Thursday, May 31, 2007

No Idea Whatsoever

This is a strange one.















Woke up with no idea whatsoever of what I wanted to eat. Did the dishes(some of which I had dirtied last night when I decided to make frozen yogurt at 1 am) and then set to work with no real objective.
This is what I ended up with:
A chickpea cake(chickpeas, roasted chickpea flour, chives, olive oil, salt, smoked paprika), kale, and poached pheasant eggs with sriracha, avocado flower honey and mustard oil.
Pretty good, but it needed a bit more sauce.
As for the frozen yogurt, I used the rest of the kefir and a simple syrup in which mint and shiso were steeped. I ate immediately what wouldn't fit in the one plastic container I could find. It was tasty, but I don't think the texture will hold up. And I think the ice cream maker is ready for retirement, or so its motors pained groans and squeaks would have me believe.
And dinner was spaghetti alla chitarra with spinach, pecorino romano, chives and olive oil.

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Dinner Last Night, Breakfast This Morning
















Last night's dinner is dedicated to friend and fellow enthusiastic home cook Ryan, because whenever I eat duck I think of him.
So yesterday I trekked to Brooklyn Borough Hall for the Farmer's Market. I'll be honest - it's not my favorite market. Lots of potted plants and baked goods. But I did come home with spinach, beautiful skinny asparagus, a tomato, a sweet onion, flowered chives, and a pint of strawberries. And a little bottle of Wicklow Orchards apple cider which was immediately consumed.
When I returned home I remembered that there was a Quattro's duck leg in the freezer, so I thawed it. Then I marinated it with long pepper, wild garlic brine, star anise, molasses, and a little soy sauce. Then I cooked it with the "under the brick" method, first removing a large flap of excess skin and fat(which became duck chicharrones). I then sliced(and pulled) the meat from the bone and tossed it with blanched asparagus, wheat berries, hawaiian pink salt, smoked paprika, roasted walnut oil, chive blossoms(briefly) pickled in apple cider vinegar(and a bit of the vinegar), and tiny bit of the duck fat rendered from the chicharrones.
Delicious. Best piece of duck I ever cooked. Even the cartilage I chewed from the bone was good. I will have to remember this method.
Also, duck and smoked paprika were separated at birth.














Now breakfast. Crepes.
Pheasant eggs, almond flour, all-purpose flour, buttermilk, demerara sugar, salt. A little(tiny) bit of grated Jura Montagne(a strong Swiss alpine cheese) inside. Topped with a schmear of roasted almond butter, delicious and delicate local strawberries, and a bit of buttermilk.
Nice. The crepes got a little crispy which I like. And not very sweet at all.
I just feel bad that I had to use the pheasant eggs, but they are all I have at the moment.
I will eat the next two poached, and the final two fried. Or vice-versa. Whatever will do them justice.

Sunday, May 27, 2007

Pizza F'in Party
















YOW! What a bad day to have the oven cranked up to 550˚. But the pizza came out pretty good(but not pretty) for the first one in the "brick oven." Super simple homemade dough, fresh mozzarella(from Lioni), pecorino romano, sauteed kale(from Starlight Gardens, see previous posts), sauteed onions(from Paffenroth), pineapple mint, blue basil, green shiso, sea salt, black pepper, olive oil(good Frankie's Spuntino stuff) and the last double-yolk egg. Next time I will preheat longer.
With an ice cold can of Dale's Pale Ale, followed by a tonic water lemonade with angostura bitters.
Now I need to get back to the greenmarket for produce. I still have a few beets, beet greens, and some pheasant eggs. Plus a duck leg. And short ribs. And a lamb shoulder.
Maybe lamb shoulder tacos and beet salad later this week.

Saturday, May 26, 2007

sorry sorry sorry

So... Breakfasts of the last two days.
Thursday















Toasted bread-made-for-a-friend, fresh mozzarella from Lioni in Brooklyn, kale sauteed with crushed pomegranate anils, poached two-yolk eggs, thai fried shallots, olive oil, lemon juice, sea salt and black pepper.

