Thursday, March 31, 2011

La Bottega

How enticing...if the semi-attractive staff isn't enough, there's also free Wi-Fi- just what every restaurant needs.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Market Mondays: Mini Lemon Cupcakes With Lavender Frosting

This week's edition of Market Mondays is all about filling my home with some of spring's best offerings- colorful flowers and a miniature treat with bright, fresh flavors. With temperatures hovering in the upper 20s to low 30s today, it is an attempt to surround myself with the warmth that typically accompanies spring- a warmth that is severely missed. Greenmarket eggs, butter, milk, lavender and bee pollen joined with lemon zest and a few other baking staples to make delicate cupcakes. The recipe for Mini Lemon Cupcakes with Lavender Frosting is below (I suggest bookmarking this one for a sweet Easter-ready bite).

Mini Lemon Cupcakes with Lavender Frosting (yield, 24 mini cupcakes)
2 cups ap flour
2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar
1 stick unsalted butter, room temperature
Zest from 2 large lemons
1 large egg
1 cup buttermilk
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
Bee pollen, to finish
1. Preheat oven to 375°F. Prepare mini cupcake pan.
2. Combine flour, baking powder, and salt in bowl and set aside.
3. In the bowl of an electric mixer beat sugar, butter and lemon zest until smooth.
4. Beat in egg, buttermilk and vanilla until combined, followed by the flour mixture.
5. Divide batter among cupcake cups and bake until golden, approximately 20 minutes.
6. Top with lavender frosting (click here for the Pioneer Woman's recipe) and sprinkle with bee pollen.

Philips Farms' miniature potted flowers are 3 for $12
Bright yellow screams spring
A sea of pink hues sits among fruits and vegetables at the Union Square Greenmarket
Hen's eggs
A great Monday surprise- butter was on sale- $1 off
Bee pollen contains many nutrients and antioxidants and is known to help athletes increase endurance
Lavender imparts a clean, floral flavor to an otherwise sweet frosting
Readying the cupcake pan for the oven
The final mini cupcakes- topped with lavender buds and bee pollen

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Sunday Lunch - Blue Hill At Stone Barns

Stone Barns Center for Food & Agriculture is a working farm and educational center with a restaurant and café that celebrates year-round, farm-to-table agriculture. The Center's restaurant, Blue Hill at Stone Barns, is consistently rated one of the best in the world, and its executive chef and co-owner, Dan Barber, is touted as a culinary genius. Reservations are taken two months in advance, and weekend spots for the 4-course "Farmer's Lunch" can be hard to come by (lunch is only available on Sundays and is somewhat less formal than dinner).

As a meticulous advance planner, I had no trouble scoring a table for two. With my sister buckled in beside me, we decided to drive out early (a 30 mile drive from Manhattan and free valet parking) and stroll along the grounds. We grabbed a cup of hot chocolate, complete with cork koozie, at the Blue Hill Café (clearly something we didn't need with the lunch that was in store- but the steamed milk, cream, and Valrhona chocolate was a great accompaniment to the brisk afternoon) and moseyed down to the Greenhouse; 22,000 square feet of year-round growing space housing dozens of crop varieties under a retractable roof. From there, it was a short walk to the Barnyard, made up of a Sheep Barn, Brooder Barn, Egg Layer Barn and Finishing Barn (guests are warned not to touch or feed the animals, and told to assume all fences are electrified). Most of the Center's livestock spend their lives in the pastures and woodlands, but the barns serve as a safe haven during colder months. We continued through the fields, over the vegetable patches, onto the trails, and finally inside the old Rockefeller estate house to sit for the main event (surprised there was just a smidge of mud on our shoes given the area we traversed).

After providing our server with our dietary restrictions, none and no meat please, we spent the next 2 hours feasting on farm fresh fare. Six small nibbles, two types of freshly baked bread, four outstanding courses (three savory, one sweet), and a few glasses of wine later, and we were on our way back home. An indulgent, perfect way to end a weekend.

Blue Hill Café's open faced sandwiches, $7 each
There are a number of grab-and-go sweet treats, salads, sandwiches, soups, and beverages available at Blue Hill Café, and plenty of picnic tables in the courtyard
A look inside the 22,000 sq. ft. Greenhouse
Winter density lettuce is one of the plants currently growing in the Greenhouse
Best to believe the sign, the fence is in fact electrified
Pigs live in the woods until they're 5 months old, at which time they're moved to the Finishing Barn, farm-speak for final fattening
My sister with some of the farm's poultry
Egg laying hens roam the pastures from spring through fall, but are sheltered in the Egg Layer Barn in the winter, where their brown eggs are collected twice daily
Finn-Dorset sheep, and one watchful sheep dog, are at home in the Sheep Barn during the winter, come spring they move to greener pastures
The colorful center table in the main dining room
The first nibble, red carrots
Smoked kale, cabbage and red potatoes with sage
Mini beet burgers presented in a cup of sesame seeds
Walnut tarts with shredded kale
Sweet sap from the farm's maple trees
The last nibble, a 5-piece charcuterie plate
Course 1- beets, strawberries, greens and cottage cheese
Course 2- a farmer's egg with winter vegetable pistou
Heirloom grain bread with red fife (at this point I looked at the table next to us and noticed they were served smoked trout with mache)
Warm and crusty potato onion bread- if it were socially acceptable, I would have stuffed a few loaves of this delicious bread in my bag
Course 3 (meat)- Berkshire pork with local grains and swiss chard
Course 3 (non-meat)- Maine diver scallops with Brussels sprouts and carrots with tarragon- the sauce was so good I wanted to lick my plate clean
Course 4- the grand finale- Mutsu apple strudel with pistachio praline and granola ice cream

