Friday, April 29, 2011

A Royal Celebration

Countless people across the world gathered to witness Friday's highly anticipated affair, the wedding of Prince William and Kate Middleton (Her Royal Highness Princess William Arthur Philip Louis, Duchess of Cambridge, Countess of Strathearn, Baroness Carrickfergus). I, along with my entire office, took in a multi-angle view of the Royals' every move (the media made it quite difficult to avoid) while enjoying an English-themed extravaganza. Festive hats, crumpets and raisin scones with clotted cream and jam, cupcakes fit for a queen, 4 different tea sandwiches, a variety of sweets, and endless cups of tea.

A treat stand with raisin scones, tea sandwiches, and pastries next to clotted cream, crumpets and jam
You can't have an English party without tea
Isabel's purple hat
A plate of miniature pastries
An original-style crumpet with strawberry jam
Noreen's funky hair piece
Clotted cream from Devon, England
A raisin scone with clotted cream and strawberry jam
A dainty sandwich, perfect with cup of tea
Holly, a recent London transfer, showing support for the Royal family
A celebratory cupcake

Monday, April 25, 2011

Market Mondays: Mozzarella And Cookies

I had a hard time finding inspiration for this week's Market Mondays dish. A recent bout with a way too persistent stomach bug and quick weekend trip to Texas left me feeling spent. Luckily, I didn't need to do much for a satisfying market-friendly dinner. I let Central Valley Farm's marinated fresh mozzarella, new this week and absolutely delicious, take center stage. I added the cubed mozzarella (marinated with vinegar, salt, vegetable rennet, peppers, oil and herbs), to croutons I made from a trio of wheat and grain rolls, sweet basil leaves, seedless watermelon and black olives, and topped it with a new favorite condiment- cream of balsamic. The combination of balsamic vinegar and grape juice is reduced until thick and syrupy and adds a sweet, fruity character and a tangy bite. After such a light dinner, I felt at liberty to indulge in Bread Alone's oversized oatmeal chocolate chip cookie...something that could become dangerous week after week.

New to the Union Square Greenmarket this week- Central Valley Farm's marinated fresh mozzarella
A trio of organic rolls from Bread Alone were turned into crunchy croutons
Fragrant sweet basil plants
A light, dinner-worthy salad with mozzarella, bread and sweet basil from the Union Square Greenmarket
Fuji apple juice from Red Jacket Orchards was the dinner beverage of choice
An addictive, beautifully browned oatmeal chocolate chip cookie from Bread Alone finished Monday's meal

Sunday, April 24, 2011

A Schakolad Easter

Knowing that I would be deep in Texas for a large part of Easter, I was a little nervous the Easter bunny might pass me over this year. Easter really isn't Easter without candy, and I can't remember an Easter morning that didn't involve sunrise mass followed by a basket full of sugary goodies (save for the year of the Easter "bucket", missing the pastel grass but filled with the more important chocolate staples). Thankfully, I worried for naught. Not only did the crafty Easter bunny have no trouble locating my room at the Omni Fort Worth, he came bearing a basket overflowing with Schakolad's finest- chocolate covered gummy bears, milk chocolate shaped like the state of Texas, an assortment of Jelly Belly jelly beans, and a Happy Easter chocolate tablet with a sugar chick. Happy Easter!

The Schakolad Chocolate Factory is a franchise that makes European style chocolates and other confections
The Easter morning delivery- appropriately wrapped in Easter themed cellophane
Texas in milk chocolate- big enough to feed a family
Colorful Jelly Belly jelly beans- I'm a big fan of the wild blackberry and strawberry jam flavors
A festive milk chocolate tablet wrapped in gold
My first taste of chocolate covered gummy bears- I never thought chocolate could ruin anything- but something about this combo just isn't right

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Tim Love's Love Shack

I made my first trip to Fort Worth, Texas this week, joining friends and family for my brother-in-law's impending nuptials. On a hot, windy day, when my husband was otherwise engaged with Best Man duties, I set out to take in the local sights with our mutual friend, Andy. We flagged a cab and landed in the heart of Cowtown- Fort Worth Stockyards. The former livestock market is now a historic district boasting an expanse of saloons, restaurants, and shopping venues.

