Monday, February 28, 2011

Market Mondays: Apple And Pawlet Salad

I usually like rain, and I don't mind a Monday here and there, but I started this gloomy, rain-soaked Monday with Karen Carpenter's voice running through my head- "Rainy days and Mondays always get me down." I needed a cheese pick-me-up (yes, cheese is one of my instant funk-fixers). Armed with a hooded slicker, rain boots, and a partially functioning umbrella, I headed to the Union Square Greenmarket and made a beeline for Consider Bardwell Farm's dome covered cheeses. The Pawlet, my favorite variety, would later put a smile on my face as it gracefully carried out its starring role in this week's Market Mondays dinner- apple and Pawlet salad on Pawlet crust rounds (adapted from Food & Wine magazine's cheddar crust shards).

For the simple dinner, I combined diced Fuji apples and Pawlet with dried cherries, toasted pecan pieces, and chopped baby lettuce. After dressing the salad with Meyer lemon olive oil and balsamic vinegar, I finished it with a dash of salt and pepper, and placed it atop two Pawlet crust rounds (recipe below). A bright, cheesy, smile-inducing meal- perfect to combat an otherwise dreary Monday.

Today's sparsely populated, wet Union Square Greenmarket
Crisp Fuji apples from Red Jacket Orchards
Baby lettuce kept dry under D&J Organics' tent
Like a rainbow after the storm- Consider Bardwell Farm's cheeses
Two Pawlet crust rounds- prior to baking at 350 degrees for 40 minutes
The assembled rainy-day Monday apple and Pawlet salad

Pawlet Crust Rounds (yield, 4 rounds)
1/2 cup all purpose flour
1/4 cup whole wheat flour
1/4 tsp Kosher salt
4 tbsp cold, unsalted butter, cubed
1/2 cup shredded Pawlet
2 1/2 tbsp cold water
1/4 tsp red wine vinegar
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
2. Pulse flour, salt and butter in the bowl of a food processor with the chopping blade attached until the mixture resembles coarse meal.
3. Add Pawlet and pulse until just combined.
4. Add water and red wine vinegar and pulse until mixture is evenly moistened.
5. Remove dough from food processor and knead until just combined. Wrap in plastic and refrigerate for 20 minutes, or until thoroughly chilled.
6. Roll dough 1/8 inch thick, cut into rounds with a 4 1/2 inch diameter and bake on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper until golden brown, approximately 40 minutes.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Oscar Fever At Eleni's

Oscar fever culminates with tonight's 83rd annual Academy Awards. I've geared up to weather the oftentimes snooze-inducing broadcast with a quick trip to Eleni's New York, located in the Meatpacking District's Chelsea Market. The popular cookie shop has branded its irresistible sugar cookies and cupcakes with the faces of this year's best actor and actress nominees, as well as developed a cookie in the shape of the iconic Oscar statuette (the shiny gold disco dust finish screams party!). With the faces of so many eager celebrities staring back at me, I had no trouble predicting tonight's big winners- a grinning, pre-pregnancy Natalie Portman, and a rather young looking Colin Firth (the consensus of the outspoken movie-going masses).

Best actor nominee cookie package (3 of each nominee and 1 envelope will set you back $58.50): Colin Firth in The King's Speech, Jeff Bridges in True Grit, Javier Bardem in Biutiful, James Franco in 127 Hours, and Jesse Eisenberg in The Social Network
Colin Firth's cookie likeness appears to be a tad younger than his distinguished-looking 50 years
Natalie Portman, nominated for her outstanding performance in the chill-inducing Black Swan
And the Oscar goes to...