Friday















Pancakes. All-purpose flour, baking soda, double yolk egg, demerara sugar, molasses, Tonjes buttermilk, roasted almond butter, salt. Rested for 30 minutes. To pancakes were added sunflower seeds, pepitas, raisins, and little bits of 70% cacao chocolate. Cooked in a tiny bit of Kate's Homemade salted butter in a cast iron pan. No condiments necessary.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Chicken Salad Under a Brick
















From out of left field.
Soba noodles, leftover chicken, pickled wild garlic, fresh ginger, roasted almond butter, grapeseed oil, sea salt, the last of the arugula(yay!/boo!), thinly sliced cucumber, sesame seeds, smoked spanish paprika.
Like steroidal sesame noodles. Pretty excellent.
With a Schneider Organic Wiesen Edel Weiss.

If you're interested, breakfast was pretty basic. Bread-made-for-a-friend with peanut butter and raspberry preserves, sheep milk yogurt with avocado flower honey.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Chicken Formerly Underneath a Brick
















Well, a cast iron pan and two extra tiles from my brick oven project(see first post). But whatever it was under, it was damn satisfying.
An actually free range chicken leg from Quattro's Farm, marinated for a little over an hour with salt, black pepper, cinnamon, kefir, olive oil and honey.
Skin crisped on the range, then finished in the oven with some onions thrown in.
Removed chicken from the pan, added the last of those local hothouse tomatoes and some arugula and tossed it with the onions and pan juices.
With a couple slices of the bread-made-for-a-friend(which I didn't feel was successful enough to be given as a gift, just by the looks of it) to sop up the juices.
(Whistles)No complaints, other than probably eating too much. And I still have the drumstick.

Breaking Away















A strange egg scramble. Double-yolk eggs, Tonjes kefir, sauteed/charred leeks, homemade horseradish, thai fried shallots, and a chiffonade of green shiso.
Really nice texture, lighter than air. And I don't even like scrambled eggs.
Also baking a bread as a gift. Whole wheat, wheat germ, pepitas, sunflower seeds, flax seeds, molasses.

Monday Monday Monday

Sadly, yesterday I did not get to cook anything due to my busy schedule. It was disheartening. But today I started to get back on track. Let us get to the food.
















Breakfast.
•Ruby Crescent Potato Pancake with yellow onion, pecorino romano and wheatgerm. Fried in a tiny cast iron pan in grapeseed oil, then finished under the broiler with a little pat of Kate's Homemade butter.
•2 fried double-yolk eggs.
•Yuno's Farm arugula
•Yuno's Farm cucumber with Tonjes kefir, salt, and the brine from the pickled wild garlic.
Really good. I mean it. A fine way to start the day.

Then I ate a blueberry-corn muffin from Birdbath and an iced americano from 9th street while sitting in beautiful La Plaza Cultural on C reading The Red and the Black. Both were quite fine and the overall experience was lovely. And Birdbath carries flours from PA which I think I will try out sometime.

And I had a glass of Barbours Late Season Muscat from Virginia at the Tasting Room Winebar.
















Dinner.
Sorry about the photo. The light was low, and I had started to eat it already.
• Dumpling No. 2(see post of May 12) with Old Chatham greek-style yogurt, sriracha and pickled wild rhubarb(which, despite being stringy-as-all-get-out, is good)
•Dogfish Head 60-minute IPA

Done.