After a tour of the strip, including cattle, cowboys clad in chaps and Stetson hats, and a quick turn in the Texas Cowboy Hall of Fame, we ended the afternoon with burgers and beers at Tim Love's Love Shack. The idea for the lively 140 sq foot 3 tiered Love Shack was born when the Iron Chef America winner was brainstorming ways to utilize leftover trim from the garlic-stuffed beef tenderloin at his nearby Lonesome Dove restaurant and also provide a quick bite to patrons of his White Elephant Saloon (a popular watering hole that sits adjacent to Love Shack). All patties are 50% prime brisket and 50% prime tenderloin, ground fresh daily and cooked medium. The classic Love Burger is topped with lettuce, tomato, American cheese, house made pickles and is smothered with "Love Sauce"- the combination of Serrano chile, house made pickles, mayo, ketchup, white vinegar, and a blend of spices including chili powder, cumin, rosemary, thyme, and garlic powder is exceptional and adds a welcome kick to each bite. The Dirty Love is anything but classic, adding wild boar bacon and a quail egg. For the meatless crowd, Love Shack's menu includes the Boom Boom, a battered and fried portobello mushroom with all the fixings of a standard Love Burger, as well as a daily milkshake and sides like nachos, Love Shack fresh cut fries (small, thin and super crispy), crazy good onion rings (I didn't partake, but I hear they are indeed crazy good), and chile parmesan chips. Food and drinks (including iced Texas sun tea, fresh lemonade, and root beer on tap) are ordered from a street side booth. Customers are handed a wooden heart, painted red with an order number in the middle, and told to grab any available seating while the wait begins. Waitresses make the rounds to deliver orders in exchange for wooden hearts.

Andy and I grabbed a shaded seat on the third floor, above the crowded picnic tables and overlooking the Stockyards, and commenced waiting nearly 40 minutes for our food. The live music was a welcome distraction, but it didn't stop Andy from offering up his new and improved Love Shack business plan about 30 minutes into the wait- guaranteed to double burger output in a few short hours. If only Tim Love were on location, he would have picked up a new, eager business partner. When our food finally arrived (a reasonably priced $4.85 Love Burger, $4.47 Boom Boom burger, and $2.31 side of chile parmesan chips) bagged in Love Shack take-away paper bags, we tossed the wrapping to the side and devoured the sandwiches and chips. Bite after bite, delicious juices running down our faces and dirtying our hands, we soon forgot about the wait.

A bustling Love Shack on a hot afternoon
Signage out front helps confused tourists like us- order at the counter, seat yourself, get your burger, have fun
The restaurant is cash only, and in my opinion, very reasonably priced
One shiner, brewed in the heart of Texas, and our wooden heart with order number 54
A view of Love Shack's interior from up top
The chile parmesan chips were extra crunchy and covered with salty parmesan
The Boom Boom burger- possibly the best portobello sandwich I've ever tasted
The Love Burger- it is easy to see why it's a crowd favorite
Love Shack also sells beers to passersby- it's legal to walk with open containers

Monday, April 18, 2011

Market Mondays: On Sick Leave

I've been severely under the weather the past few days. So much so that I can't muster up enough energy to walk less than 10 blocks to the Union Square Greenmarket. With no chance to execute this week's Market Mondays dish, I opted for a veggie packed home delivery. A pizza parlor may not be the most conventional place to order a bowl of soup, but Patsy's Pizzeria's minestrone (the zuppa del giorno) is worth a diversion from the norm. It comes packed with fresh flavors and healthy ingredients like celery, carrots, tomatoes, beans, zucchini and pasta- my kind of medicine.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Matzo Toffee-Chocolate Treats

Two of the biggest celebrations of the year, Easter and Passover, are right around the corner. One simply prepared treat makes a perfect hostess gift/party favor for both occasions. Matzo, a staple during Jewish holy days, is used as a base for an addictive toffee-chocolate cracker. Toffee is prepared with butter and brown sugar, poured over matzo, baked until crisp, smothered with semi-sweet chocolate chips, topped with bits of caramelized pecans, and finally, sprinkled with sea salt. The recipe, adapted from Kraft, is below.

