left over for the next day's lunch when the sauce will be even richer and more powerful.
Polenta is just a finer grind of cornmeal. Like grits uptown, I guess you could say. Pour any leftover grits into a small, square baking pan, cover and refrigerate. The next day, you can cut up and fry polenta squares to serve with breakfast, or bake the whole pan, cutting the finished polenta into wedges and serving as a side with dinner. Polenta is just amazingly versatile.
Chicken cacciatore and polentaThis dish will have rich earthy flavors from the mushrooms and tomatoes, tender chicken and a fresh, almost lemony lightness from the wine, bay leaves and capers. The polenta adds a sweet bass note from the corn and a salty textured feel from the bacon and cheese.

Pinot noirs and Beaujolais compliment this dish perfectly. If people don't go for seconds with this one, I'll give you your money back.
Thanks for taking the time - Blog O. Food

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Mashed, or baked?

Walk down any street in Manhattan, and there is food; literally.
Sidewalk casualtyI came upon this feast in front of Madison Square Garden, where the Walking With the Dinosaurs experience was just closing up shop. Seems catering got a little careless in carting out the left-over beef. That, or T-Rex flunked out of the Miss Porter School. I looked over at my companion and dryly delivered the first thing to pop into my head: "If I had a fork right now..."
Los tres amigosThese three jovial workers to the left earnestly claimed it was the best prime rib in town. Who was I to argue? Although I have to point out that Whose Catering LLC in no way endorsed this sidewalk dining experience, nor - I'm sure - do the comments of its staff in any way reflect the company line. After a half-dozen photos or so, it was time to move on. The prospect of what might be for dessert on down the road, however, left me giddy with anticipation.
Prime rib al fresco
For all your catering needs
Thanks for taking the time - Blog O. Food

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Late Night with Pita

Know what I love? Trains. Trains relieve you of the stress of driving. Trains rarely get stuck in traffic. On a train, you can eat, drink, take a nap. Try that next time you're behind the wheel of an automobile.
Trains go into Manhattan every day. Manhattan has food. Ergo, trains = food.
Say hello to my little friendThis little fellow has a food cart outside the 42nd Street entrance to Grand Central Terminal. He sells me an Italian sausage pita or a lamb gyro almost every time I enter the place. He and I are very old acquaintances. Not to be outdone, I thought I'd try my hand at his lamb gyro. Here's what I've come up with so far...
GCT Food Cart Lamb Gyro
8oz lamb tenderloin
4 loaves pita bread
1 head iceberg lettuce
1 medium tomato
1 small white onion
4Tbs olive oil
Hot sauce
Yogurt sauce:
½ cup yogurt
1 small cucumber
2Tbs fresh lemon juice
½tsp white pepper
¼tsp celery salt
¼tsp red pepper flakes (optional)
Prep workIt's best to start with your sauce. If you can make it a day ahead of time, even better. Peel and vertically halve a small cucumber. With a teaspoon, scrape out the seeds, and then finely mince. Mix the cucumber and all the other sauce ingredients in a small bowl. Cover and refrigerate.
Lamb on the grillRub lamb tenderloins with 2Tbs olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Set on hot grill, cooking 10-12 minutes on both sides. I like meat medium-rare, so adjust your cooking time. While lamb is grilling, sauté the sliced onion in 2Tbs of olive oil over medium high heat until the onions start to brown. Remove from heat and set aside. Shred lettuce and give the tomato a rough chop.
Food Cart lamb gyroOnce lamb is cooked, remove from grill, cover lightly with aluminum foil, and let rest for 15 minutes. Slice thinly after it has rested.Toast pita loaves on still-hot grill just until heated through. Pile lamb slices in the middle of pita, top with yogurt sauce, add lettuce, tomato, grilled onions and your favorite hot sauce. Fold ends of pita bread over the filling, and enjoy. After testing my version, I've decided to add a dry rub of ground fennel and tarragon seeds, paprika and sweet curry powder before grilling. You'll be the first to know how that turns out. I'll still be frequenting my guy's cart in Manhattan, but now know I can whip these babies up at home. You can too!
Thanks for taking the time - Blog O. Food

Monday, August 11, 2008

I didn't do it! is having an "Image Uploading" issue and is currently working on the problem. Once that's solved, beautiful images of food will spring from your computer monitor to tease your eyes and trigger your taste buds into overdrive.
In the mean time, simply enjoy the rapier-like prose! More food thoughts to follow.
Thanks for taking the time - Blog O' Food

