Archive for August, 2007

Fig & Chevre Amuse Bouche

August 30, 2007

In the summer, when figs are in season, I just can’t get enough of them. I have them a few times a week, with cheese and wine before dinner or as an afternoon snack.

Here’s one of my favorite ways to prepare them:

Snip the stems off the figs and cut them length-wise in quarters, just to the base of the fig, without cutting all the way through. Peel the “petals” apart and plop a small chunk of soft chevre goat cheese on the middle. Then pour 3 tablespoons of honey and a pinch of hot pepper flakes into a small ramekin and microwave for about 30 seconds or just until it bubbles. Pour this peppery sweet concoction over the figs and cheese and garnish with mint. Serve before dinner or as dessert. Enjoy!

photo: erin gleeson, www.eringleeson.com

Temaki Maki Maki

August 28, 2007

Temaki (hand-rolled sushi) is an easy way to entertain a crowd. There aren’t much prep work involved, but the spread is quite luxurious looking and it’s surely a crowd pleaser.

You just make whatever you like to be inside, spread it nicely and voila, party starts.


Instead of going to Japanese grocery store, and buy overpriced sashimi quality fish (which is a total bullshit, you can buy the same quality fish a LOT cheaper at a good fish mongers), I just went to Lobster House in Chelsea Market. Their salmon is always fresh, and I learned from an avid fish eater that you should semi-freeze salmon before you eat it, and that will kill all the bacteria. So I froze it for about an hour, and it’s easier to cut, and all the bad guys are dead, easy process.

Despite last week’s trauma on the mandoline, I grated cucumbers on it. Although my heart was pumping a bit, remembering the horrific incident, I made sure to use the guard. Guard is great, but you can only grate half of the vegetables. Still, it’s better to be guarded than losing a part of your finger right?

Aside from obvious ones you can see (salmon, shrimp, avocado), I made seared tuna belly marinated in ponzu sauce. It was only $9.99 at the market, so I bought it. I know their fish is fresh enough, but thought it wasn’t fresh enough to just cut it up, so I seared for like a minute on each side, then sliced them up, and put it in ponzu sauce. Citrus in ponzu will cook the meat so there shouldn’t be any worry.

Shrimp is also another easy one. I cleaned it, stuck it on a skewer (to keep it from curling up), boil for a couple of minutes, and fillet it in half (inside out, so that it looks like shrimp on sushi).

I am not so much into fishy fish (hikari mono, or shiny kinds), and I don’t like fish eggs (yes I am very picky and cheap at sushi place since I don’t like ikura, uni, and other all kinds of expensive stuff). But I love tamago. I have a tamago-yaki pan, so I mixed eggs, sugar, salt, soy sauce, and dashi, made tamago-yaki and cut them up. Yum!

Sushi and sake should always be accompanied. Sake really clears pallet from fish. This time, instead of buying a big bottle, I bought three small bottles and had a little sake tasting. I like Kurosawa, which is clear, refreshing, and cheap. I was very disappointed at Tukasabotan, which was almost tasteless. Something notable in sake world recently is that many brewers have started to make bubbly sake. Before I tried it, I was a bit skeptical about it, but it is good. If you don’t like sweet stuff, you wouldn’t like it, though. I bought Harushika Tokimeki. It’s sad how overpriced sakes are in this country. It is 493 yen in Japan for the half bottle, becomes $13.99 at booze shop in New York, and $45 at Megu. At Megu, they put freshly grated wasabi into this stuff, and actually taste nice. Anyhow, sake and sushi, very healthy and tasty dinner we had.

This Just Can’t Be Summer Love

August 28, 2007

Summer’s over for the both of us
That doesn’t mean we should give up on love
You’re the one I’ve been thinking of
And I knew the day I met you you’d be the ooooooone…
– Justin Timberlake

Ok, so it’s a bit premature to say that summer is over, but here’s a post to remind you that the end is near. Very very near. So quick, go to the beach in this final week of summer, at Justin’s yearning urgings, when we can still wear white, while we can still work on evening out that tan for our own vain pleasures, before our bodies are enveloped in bleh color tweeds and heavy, unflattering wool coats.