Monday, February 21, 2011

Market Mondays: Delayed

A series of mishaps and a delayed flight put a wrench in this week's edition of Market Mondays. Instead of breezing through the Union Square Greenmarket, I spent a large portion of the afternoon looking for sustenance in Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport's C terminal. On days when travel plays out as it should (sadly, I think those days are long gone), I'm a big fan of scoping out the perfect mix of airport goodies. In my opinion, airports are a candy lover's dream- albeit an overpriced dream. But on this never-ending day, when all that could go wrong did go wrong, I had no patience for a candy themed scavenger hunt through an unfamiliar airport. Instead, I settled into the nearest Daily News Express and picked up a few magazines (my favorite for travel- Outside) and some slightly healthier travel-ready fare; a LemonZest LUNA Bar ("the entirely natural whole nutrition bar for women...created to meet the special needs of our bodies") and a rather sad looking orange. With no travel plans in the foreseeable future, Market Mondays will recommence next week.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Haut Chocolate At The Fireside Lounge

The four simple steps to a delicious, crowd-free après ski:

1. Spend the day exploring Vail's 5,289 skiable acres
2. Head to the Four Seasons' Fireside Lounge to defrost in a sea of cozy couches and plush pillows
3. Order the resort's signature Haut Chocolate (a costly indulgence at $16 for a solo mug or $28 for a pair) and watch as the creamy, piping hot beverage (made with Valrhona chocolate and steamed milk) melts a strategically placed dark chocolate lattice and brings two oversized homemade marshmallows to life
4. Finish the experience by adding a spoonful (or 5) of chocolate shavings and fresh whipped cream

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Flame Restaurant

Located in Vail's newly opened Four Seasons Resort and billed as a "mountain steakhouse", Flame is quickly becoming a go-to hot spot. The restaurant offers locals and visiting ski enthusiasts the opportunity to dine with mountainside views in a chic, relaxed atmosphere. Plush leather banquettes, dark wood and the soft flickering glow of flameless candles set the scene for executive chef Jason Harrison's (formerly of The Bellagio in Las Vegas) flavorful fare.

The menu is inspired by the season ("slow-cooked, hearty food is featured in the winter, while lighter, heart-healthy options prevail in the summer") with a multitude of dishes for meat-lovers ("1800° aged prime steaks charred to perfection") and pescatarians. Entrees from the Beef, Game and Fish categories are to be accompanied by a Sauce (chimichurri, black pepper relish, maitre d’hôtel butter, red wine sauce, traditional béarnaise, or horseradish cream) and a Classic Side like French fries confited in duck fat (a mild disappointment as I prefer a thinner fry; a preference that didn't stop me from devouring my fair share), truffled comté fritters, or white cheddar macaroni and cheese, to name a few. In addition to menu staples, the Butcher's Board provides a conspicuous list of daily specials, like whole roasted suckling pig, or Colorado leg of lamb.

From the Salad category- roasted beets, quinoa salad, celery, haystack chèvre
Two soups were available in the Soup category- the French onion with gruyère and croutons- easily the most flavorful French onion I've tasted, and the forest mushroom chowder with cracked pepper and gold potatoes (not pictured, but equally as delicious)
From the Mountain Fare category- a too small portion of butternut squash risotto, served with cranberries, sage and parsnip chips
The Chef's Daily Special- gnocchi with chunks of lobster meat, green and white asparagus, carrots, and cippolini onions swimming in a reduced lobster bisque
Also from the Mountain Fare category- a juicy, tender eight-hour braised prime short-rib, served with a gorgonzola bread pudding rectangle and candied beets
And for dessert- a warm chocolate fudge brownie with schlag and berries

Monday, February 14, 2011

Market Mondays: The Valentine's Day Edition

I've been on a tear lately, eating like a beast; a beast with high cholesterol and an expanding waistline. Pancakes, cookies, pizza, you name it- if it is filled with fat and crossed my path over the last two weeks, chances are I took it down without a second thought.

Since this week's edition of Market Mondays happened to fall on February 14th, I decided to continue the streak (why quit while you're ahead) and used the Union Square Greenmarket to inspire a Valentine's Day dessert. I picked up eggs, butter and apples, and set to work on individual apple clafouti, the perfect French delicacy to fill my heart-shaped ramekins (a purchase I tried to justify by fooling myself into thinking they would be used more than once a year). I looked to Michael Chiarello's recipe and made a few minor changes along the way- pumpkin pie spice as opposed to cinnamon, almond milk as opposed to whole milk, vanilla extract as opposed to vanilla beans, Honeycrisp as opposed to Granny Smith, and no grappa or creme fraiche. The result- a simple, satisfying dessert. I hope my Valentine likes it...