Sunday, August 10, 2008

From the Kitchen of the Widow Silverman

Microwave bread-n-butter picklesI haven't asked permission to publish this recipe yet, like that's ever stopped me from doing something I wanted. My philosophy has always been it's easier to say sorry than please, but I digress! I tasted these pickles a few weeks ago while up in Rhinecliff and unequivocally stated that they were fabulous. When I found out they were prepared in a microwave, I was crestfallen. I hate the microwave, almost irrationally so, but will evidently have to re-evaluate my aversion to dielectric heating. In any event, these pickles will fool just about everyone while taking nothing flat to prepare. If you're waiting for the coffee to brew, or for someone to find their damn keys so that you can go to Saratoga Springs for the day, you have time to make these pickles.
Microwave bread & butter pickles
2 cups sliced cucumber
¾ cup, sliced yellow onion
¼ cup sugar
½ cup white vinegar
1tsp salt
1tsp mustard seed
¼tsp celery seed
¼tsp turmeric
Slice young, small cumbers about ¼" thick. (Young cumbers have fewer seeds than their older brothers and sisters.) Halve a medium-sized yellow onion and then slice thinly. Mix all ingredients in a bowl, microwave on high 7-8 minutes, or until cucumbers are softened. Stir twice during cooking time. Let cool and then place in a clean mason jar.
They go great on burgers or as an attentive date with the cheese platter. I have personally witnessed people eating them right out of the jar.
Thanks for taking the time - Blog O' Food

Saturday, August 9, 2008

Who's Got Time?

The gods have smiled upon New York City this weekend. Sunny skies, warm temperatures, and - most importantly - low humidity. I can't cook under these conditions! But a guy's still gotta eat, right? Here's a great, easy recipe for that Central Park picnic or a quick lunch after hitting the links. I can't remember how I came up with this one, but it's been an old stand-by for years, people love it, and it can be dressed up or down as decorum demands.
Pasta Salad with Sun-dried Tomatoes
1lb Farfalle (bow-tie) pasta
¼ cup pignoli (pine nuts)
4oz sun-dried tomatoes
6 cloves fresh garlic
4oz sliced black olives
¼ cup chopped fresh basil
¼ cup olive oil
¼ cup grated fresh Parmigiano Reggiano cheese
Toast the pignoliStart by setting well-salted water to boil in a large, covered pot. While waiting for the water to boil, toast pine nuts in a dry pan over low heat. Toss frequently, and don't wander off too far until the pignoli are off the heat. When the nuts are a light golden color, remove from heat and set aside.
Meanwhile, slice sun-dried tomatoes about ⅛" thick, toss with crushed garlic and olive oil in a small bowl and let stand. If you buy very dry tomatoes, reconstitute them for 15' in a bowl of very hot water then drain before slicing. Moister tomatoes should not need to be reconstituted, but you're looking for something pliable. Never, ever buy sun-dried tomatoes in olive oil. Marinate your own instead.
Once the water has come to a boil, pour in the bow-tie pasta and stir immediately. I like my pasta with a nice al dente bite, and usually start testing the Farfalle after about 8 minutes. If you've cooked your pasta for longer than twelve minutes, throw the whole thing out and head to the Olive Garden instead.
Thoroughly rinse the pasta Once the pasta is cooked to your liking, drain in a colander and - in a controversial move - run under cold water. Italian cooks will insist that I am insane, but I find that unless I rinse the excess starch from the pasta, I get a lumpy salad with noodles sticking together. Since there is no sauce to lubricate the Farfalle, I hope I'm forgiven for resorting to a little H2O.
The finished product Drain your pasta very well and then toss with the tomatoes, garlic and olive oil mixture. Add the cheese, black olives, chopped basil and pignoli and toss once again. Before seasoning, taste the salad. The saltiness of the cheese and the salted water should be adequate. For a little kick, add a couple of pinches of red pepper flake. With your first bite you'll pick up the intense richness of the sun-dried tomatoes, the sweet nuttiness of the pignoli and that sharp, almost minty kick of the basil. If you can manage to let this salad stand covered in the refrigerator overnight, well it will only get better!
I hinted earlier that this recipe can be dressed up. Try adding chopped red onion, capers and crushed anchovy for a more complex flavor. Add thick slices of grilled sweet Italian sausage for those meat-lovers among you. Pair with an Italian Barolo or Chilean Tempranillo, and you can't go too far wrong.
Thanks for taking the time - Blog O. Food

Friday, August 8, 2008

Really? A food blog!

Nature's bountyThere must be a cooking gene. Both my parents were great cooks; my stepmother was a master of Mexican cuisine. Even my stepfather, who rarely cooked, still knew his way around the kitchen. I was always encouraged to help out and must have absorbed hundreds of techniques and recipes. More importantly, I learned to appreciate good food and to be comfortable with the tools of the trade. Up until college however, my greatest culinary adventure was adding Kraft American singles to Chef Boy-R-Dee ravioli as an after-school snack.
So does that qualify me to start a food blog? Well, yeah! I have a take, just like anyone else out there (well, one wonders what some of these bloggers' take might actually be). Let's see if you share that take, m'kay?
Look for recipes, stolen, tweaked and created from scratch; restaurant reviews; "food personality" character assassinations; wine pairings; and a collection of my far-flung friends who share our passion.
Thanks for taking the time - Blog-O-Food