Go to Rockaway Beach, to see where I fell in love this summer.

Not with a boy, nor even a girl. But with this little seaside shack humbly called the Wharf, that is quietly nestled on the water behind a Duane Reade and a gas station–a place that has not been Yelped, Citysearched, nor has a website, hence it does not exist (right?).

I fell in love with their patio overlooking the bay, with views of the Verazzano Bridge to the left, and the Manhattan skyline in a distance, far, far away. Head over heels for their perfectly plump and juicy shrimps and steamed clams. In love with their low prices that would make any Manhattan seafood addict swoon with disbelief and then, delight.

I am in love, and the Wharf is THE ONE.

Aya took me here a month ago, who in turn had found out about it from a local a few years ago (sorry Aya, but I can’t not talk about this place- like I said, it’s L-O-V-E, and I’m shouting it from the rooftops). I took Alda there last week. And by golly, let me tell you that Alda, too, is in love. Just look at these pics for a glimpse into what I am blabbering about (please excuse that weird sci-fi looking dot in the pictures- something got into my lens I think, which is bad news):

Here it is– on the corner of Beach 116 Street and Rockaway Beach Blvd., is a Duane Reade and a Getty gas station. No sign of any restaurant right? There can’t possibly be a little seafood haven back there, could there??? Have a little faith my friends…

… Cause when you walk through the gas station, there it is! The Wharf! Uh, still no sign though.

Walk through to the back of the building et voila! It’s seriously paradise.

In the distance, the Verazzano Bridge…

… and there it is, the sticky hot wonderland we call home, but boy, are we ever delighted that we’re not there right now.

Alright, the food. Ah, look at these gorgeous, plump, fresh, perfectly boiled shrimp– they call it the “bar shrimp”.

You get a dozen– manically peel em with your paws, and dip them in their brilliant housemade cocktail sauce that packs the horseradish like fairy dust slicing through your nose.

The “grilled clams” are a must. These chewy little morsels are laid out in all their godly glory, and half the fun is dunking them into the conspicuous bowl of juice that they were just cooked in. It tastes of the sea, and nothing more. We asked the server what we should do with it, to which she replied, “anything you want”. Do as Aya does and drink up!

Mmmmm, the fried scallops. A wonderful dish. Look at how beautiful this is all laid out! This was Alda’s favorite. Here’s a play by play:

The scallops were super fresh, and plump, never greasy from the frying. They tasted a bit minerally, as scallops often do, but definitely very satisfying. The best part is that they are HUGE.

The onion rings were a highlight of the meal for me. Thick slabs of onion perfectly battered, fried to a crisp, but never burned. An ace in the hole.

The broccoli too, steamed to a crisp- never soggy grossness. The broccoli and onion rings may just be sides, but it’s these little fine-tuned details that really convinces me that this is indeed ONE. The real deal. For real.

And when it’s all over, after we’ve licked the cocktail and tarter sauces from their respective containers, the clam juice from the bowl, and the bread crumbs from the plate, we say OMMMMMMMMM. Three times.

I would also recommend the french onion soup. The fish and chips weren’t great. For all you raw clam junkies, they have clams on the half shell, which I haven’t tried. YET.

How exactly do you get to this place, you ask? It’s SO easy! Take a Far Rockaway bound A train to Broad Channel. Get off, and wait and transfer onto the Shuttle, and take it to the very last stop, which is Beach 116 Street. When you exit the station, the beach will be to your left, and the Wharf is to your right. The beach is really nice too, the waves are pretty rough, but the water is warm enough to dive in, and the beach goes on for miles and miles.

Seriously people, this can just be our secret- our Umami Mart secret, cause no one in the city knows about the Wharf, and it’s like that last sacred place there is in this god foresaken city where every place is bloggable (she says as she blogs) and all your secret haunts have been overtaken by annoying hipsters that have taken over all the 5 boroughs (she says as she blogs from the rapidly gentrifying neighborhood of Crown Heights) and are bringing their crying babies with them!!!

So shhhhh… hurry and go before summer is really finally over! You’ll see that you will fall in love with it too.