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Martha Stewart's Pie Pop-Up Shop

Appearing for a limited weekend run, Martha Stewart's Pie Pop-Up Shop will be selling freshly baked pies and tarts from Greenwich Village's Little Owl- The Venue. The media queen's pop-up debut (she is the most recent celebrity to join an ongoing craze for short-term shops) is in celebration of her latest softcover baking tome, Martha Stewart's Pies & Tarts. $3 and a little patience for a helter-skelter crowd and a long check-out line will buy one of nine different miniature sweet and savory treats. A coupon for one free tart or pie comes with every purchase of the $24.99 cookbook, as does one entry into an hourly raffle for prizes that include baking tools and tickets to The Martha Stewart Show.

There are 9 varieties available at $3 a piece
A flaky apple pie and plump rhubarb raspberry galette
My favorite pick- the chewy chess tart, and a spinach feta turnover- the only of its kind
A coconut cream pie, poppy seed tartlet with lemon curd, and port caramel chocolate tartlet- a little too alcohol heavy for me
Two savory treats- a vegetable tartlet and leek and olive tart (with sliced brie)- sit atop Martha Stewart's Pies & Tarts

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Roasted Butternut Squash And Amaretti Tartlets

I created these decadent roasted butternut squash and amaretti tartlets with brown butter sage crust for a contest over at Food52 (Your Best Late Winter Tart: Sweet or Savory). The recipe didn't make it to the final round, but I think it's a perfect, comforting dessert for this wintry March we're having. The steps are a bit involved, but the end result is worth the extra work.

Roasted Butternut Squash and Amaretti Tartlets with Brown Butter Sage Crust (yield, 6 4-inch tarts)
Ingredients- Brown Butter Sage Tartlet Dough:
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, cubed
1 tablespoon canola oil
3 tablespoons water
1 tablespoon brown sugar
1 tablespoon sage, finely chopped
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup(s) plus 1 tablespoon all purpose flour
Preparation- Brown Butter Sage Tartlet Dough:
1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
2. Heat butter in a saucepan over medium high heat until it begins to brown and give off a nutty aroma. Immediately remove from heat.
3. When brown butter has cooled enough to work with, add the next 5 ingredients (through salt) and stir to combine, incorporating the brown bits on the bottom of the pan.
4. Add the flour to the brown butter mixture, stirring until a ball of dough forms. Remove dough and press evenly into a 6 4-inch tartlet pans with removable bottoms.
5. Using the tines of a fork, prick the dough all over and bake at 375 degrees for approximately 12-15 minutes, until lightly golden. Cool before adding filling.
Ingredients- Butternut Squash Amaretti Tartlet Filling:
3 1/2 cups butternut squash, roasted
1 egg, lightly beaten
1/2 cup amaretti cookies, finely ground (plus 4 crushed cookies for garnish)
1/3 cup(s) plus 1 tablespoon grated parmesan
1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon salt
Preparation- Butternut Squash Amaretti Tartlet Filling:
1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
2. Add all ingredients in the bowl of a food processor with the chopping blade attached (reserving the 4 crushed amaretti cookies for garnish) and process until smooth.
3. Pour the butternut squash amaretti filling evenly into the cooled tartlet shells, smoothing top, and bake at 375 degrees for approximately 35 minutes, or until filling is set.
4. Remove from oven and immediately garnish with reserved crushed amaretti cookies. Cool on a rack for approximately 10 minutes and remove from tartlet pans.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Market Mondays: Lasagna Style Mushroom Caps

I picked up the components for this week's Market Mondays dinner when I met my in-laws at the Union Square Greenmarket Saturday afternoon (the crowds are bigger, and the selection is much greater). So when Monday rolled through with snow and strong winds (the calendar says it's spring, but I'm not sure I believe it), I didn't have to brave the elements and risk turning my sore throat and sniffles into a full blown cold. I chose portabella mushrooms, vine ripened tomatoes, arugula, basil, ricotta and mozzarella- and turned an idea for lasagna style mushroom caps into a reality. Slow roasted tomato basil sauce beneath a portabella mushroom cap stuffed with ricotta and basil, layers of slow roasted tomatoes and arugula-basil pesto, and topped with melted mozzarella. All the comforts and flavor of vegetable lasagna without the traditional pasta sheets.

Large, meaty portabella (portabello) mushrooms for $6 per pound
The only sign of tomatoes at the greenmarket
Peppery arugula from Windfall Farms
I picked up fresh ricotta and mozzarella from Tonjes Farm Dairy
The majority of the slow roasted cluster tomatoes were turned into a tomato basil sauce
The ingredients for the arugula-basil pesto
A view from up top