Matzo Toffee-Chocolate Treats
6 unsalted matzo sheets
2 sticks unsalted butter, cut into pieces
1 cup brown sugar
1 1/2 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 cup caramelized pecans, chopped
Sea salt
1. Heat oven to 350 degrees.
2. Place matzo in a single layer on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper.
3. Combine butter and brown sugar in a small saucepan over medium heat and boil for three minutes, stirring constantly. Immediately spread mixture evenly over matzo.
4. Bake the matzo for approximately 15 minutes, removing early if topping begins to burn.
5. Upon removing from oven, immediately top with chocolate chips and let sit for 5 minutes, until chips are melty. Spread the chocolate evenly over the matzo and top with chopped caramelized pecans. Sprinkle sea salt over top.
6. Allow to cool completely and break into bite sized pieces.

The main ingredients- matzo, semi-sweet chocolate chips, sea salt and caramelized pecans
Toffee topped matzo, before baking for 15 minutes at 350 degrees
The final matzo toffee-chocolate treats- ready for a holiday celebration

Monday, April 11, 2011

Market Mondays: Baked Wontons

A quick inventory of my sparsely stocked fridge and an unopened package of Nasoya Won Ton Wraps inspired me to bring an Asian flair to this week's edition of Market Mondays. Greenmarket goodies (pork, potatoes and apples) were packaged and baked in wonton skins, and served with a spicy maple dipping sauce.

I started the process by making pulled pork in a pressure cooker (one of the most underrated kitchen gadgets); a feat that took all of 90 minutes. Once cooled, the pork was added to boiled potatoes and softened apple cubes (cooked over medium heat with a squeeze of lemon juice until fork tender), and placed in the center of individual wonton skins. A quick seal with water and a turn in a 400 degree oven for approximately 10 minutes produced a crisp, tasty bite. The spicy maple dipping sauce, made with Greenmarket maple syrup and cayenne pepper, added a touch of sweet heat.

Premium pork from Flying Pigs Farm
I chose Fuji apples, and bought extra for snacking
Red potatoes added fiber, potassium, iron and vitamin C
Berkshire Berries fresh maple syrup
Wonton skins were filled with pulled pork, potatoes and apples
A baked wonton heading for the spicy maple dipping sauce

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Jimmy Fallon's Late Night Snack

Ben & Jerry's debuted its newest ice cream, Late Night Snack, early last month. An homage to Jimmy Fallon and the second anniversary of his eponymous late night talk show, the smooth treat gets its flavor from Fair Trade vanilla bean ice cream, swirls of salted caramel and mini clusters of fudge covered potato chips.

When news of the ice cream giant's latest venture broke, I scanned the frozen food aisle of every grocery store I passed to no avail. This went on for several weeks until I eventually gave up and settled for satiating my sweet tooth with readily available snacks, like my Easter-season obsession- Cadbury mini eggs. And just when I wasn't looking, it seems Late Night Snack has reached the masses- or at least my local Whole Foods. The ice cream doesn't disappoint- generously packed with everything I want in a late night snack- sweet, salty, creamy, crunchy, fatty deliciousness. Vermont's finest indeed.

The fudge covered potato chip clusters are plentiful and add a crisp texture to each caramel filled bite
San Francisco's Spork Restaurant serves an "After School Special" ice cream with the same flavors- it has been insinuated that Ben & Jerry's may not have been forthcoming with its inspiration for Late Night Snack