Tuesday, August 30, 2005
Friday, August 19, 2005
Saturday, August 13, 2005
June 21, 2005 Dinner at Cafe Drake
Sloe Gin Fizzes
Creole Tomato & Peanut Soup
Onion Tart with Japanese Greens
Coffee & Ouzo
David Sellers (as seen above relaxing in the warm glow of Cafe Drake) is a marvelous cook and host, impressing guests with ambitious and complex meals. A memorable dinner at his apartment in Williamsburg began with icy Martinis and hot bruschetta, followed by an appetizer of seared foie gras and morel mushrooms with a (freshly squeezed!) pomegranate glaze. Hard act to follow, but the stuffed Cornish hens and roasted acorn squash held their own in this gourmet feast.
The menu above is far simpler, but once again, perfectly suited to a post-work, mid-week dinner. Make the soup (recipe below) the night ahead to allow flavors to mingle and mature. Wash and saute the greens as a first step; you can reheat later or serve at room temperature. I used a mixture of baby mustard greens and mizuna, which lend an appreciated bite to the creamy mildness of the tart (basically, onion quiche. Frozen pie crust? Natch). The cooking time for these tender greens is less than 5 minutes.
CREOLE TOMATO AND PEANUT SOUP
2 T. oil / 1 cup chopped onion / 1/3 cup chopped green bell pepper / 1 t. cayenne / 1 T. whole wheat flour / 1 cup milk / 1/2 cup chunky peanut butter / 1 cup chopped tomato / 2 cups tomato juice
- Heat oil in large pot and cook onion and pepper until softened. Add cayenne and cook 1 more minute.
- Stir in flour and milk, and when smooth add peanut butter. Cook for 2 minutes then add juice and chopped tomatoes.
- Stir frequently for about 10 minutes until soup has thickened nicely. Season as desired with salt.
None of these delusional notions should prevent us from welcoming this extraordinarily tasty creature into our kitchens, as rabbit is delicious and more packed with more nutritional value (and less cholesterol) than skinless chicken breast. Two local restaurants have excelled in hare preparation - Williamsburg's DuMont pan fries the meat with a light crust and serves warm atop dressed salad greens, while Prune, in the East Village, cooks the rabbit in a sweet brown sauce laced with that restaurant's eponymous dried fruit.
The recipe below takes a cue from this sweet and savoury mix, while adding a mustard cream sauce typical to French cuisine. Although below we recommend sides of polenta and greens, rabbit is also very nice with a vegetable protein such as a white bean salad or stewed fava beans. Drink a non-oak aged Chardonnay with this dish, or a crisp and grassy Sancerre.
RABBIT WITH PRUNES AND MUSTARD SAUCE
1 1/2 lbs. rabbit, cut into pieces / 1 T. flour / 1 T. each olive oil & softened butter / 1 onion, finely chopped / 6 oz. pitted prunes, roughly chopped / 4 oz. fromage frais / 1 1/2 T. Dijon mustard / seasoning to taste (thyme and rosemary or parsley work well)
- Place rabbit pieces in a paper bag with the flour and shake to coat evenly.
- Heat oil and butter in a large pan and fry rabbit until golden brown all over.
- Add onions and prunes to pan and pour over just enough water to cover. Season generously and simmer for 45 minutes until rabbit is tender.
- Remove the rabbit with a slotted spoon and keep warm. Stir fromage frais and mustard into the pan and simmer until reduced slightly. Spoon the sauce over the rabbit and serve with creamy polenta and sauteed greens.
SPAGHETTI WITH RED WINE SAUCE
What makes this pasta unusual is the cooking method; the spaghetti is simmered for the majority of the time in the red wine. My first taste of this preparation was at the legendary Da Silvano on 6th Avenue in New York. I attempted the dish soon after trying it, and over time have fairly near perfected it (if I do say so myself). Personal modesty be damned: this pasta won rave reviews from my friend Angela Zorzi, for whom I served it to many years ago in my little apartment on East 11th Street. Ms. Zorzi, by the way, is a native of Roma, Italia! An entire bottle of wine may seem slightly extravagant to some, but Chiantis can be found quite cheap and you don’t need a superlative quality for this recipe.
Salt and freshly ground black pepper / ½ cup extra virgin olive oil / 1 T. minced garlic / 1 t. red pepper flakes / 1 lb. Spaghetti / 1 bottle red wine (such as Chianti) / 1 T. butter
- Bring a large pot of water to boil and salt it.
- Place the oil and garlic and red pepper in a deep skillet. When the water boils add the pasta and turn the skillet to a high heat. In a couple of minutes add salt and pepper to skillet and ¾ of the bottle of wine. Bring to a boil and maintain it there.
- When the pasta begins to soften (about 5 minutes) drain it and add to skillet. Cook, adding a little wine at a time, until the mixture is almost completely dry. You will need to stir the pasta and sauce fairly often. When the noodles are done (soft but with a tiny bite), turn off the heat and stir in the butter. As soon as the butter glazes the pasta, serve immediately.
I prefer this as a pasta course before the entrée, but it also makes a marvelous side dish. Try a swirled mound of the spaghetti beside a thin breast of Chicken Fricasse or a meaty fish such as a roasted cod. If serving as a starter, garnish with just a sprinkle of fresh grated parmesan, chopped parsley and few red pepper flakes.