Saturday, May 19, 2007

Barnstorm Dinner

Wow. Back from a whirlwind trip up to Connecticut to see the folks and cook them dinner. As I mentioned before I baked a loaf of bread to bring with(needs some work) and hauled along a few things from the greenmarket that I had yet to eat. Friday morning I added some peruvian purple potatoes, ramps, beets AND strawberries(!) and asparagus from Yuno's Farm at the USQ market.
I also had the pleasure of visiting StarLight Gardens in Durham, an organic vegetable farm operated by two longtime family friends, David and Ty Zemelsky. They recently added a herd of seven Jacob's sheep to their family. I feel like a jerk for not taking my camera along, but I guess I'll just have to be a jerk. The sheep were recently shorn, so I got to see the huge masses of cream, black, and red-brown wool and hear the story of the shearer who nonchalantly flipped the menacingly-horned ram onto his back. And her children who approached it like it was just a little lamb.
They also showed me around their greenhouses where they grow microgreens and heirloom tomatoes of many varieties, and let me pick some of the overgrown(normally-sized) greens. They also gave my mom and I an enormous bag of kale, in mixed Russian varieties. But considering how much it cooks down(and how readily I snacked on the leaves raw later that evening) I suppose it wasn't so much.
The tomato plants were still small, with only a few showing fruit, but I'm looking forward to going back when they are seven feet high and are best navigated by belly-crawling like a baby or a marine.
But on to the food. The Zemelsky's(plus late-breaking dinner guest and bringer of wine Lisa) were coming over for dinner, so I really wanted to do justice to what they had given me. I was a little pressed for time.















Course the First:
Roasted Peruvian purple potatoes with dijon mustard, hazelnut oil, amaranth and giant radish leaves(from Starlight), caraway seeds and pickled wild garlic(see previous posts).

Not Bad. But the picture is a bit out of focus. Potato texture was great, mustard not overpowering, greens did their thing, especially amaranth(it felt like an ancient andean reunion of sorts). Garlic was a hit, or at least a surprise.













Course the Second:
blanched asparagus on (overly crisp) rye toast with roasted ramp bulbs, microgreens(!), black pepper, and a poached egg from the owner of the feed store's hens. Excellent unevenly-sized eggs with great bright yolks.

Toast was too hard. Could have used more sauce to break it down a bit. Otherwise very nice. Microgreens=excellent.
















Course the Third:
Beet dumplings with nutmeg, oil-roasted pistachios, New Haven-made ricotta, on ramp leaves.

Dumpling filling should have been drier, at least to keep them from falling apart so much. But good. Pistachios were burnt in a few spots, which was nice against the ricotta.

Dessert: Yuno's strawberries with a tiny tiny tiny bit of sea salt. Not too shabby.

Overall, I felt it was prety good, and definitely included some reusable ideas. Phew.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Breakfast of Lost Souls















I woke up later than I wanted and scrambled to start a loaf of bread to take to my parents tomorrow. Whole wheat and rye with flax and pumpkin seeds. It is rising a bit slowly... I hope it makes it in time for me to go to work.
Because of my upcoming little vacation, I wanted to use what of my greenmarket produce that either wouldn't survive as long or that I had no interest in bringing with me for the dinner I am cooking tomorrow night. I plan on stopping by USQ in the morning en route to the train, and I also have access to greens from the farm of some family friends, who will be coming over for dinner. So the pressure is on to do those greens justice.
But back to breakfast. Kind of a mess, but it was thrown together quickly. Thinly sliced ruby crescent potatoes and red onions, fried in grapeseed oil with salt and anardana; tossed with barely blanched asparagus, arugula, and buckwheat sprouts. Topped with a poached double-yolk egg, a little olive oil and lemon juice, and some salt and pepper.
Tasted like Spring, despite how Summery it has felt here for the last couple of days.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Lazy Man Dinner
















Yeah, yeah... I know. Its a sandwich. But hell, I didn't get home until 12:15, so whaddya want?
The Bread of the Day from the other day, soppresatta from my local guy, Salva Cremasco(a cow's milk cheese from Cremona, Lombardy that is a current obsession), local hothouse tomato, local arugula, a pickled wild garlic bulb, and some of that Frankie's olive oil.
Not bad. With another 60-minute IPA.
Trying to plan breakfast tomorrow. Ruby crescent potatoes should probably be involved. I'll let you know.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Breakfast of Champions
