Free-range brown eggs- 1/2 dozen for $2.00
Creamy butter- $6.75 per 1/2 lb.
I chose Honeycrisp at $1.25 per lb.
Prepping the batter- pouring the wet into the dry
Caramelizing the peeled, diced apples
Individual apple clafouti, topped with confectioner's sugar
A close-up of the first bite

Friday, February 11, 2011

CookieBar 2011

Judging by the size and furor of the crowd, I'm not the only person who waited until the bitter end to visit Dorie and Josh Greenspan's highly anticipated pop-up store, CookieBar. For the second year in a row, the beloved cookbook author and her son, already a veteran of the food industry at thirty-one, set up shop for a 5-day stint at Park Avenue's Mizu Salon (an online venture is in the works). Surrounded by hair experts and colorful bottles of shampoos and gels, the duo spent the pre-Valentine's Day run (Feb. 7 - 11) selling their artisan cookies from a table arranged with fast-emptying trays.

I happened to find myself at the front of the line around 11:30 on Friday, just as each tray of perfectly round cookies was replenished (the two women delivering the provisions were greeted with broad smiles and relieved sighs), and so I became one of the lucky few stragglers to walk away with a box of all eight flavors: coconut-lime sable, espresso-chocolate sable, sugar-topped vanilla sable, chocolate chunker, pear-pineapple jammer (a vehicle for the debut of Sarabeth's pear-pineapple preserves), strawberry-raspberry jammer, world peace cookie, and chewy-chunky blondie. Back at home, box of treasures safely opened, I had a plan to take a small, respectable bite from a few cookies and save the rest for a Valentine's Day sugar take-down. But after my first taste (the addictive chocolate chunker), my intended course of action took a gluttonous diversion. Unless they were locked up right then and there, there was little chance the cookies, with all their sweet, taunting cookie smells, would make it to Valentine's Day. As it turns out, only a few crumbs survived the night.

The coconut-lime sable: lime zest, toasted coconut and a hint of cardamom
The espresso-chocolate sable: a buttery cookie with espresso and bitter Valrhona chocolate
The sugar-topped vanilla sable: a souped up buttery sugar cookie
The chocolate chunker: my favorite of the bunch, 4 kinds of Valrhona chocolate, dried cherries and salty cashews
The pear-pineapple and strawberry-raspberry jammers: vanilla sable topped with Sarabeth's preserves and vanilla-bean streusel
The world peace cookie: Valrhona chocolate and fleur-de-sel help make the Greenspan's "icon" cookie
The chewy-chunky blondie: a caramel blondie with pecans, coconut and chunks of Valrhona milk chocolate

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Pancake Month At Clinton St. Baking Company

February is a month of delicious excess- City Bakery's Hot Chocolate Festival, storefronts dotted with sugary Valentine's Day sweets too tempting to pass up, the Coffee & Tea Festival, and my favorite indulgence- Pancake Month at Clinton St. Baking Company & Restaurant.

The pancakes that are consistently voted the best in New York are available on a rotating basis in "special flavors all day and night" (excluding Saturdays and Sundays- when the line wraps around the block). Combinations like blackberry pancakes with blackberry syrup, lemon curd and warm maple butter; almond frangipane pancakes with fresh raspberries, toasted almonds and raspberry sauce; and Japanese pumpkin pancakes with pumpkin seed streusel and warm maple butter (available today and tomorrow) give an indication of what Pancake Month is all about. Priced at $15, one order includes three fluffy, oversized pancakes- enough to satisfy two hearty appetites...if you're willing to share.