I can’t wait to fall in love with you
You can’t wait to fall in love with me
This just can’t be summer love, you’ll see
This just can’t be summer love (L-O-V-E)

PS- I’m also in love with Justin. But that’s not a secret either. Hey, speaking of Justin, has anyone been to his new bbq place, Southern Hospitality?

Wharf
416 Beach 116th St
Far Rockaway, NY 11694
(718) 474-8807

The 4 Borough (Ghetto-Fabulous) Culinary Tour

August 27, 2007

My family recently came to NYC to visit me, and having been here before, they wanted to something different than the usual tourist route. So I decided to take them on a 5 borough Culinary Tour. A different borough every day. Now, being from Northern California, they are the kind of cats that like to wear jeans and chacos everywhere- so there would be no Jean-Georges-ing for us. I chose a menagerie of local places I thought would be fun and easy in the summer. We had a little trouble in Staten Island and never quite made it to the Bronx, but here are the places we hit up…

Manhattan:
The Heights Bar & Grill
A fantastic rooftop patio on the Upper West Side. I love going here for brunch.



Boat Basin

This is very possibly my favorite place in New York City. You can sit on the Hudson River and order burgers and buckets of coronas…does it get any better than that?


McSorley’s Old Ale House

This place is a classic New York City establishment, and every time my Dad comes, he wants to go here every night. They only serve beer (light & dark), and they come 2 at a time. Though it sounds a little raw, I actually really like the cheese plate: slices of sharp white cheddar, sliced onions, and saltine crackers.


Brooklyn:

Habana Outpost is absolutely my new favorite place in the city (I’m a sucker for great outdoor seating). It’s in Fort Greene, and it’s basically a cuban beer garden that serves frozen mojitos, sweet plantains, veggie dogs and Mexican corn sprinkled with cotija cheese and cayenne. It’s also NYC’s 1st solar run restaurant. Check this place out for sure!



Staten Island:

This is where we get a little ghetto. I had done some pre-ferry research and found a great Italian place we could walk to from the terminal, but we went on Sunday and it was closed. So we ended up at the only place open- Cargo Cafe, a weird place not worth making the trip out for. Not sure if it was more quirky or grungy- don’t let the mural deceive you. My open faced american cheese melt was tasty in a plasticky kraft kind of way and my Mom got a salmon salad that was just so-so. (Better to just stay on the boat and have a beer.)



Queens:

The Astoria Beer Gardens

This is another of my very favorite places in NYC. It’s a huge gravel courtyard with picnic tables and lots of Czechs drinking Pilsner. They have fantastic potato pancakes and live music on the weekends in summer. You can go and drink pitchers for hours!



Importance of Following Rules

August 22, 2007

WARNING! If you don’t like bloody stories, or don’t want to see the reality of cooking disasters, do not read this post.

Many people don’t follow rules. Sometimes they end up going to a jail, sometimes pastries don’t get as fluffy as hoped, or this time, it ended up pretty bloody and painful.

A mandoline slicer is a great kitchen gadget to have. From perfectly cut french fries, thin sliced vegetables to even making vegetable spaghetti, it is a nifty device. I went to Chelsea kitchen market (which I found out to be Bowery Kitchen Supply store’s satellite, or a jacked up version of it), and looked around for whatever I might be able to find. And check it out, a mandoline for $9.99! When you go to Williams-Sonoma, you will find it for $150 since they are all stainless steel and fancy, and $9.99 is as cheap as it gets.

I was very excited to test the quality of it. Once I got home, I took a potato, and started to slicing it, amazed by the sharpness of the blade, and of course WITHOUT USING THE GUARD.

Below is the crime scene a couple of minutes after I sliced off a piece of my thumb. A Quarter inch deep, 1 centimeter wide skin was completely sliced off.

Would you like a piece of finger on a thin sliced potato?

When using mandoline, it clearly warns that the blade is VERY sharp, and make sure to use the guard. I had way too much confidence in me, and I cannot use my left thumb for a long time. Also I am sure my thumb will have a big dent without finger print as well. Hey, maybe I can commit a crime and no one can identify me from the fingerprint…

Lesson learned. Sometimes one has to follow rules, otherwise the result is disastrous.