Since I am closing every night this week, I am forced to pull out all the stops at breakfast and use the great local produce I have bought in the last few days.
So... breakfast this morning was a little overboard. Maybe. I even plated it like I was making it for someone else. Not that I don't like arranged plates, but I guess it is a bit ridiculous when I do it just for myself. We'll say I did it for you, the reader.
So this is how it went down: A puck of couscous with roasted salted pistachios, raw pepitas, and unsulphured turkish apricots, topped with some red onion charred in a cast iron frypan. Said tiny cast iron fry pan was then used to sauté some sliced asparagus in a little butter with black pepper. Then a duck egg, beaten heartily with dijon mustard and a little goat milk(for consistency, as duck eggs are mostly yolk), is added to the pan. When the egg starts to set, a tiny bit of pecorino romano is grated over it and it is transferred, pan and all, under the broiler. The heat of the broiler puffs it up a little, then creates a crisp brown crust. Then I flip it onto the plate, cut it in half(it looked very much like pacman) and threw on a handful of arugula(with the flower buds, which are delicious), a sprinkle of salt, and a dribble of the Sicilian olive oil imported by Frankie's Spuntino of Carroll Gardens.
It was good. A little ground sumac or a squirt of lemon juice would have been nice on the couscous, but other than that I am satisfied.

Dinner

Came home around midnight, did roommate's dishes, and was too impatient to make anything requiring heat, so:
Two slices of yesterday's Bread of the Day(see previous post) with Kate's Homemade salted butter and the excellent raw avocado blossom honey from blue ribbon market. And a Dogfish Head 60 minute IPA.
Sorry no picture, but I ate it too quickly.

In other news, I went to the USQ Greenmarket before work today and procured the following:
Arugula and cucumbers from Yuno's, some remarkably lovely hothouse tomatoes from I-don't- remember-where, beets from that organic farm with the little stall that sells spicy kimchi and edamame, and a single leek from another farm whose name escapes me...
Maybe tomorrow. And I still have asparagus, buckwheat sprouts and a duck egg; plus kefir, old chatham greek-style sheep yogurt and a piece of salva cremasco, my current cheese obsession. And some ruby crescent potatoes, double-yolk auracana(sp?) chicken eggs, and red and yellow onions.
Oy.

Monday, May 14, 2007

Breakfast















French Toast.
Yesterday's Bread of the Day, soaked in egg and kefir with a little cinnamon and coated with wheat germ before cooking. With molasses, kefir, raisins and raw sunflower seeds.

Sunday, May 13, 2007

Sunday Night Biegeness















While my bread was rising, I made some dinner.
Farmer's macaroni(the long, smooth, skinny tubes I can never remember the names of) that I picked up at one of my new favorite markets, an italian imports place down on 60th st in Brooklyn(they make their own soppressata and carry some dried pasta in shapes I have never seen and options like double-yolk and cornmeal).
To this I added some crisped peppered bacon, pecorino romano, julienned wild garlic greens, a double-yolk egg(the beautiful pastel eggs from those crazy araucana(sp?) chickens) and a little spoonful of ricotta.
It was definitely the best carbonara-ish thing I have made. I return the drained pasta to the pot, dry it out with a little heat and then toss it with the beaten egg off of the burner. The pasta gets coated really beautifully with the egg, so there's not much of a sauce. I hate lots of sauce.

I know, I know, you're thinking "man, this guy eats a lot of biege foods with eggs." I guess it has been true lately, but biege foods are really good. And when you eat one meal a day, they are very satisfying. Although today I also ate an everything bagel with pastrami-rub salmon from russ and daughters.
But don't worry about me, there will be some greens this week, including local asparagus and buckwheat sprouts and maybe some fish.
Until then.