Clinton St. Baking Company & Restaurant- home of the pancakes that put Bobby Flay to shame on the Food Network's Throwdown! with Bobby Flay
Available February 10th and 11th- Japanese pumpkin pancakes- topped with sweetened pumpkin purée, pumpkin seed streusel (crunchy, cinnamon-sugary goodness), and confectioner's sugar, and served with warm maple butter
With no pancake buddy in sight- I didn't make a dent in a stack that is clearly big enough for two

Monday, February 7, 2011

Market Mondays: A Taste Of River Café

A few weeks ago, the Saturday edition of the Wall Street Journal featured a recipe for smashed pumpkin soup with mascarpone from chef Ruth Rogers, of London's famed River Café. I drooled over the photograph, thick soup with a dollop of creamy cheese, and made a mental note to give the recipe a go when I had the ingredients and the time. This week's edition of Market Mondays afforded the perfect opportunity.

Monday's Union Square Greenmarket was as full as I've seen it since winter hit (I think it has something to do with the stretch of 40+ degree temps NYC has been experiencing), yet I wasn't able to find any pumpkin. I opted to substitute with Race Farm's butternut squash (suggested in the recipe) and also decided to swap out mascarpone for fresh ricotta from Central Valley Farm. The recipe is incredibly easy and full of flavor. I am so glad I decided to pick up the paper that Saturday morning, because this is something that deserves to be made again and again. Ruth Rogers' recipe is below:

Smashed Pumpkin Soup with Mascarpone (or Smashed Butternut Squash Soup with Ricotta)
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for finishing
3 cloves garlic, peeled and smashed (I used 2 with a garlic press)
1 teaspoon fennel seeds, coarsely ground with a mortar and pestle or spice grinder
7 whole canned San Marzano tomatoes, drained (be careful with these- my white shirt is now stained with red splotches)
1 1½-2 pounds pumpkin or butternut squash, peeled, seeded and cut into ¾-inch cubes (yields 5¼ cups)
3 medium potatoes, peeled and cut into ¾-inch cubes
1¾ cup chicken stock (I needed more- about 2¼ cups to cover)
½ cup grated Parmesan cheese
2/3 cup mascarpone cheese (I used fresh ricotta- a delicious substitute)
1. In a medium pot set over low heat, heat 2 tablespoons olive oil with garlic and fennel seeds.
2. Squeeze the tomatoes over the pot so as to break up the flesh and catch all juices in the pot. Cook over low heat, stirring often, for 8 minutes or until tomatoes begin to turn dark red.
3. Turn the heat to medium-high and stir in butternut squash and potatoes. Add enough chicken stock to just cover the vegetables and bring to a boil. Lower the heat and simmer for 35-40 minutes, stirring occasionally and checking that the vegetables are just submerged.
4. Once vegetables are tender, remove pot from heat and mash with a potato masher. The soup should be thick and creamy, the consistency of risotto. (The recipe doesn't specify to do so- but I seasoned with salt and pepper after this step.)
5. Ladle soup into four shallow bowls. Garnish with grated Parmesan, a few dollops of mascarpone cheese and a generous drizzle of good olive oil.

Race Farm- how can you beat $.59 per pound
I used Yukon Gold potatoes from Phillips Farms
Ricotta from Central Valley Farm, started in 1948
I can't say enough good things about this soup- it has become a fast favorite

Flatiron Meets Arthur Avenue

A tiny bit of Arthur Avenue is making its way to the Flatiron District. Zero Otto Nove, Roberto Paciullo's relaxed Italian trattoria, is setting up shop on the ground floor of 15 West 21st Street- formerly home to the short-lived Cana Sushi & Japanese Bar (I blinked and this place was closed). Named for the area code of Salerno, Italy, Roberto's hometown, the restaurant is known for its outstanding pizzas (since opening on Arthur Avenue in Oct. 2007 its Neapolitan crust has consistently been praised by critics- offering a little competition for nearby Grimaldi's?) and authentic Italian flavors. To view full lunch and dinner menus, click here.

Cana Sushi & Japanese Bar is closed, but its flag still flies
The ground floor at 15 West 21st Street, between 5th and 6th Avenues
A quick look inside the restaurant's front door