Flattened Bananas

August 21, 2007

Alda and I went to the beach this weekend. Alda brought snacks. Snacks from Trader Joe’s. Banana slices in a plastic bag for 99 cents. No sugar, no preservatives, just… bananas. Joe is a genius.



Perfect Pork Ribs

August 20, 2007
Aren’t you drooling?

(As always, I forgot to take pictures of mine, and this is not from my kitchen)

Recently there are quite a few BBQ restaurants popping up in New York, including Justin Timberlake’s Southern Hospitality (let’s bet how long it lasts). Pork ribs, its sweet and juicy meat, and the flavor of summer is always mouthwatering, and when it’s done right, it’s sooo darn good.

I used to live in NJ, and had a backyard grill and made whole kind of grilled food including fucked by beer can chicken (or drunken chicken), cedar smoked salmon, etc. Now that I am back in the city, my option to have an outside grill are pretty slim. So I looked around for an indoor pork rib recipe, and man, this was awesome.

You simmer slab of pork rib bought at the store with beef broth and peppercorns for 2 hours. Take it out of the liquid, smear it with BBQ sauce (recipe follows), broil it until it gets crispy outside. Keep an eye on the oven while you broil it, since it takes just a couple of minutes.

Because you boil the meat in beef broth, it adds a lot more flavor to the meat, and it was the juiciest pork rib I’ve had. I’ve tried dry rub, and other methods, but trust me, this is the best and easiest way to make a juicy pork rib.

Recipe for homemade BBQ sauce (not really a recipe, since I don’t measure. Don’t follow the amount I say since I totally made it up)

  • ketchup (about 1 cup)
  • brown sugar (about half cup packed)
  • Worcestershire sauce (three table spoon)
  • apple cider vinegar (three table spoon)
  • liquid smoke (2 table spoon)

Simmer them together and it’s as good (or better than) as store bought ones.

Of course I made corn bread to go with it. Trust me, this is gooooood!

Pho Lovin’: Pho Bang (NYC)

August 20, 2007

With such a ramen frenzy going on in New York right now (a cute little “guide to ramen” column in Time Out this week; buzz on Eater about yet another Hakata-style rameneria opening in Greenpoint in the fall; the ramen war that Setagaya ignited with Momofuku before they opened a couple months back, etc), I dare repeat what I’ve been saying for years: ramen in NY SUCKS.

I’ve tried almost all of them: Momofuku, Setagaya, Rai-Rai ken, Rockmeisha, Menkui-tei, and more, and they are all subpar. None of them can get it quite right. The worst part? It’s always over $10 for a measly bowl! Drives me nuts.

So instead, why don’t we focus on a noodle soup that is wonderfully plentiful and ridiculously underrated (and CHEAP) in this hype-infected city: PHO. I cannot proclaim to know a lot about Vietnamese food, but I crave it all the time, especially pho and banh mis. It’s all so perfect, a bowl of pho, with its fresh, crispy sprouts, the lightly seasoned soup, the various internal beef parts, the al dente rice noodles.

My obsession continues as I hunt down the best pho in this city- one that outshines any bowl of ramen here, any day.

The other night, I went to Pho Bang in Chinatown for the second time, it’s a little place with french bistro chairs, glass table tops, and good lighting. I had the standard bowl of pho, the Tai nam Fau Gan Sach, a combination of eye of round, brisket, tendon and omosa (basically tripe).

I love that the round comes almost raw- better to eat it right away before it gets over cooked- so tender. The omosa has a crunch to it, and the tendons have this great jelly-like consistency. Not for everyone, but I love it. Next time I will take pictures of the parts, for all you cow-part-non-believers.

The soup has so much depth of flavor- not overly beefy, just aromatic, and kinda sweet. A few squirts of sriracha adds a little kick. The raw onions and scallions are also a plus.

The most ingenious part about pho is the standard plate of bean sprouts, fresh basil and lime that comes on the side. Coming from a ramen background, where you stir fry the sprouts and veggies before hand (not standard, but I like to), this was always a bit puzzling to me. But it all makes perfect sense- the crispness of the sprouts, that cooks just right in the hot soup; the distinct flavor of fresh basil, the squirt of lime– all come together to act as a cooling agent in the hot hot heat.