Bread of the Day

After a unplanned post-work nap I decided to bake a loaf of bread. I needed a loaf for this week, and wanted to continue both my brotform and bricked-oven experiments.
So I threw this together - KA Unbleached and White WW flours, wheat germ, yeast, salt, molasses, a little evaporated cane juice, and some finely chopped unsweetened chocolate.
The first rise went really well, so I prepared the brotform. After reading a baking forum thread on rising baskets and this aerosol spray that combines flour and vegetable oil I decided to rub the form with a little vegetable oil and then flour it. It definitely worked better this time, and the loaf was only slightly disfigured when I flipped it onto the cutting board I use for a peel. It also retained more of the beautiful pattern of the basket, which you can see in the baked loaf. Next time I will knead it longer to see if it keeps it's structure a little better.
I sprinkled it with a little sea salt and baked it at about 475˚ give or take(the oven's thermometer is out of whack. I used to think it was 75˚ higher than it said, but it might be more like +25˚ these days.
But back to the bread. See what I mean about the pattern? I think I underbaked it a little bit, but it's still pretty good. The crust is crisp and very thin, which I really like and have never managed before.



Here's a detail of the crust
pattern.




As for the taste it is very subtle. The bitterness of the chocolate peeks out randomly from what is a pretty standard nutty wheat bread. Could have used a bit more molasses and a bit more salt. It will be good with peanut butter and the kate's homemade butter with sea salt I bought the other day.

I feel like I have a made at least a step, if not a little leap.

UPDATE: YES, IT IS GOOD WITH THAT BUTTER. - Ed.



Saturday, May 12, 2007

Late-Breaking Duck Dumpling Update

So I did what I said I would, and made some duck dumplings with the remaining dough from previously described Dumpling No. 2.
The meat of a Quattro's Farm duck leg, plus a little Paffenroth yellow onion, a tiny bit of chicken liver, salt, pepper, cloves and a little cognac. Processed until pretty smooth. Boiled in salted water. With a runny fried duck egg(also Quattro's), dry-fried onions, and a pickled wild garlic bulb on a pool of Tsonjes kefir, with a little maldon sea salt and spanish paprika.
Needs some work, but I like the idea. It is asking for a little more acid or some heat or mint or something. In any case, the duck and duck egg were great. And the pickled garlic is destined for something great. Maybe a martini, since it won't even need a toothpick. But that is for another day. And I haven't tried the rhubarb yet.

A lot of catching up

This is the first post in quite awhile. I really have no excuse, especially considering the year-long period of intermittent employment that just ended in March.
My return to this journal has been long in the making, but the straw that broke the back of my stubborn and lazy camel was the truly life-affirming meal I had this morning as the first brunch-eater at the Tasting Room, my favorite restaurant. It is easily the best brunch in town, and as was concluded in my conversation with Renee(the amazing manager), co-owner with her husband Colin(the amazing chef), it is "the thinking man's brunch." Did I mention seared foie gras with an iddli-like rice and lentil-flour cake with peach butter and caramelized onions? And the best bloody mary around? Well, I will let you go and find out for yourself. Have the duck confit and french toast with sorghum molasses. Or maybe the asparagus with soft-cooked eggs and Japanese fruit tomato. And great Rwandan coffee from Counter Culture in NC. Anyway...
I now feel more comfortable writing about food. It is all that occupies my mind, so I am simply pouring the contents of my skull as freely into this thing as I can type. And I am pretty excited about what I have been up to food-wise as of late. So here goes...

I am now a cheesemonger. It came out of left field, to say the least, but it is definitely my preferred type of monger. It easily beats out hate- or war-, and is at least nosing out fish- at the moment. But that may change.
My cheese education has been intensive, as has the development of my palate for the stuff. And I am meeting others in the growing NY cheese scene. They are a mostly jovial and supportive bunch, willing to put the good work of spreading the gospel of cheese before juvenile competition. For the most part.
It is an amazingly multi-faceted world, this world of cheese. My mind is learning to reorder itself. I am learning a lot about the affinage process and caring for cheese. It is a definite challenge for my touch- and taste-memory. But cheese is amazing, far beyond what I had imagined.
I hope to end up making it at some point in my life. But enough of that for now.

A brief review of my recent culinary exploits at home:

After a movie matinee, I wandered through Prospect Park looking for a good spot to read. I happened to stumble across large amounts of wild rhubarb and wild garlic, which I felt obliged to collect. I did my duty and returned home unsure what they would become, so I cleaned them and waited for inspiration to strike.





And it did. Pickling.








I trimmed the garlic, saved the greens(i will get to them later), and pickled the bulbs and lower stems in vinegar, salt, and few caraway seeds.











The rhubarb got pickled too. Apple cider vinegar, demerara sugar, anardana(dried and crushed pomegranate anils) and a little salt.











More news from the home front, preparedness division:
I have, for reasons beyond my knowledge(and joy), become a consistent closer at work, which gets me home at around 12:30 on most nights. Despite my love for cooking myself complicated meals no matter the time of day or night, I am most often too tired to do any serious cooking. So I thought to myself "What can I make ahead of time that I will always be willing to eat?" The answer was dumplings. I really enjoy making them and I have been wanting to improve my dumpling-related skills, so I set to work on two kinds, as follows.

Dumpling No. 1: "Vaguely Asian"
wrapper: flour, water, salt; rolled out to maybe 1/16" thick rounds
filling: ground pork, wild garlic greens, soy sauce, mirin, fresh ginger, black pepper.


Dumpling No. 2: "Vague"
wrapper: flour, water, salt, egg; rolled out to a little less than 1/8" thick rounds
filling: ground beef, ground lamb, pureed raisins, ground cloves, ground cinnamon, ground pistachios, yellow onion black pepper, sea salt. I made this all very smooth.

Both are pretty damn good. I will add pictures of them cooked. I think I will probably eat No. 1 with black vinegar or make some broth with the pork and chicken and duck bones I have in the freezer and cook them in it. No. 2 will be eaten with Old Chatham Greek-style sheep's-milk yogurt or tonjes kefir and carmelized and/or crisp onions. Maybe a super-runny fried egg too.

I am psyched to have a bit of the dough left as well, which will most likely become some dumplings tonight with the meat of one of the duck legs I bought from quattro's today, with a fried duck egg, some of the pickled garlic and a bit of tonjes kefir. The other duck leg is gonna get confited if I get my way. And at this point I don't think anyone or -thing is challenging me on that.

Just finished making a jar of grated horseradish with some skinny little beauties from paffenroth farm. Before I got the lid on the jar I felt close to fainting from the aroma. I am excited.

Other news from the home front, baking division:














I have covered the racks in my outrageously uneven oven with quarry tile. They are solid, pure-clay 8x8 slabs, and were a total bitch to drag home from Lowe's. But man is it worth it(although being worth 77 cents/pc isn't too hard). The first(and only as of this post) bread I baked in the newly bricked oven was damn good, especially considering my lack of bread-making confidence. Whole wheat(KA white whole wheat), a little wheat germ, salt, yeast, fennel seeds and cut up Kyoho grapes(juicy japanese slipskins with a crazy fermented taste). It was ugly to look at(due to a failed first attempt with a new brotform, see below), but strike me down if it wasn't delicious. I slid a cast-iron frypan of boiling water on top of the upper shelf for a bit of steam. It will take some experimentation but I think I'm onto something. Also looking forward to making pizza.
Good crust, good crumb and structure with just enough air pockets. And it hung around for days cut in a paper bag without going stale or too dry. Not totally sure why, so I'll just chalk it up to the magic oven.
Looking forward to whatever I bake next. Thinking about a traditional rye with caraway seeds, maybe a cabbage bread, a bitter chocolate bread and something with honey and flax seeds. And getting a starter going. Maybe tonight.

Baking is such a satisfying thing, especially when you begin to get the hang of it. I am starting to get to the point where I can just throw ingredients together on the fly without the aid of recipes and end up with something good. Maybe I will start writing some of my own down.
More to come soon. I plan on keeping track of all of the food I make, if not everything I eat. I am going to make a list of memorable meals from the period of silence. And I hope to spend a few days working on a farm this summer to see if I'm up to it.
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