It’s summertime in a bowl- the perfect food in this heat! I think that Pho Bang is excellent- had a fantastic meal the first time I went too- make sure to get the rice crepes with beef that they advertise on the walls!

And of course that the best part of all this is that a bowl of pho is only $4.95! Add $1 for an extra large bowl with more noodles and more beef- more, more more!!! Can’t beat that!

How much exactly did I enjoy my pho, you ask? See for yourself…


Pho Bang
157 Mott St
(between Broome St & Grand St)
New York, NY 10013
(212) 966-3797

Mon-Sun 10:00 a.m.-10:00 p.m.

***
Related Readings:
Pho Fever: great site I found devoted to the bountiful pleasures of pho
– LA foodblogger Oishii Eats backpacks South East Asia and chronicles her pho finds and other street eats in Vietnam

We Heart Cesare

August 15, 2007

Okay, I’m sensitive. I’ve been that girl crying on the subway, I’ve cried at work (multiple times), commercials, movies-even once during City Slickers, but I think a couple weeks ago marked the first time that simply great food brought tears to my eyes.

Erin, being the amazing food photographer and captivating individual that she is, was invited by chef Cesare Casella to dine at his west village homage to his native Tuscany, Maremma. not sure what we were in for, Kayoko and I tagged along.

When we arrived, Cesare greeted us personally, and sent out some prosecco–how sweet, he’ll probably throw in a free dessert, too.

Um, not exactly. Instead, the waitress took our menus and told us Cesare would be preparing a special meal for us. We cringed as we told her two of us were vegetarian. Knowing the chefs I’ve worked with, I was shocked that this did not seem to phase (or anger) Cesare at all.

Grilled prawns with asparagus
French fries with garlic and herbs

Throughout the meal, he came out periodically, with fresh herbs hanging out of his front pocket, to grin, fill up our wine glasses, and answer our naive questions about each amazing creation.

6 dishes, 2 bottles of wine, 3 desserts, and an after-dinner drink later, I just became overwhelmed with gratitude for cesare’s generosity, talent, and appreciation for wholesome, fresh, flavorful food–it just occured to me that it’s food like this that makes me feel really alive, and i felt so lucky that Erin invited us to share this with her.

Cue the tears.

You probably don’t need to bring tissue, but you HAVE to go check this place out-it’s unlike any place i’ve been in nyc. The chard dumplings were my favorite!

Maremma
228 W 10th St
Btwn. Bleeker and Hudson Streets
New York, NY 10014
(212) 645-0200

Summer of Love

August 15, 2007

I played hookie yesterday. Law & Order was shooting a scene at one of the apartments upstairs, so I couldn’t go up to the rooftop to lay out (also it would be bad to come back to work with a tanned face when you claim you were “sick”). So I cooked. I had a couple of people over for cocktails, and made something light to munch on.

Below is some of the easiest, yet looks-like-you-spent-hours-to-make appetizers. All I did was bought truffle pate (you can buy them at fancy grocery stores, it doesn’t have any foie gras, just some liver and chopped truffle, $6 is not that expensive either), and smoked duck meat. Spread the pate on thinly sliced baguette (I think it’s always better to slice bread very thin so that you don’t cut your mouth biting into a crusty bread). Then I put cut up arugula/sun dried tomato/thinly sliced cucumber mixture on top. Finally put thinly sliced smoked duck, and bingo, it’s duck heaven!


Below is another dish I made. I first made a sorta/kinda guacamole, using only avocado, garlic, lime juice and salt, spread it on the bread, added a cherry tomato, and topped it with a cooked shrimp. Very simple, yet good to the eyes, and tasted wonderful.


Green tea sorbet is amazing. As long as you have macha powder, you don’t need to go to store to make this. 4 cups of water, 3/4 cup of sugar, and about 2 tablespoons of macha powder (taste it and add more if you like), that’s it. Boil together until dissolved, cool it, then put it in ice cream maker.

It’s not true Japanese macha powder, but good enough.

Boil everything together.

Look at this. VERY tasty, and looks professional, don’t ya think? Since there was no milk in it, it was very refreshing and bitter sweet. I think I will make other sorbet using this technique. Result will be reported soon.