Thursday, August 11, 2005
222 Franklin Street (Green Street), Greenpoint, Brooklyn; (718)383-2355
This aptly named restaurant is tucked away on a quiet, largely residential block of west Greenpoint's Franklin Avenue. Any qualms regarding the obscure location are dismissed once you enter the charmingly rustic dining room (or walk through the slender space to a beautiful back garden). Upon being seated a bowl of boiled peanuts are placed on the table for snacking while perusing the single page menu (which changes daily and is dependent on the freshest ingredients available that morning). The nuts are slightly wet, in-shell and a wee bit tangy, cooked as they are in a vinegary spiced broth. While the selection of entrees is small, there so far have been no mistakes from the kitchen. A larger appetizer menu would be welcome, but you can't go wrong with the cheese plate ($5) (often accompanied by exotic meats smoked on the premises and seasonal fruits) or the piping hot zucchini fritters ($4). Not at all greasy, and lighter than expected, they are served with a homemade hot sauce, which while not fiery enough for my taste is loaded with flavor and a surprising sweetness.
Of the entrees sampled, all have been delicious and added to the wish list for future kitchen appearances. A plate of perfectly cooked scallops ($12), atop a melange of tiny yellow and red cherry tomatoes, saided with just-fried tortilla strips is a great choice for a light dinner. The pan-fried trout ($12), topped with a remoulade sauce, is more substantial and also cooked to retain moisture and natural flavor. Those with large appetites (i.e. moi) should go for the witty pulled pork sandwich($13), again, smoked in-house and piled atop Wonder bread slices with various vegetable sides.
Okay, now that we've strongly urged you to make a trek to The Queen's Hideaway, it's time for the lone bitchy comment (which really is meant more as a good-natured suggestion). The restaurant charges a $5 corkage fee for those bringing wine - the only option given there is currently no liquor license. This is offputting enough for diners already inconvenienced by the lack of a bar, but insult is added to injury when the waitstaff hands the opener to patrons and forces them to fend for themselves. THEN, on two visits, there were no proper wine glasses in sight and guests were sipping Cab from coffee mugs.
Hard to complain (well not that difficult obviously) given the rock-bottom food prices, and considering the carefully composed and well executed menu, but a liquor license would be appreciated. If not, then at least courteous treatment of those having gone to the bother to BYOB. Perhaps, somehow, somewhere, this review will not fall on deaf (and highly talented) ears.
1lb Large shrimp / 2 cups Dry mung beans / 1 Yellow onion, peeled and sliced / 2 tbsps Peanut oil / 2 cloves Sliced garlic / 4 1/2 cups Chicken stock / 1 Thin slice of fresh ginger / 1 tsp Salt / 1 tsp. fresh ground black pepper
- Soak beans overnight, then hull them by rubbing them in your hands, scoop out the hulls from the container, then rinse the beans.
- Add peanut oil into a large preheated saucepan, and stir fry your yellow onion and garlic, then add your chicken soup stock and your slice of ginger.
- Bring the lot to a boil, reduce heat, cover, simmer for 20 minutes, remove your ginger, then continue cooking for about 10 minutes.
- Add shrimp, salt and pepper, and cook for another 6 or 7 minutes, allowing the shrimp to absorb the flavor.
I like to serve Ginisang Mungoo with plain brown rice, a watercress salad and sliced, vinegared cucumbers. A dry Riesling, well chilled, is a perfect partner for the meal.
Monday, August 08, 2005
My dear friend Jenifer Ruske, seen above sampling caviar potatoes during Cocktail Hour at Cafe Drake, is a marvelous cook and generous hostess. Stopping by her backyard in Ft. Greene earlier this summer, I was delightfully surprised to find a casual bbq yielding many types of cheeses, dips, chilled sake and from the grill - perfectly charred chicken, salmon and tuna steaks and sea scallops no less! The recipe here is in honor of Jen, who almost never passes up the opportunity for scallops when offered.
SCALLOPS WITH SWEET PEA PUREE
The following entree's grand taste and appearance both belie its ease of preparation,and with its verdant color and clean, simple flavors you're sure to impress even the most discerning guests. Pair prudently with an excellent wine. Let us suggest the absurdly well-priced Sauvignon Blanc from Washington state's Snoqualmie Vineyards. Very modern tasting, this crisp white compliments seafood while allowing gentler flavors to stand on their own.
2 t. olive oil / 12 sea scallops / 1/2 t. sea salt / black pepper / 1 cup chicken stock / 1 clove garlic, minced / 1 10-oz. package frozen petite green peas / 1/2 cup fresh mint leaves / 2 T. butter / 2 t. white wine vinegar
- Heat oil in a large skillet. Sprinkle scallops with salt and pepper and add to hot pan. Cook for 4 minutes, turning once and remove.
- Add broth, garlic and peas to pan and simmer for 3 minutes. Place pea mixture in blender with more salt, mint and butter and process until silky smooth. Add vinegar and blend again for 5 seconds.
- Spoon a small portion of pea mixture onto center of each plate and spread into a circle.
- Top each serving with 4 scallops.
Hot garlic bread makes a wonderful side. Since dinner is light here, follow with a rich Maytag Blue cheese and sliced pears and bread.
Sunday, August 07, 2005
CHINESE TEA ICE CREAM
Black teas are rich in anti-oxidants, and especially delicious when configured into surprising sweet or savory dishes. The weather is sultry now, so jumpstart your summer menus with the following homemade ice cream. Improbable and quirky, this smoky tasting dessert almost reminds us of a vanilla milkshake spiked with Scotch. Yum! Best served after a rich, non-dairy entree such as roasted leg of lamb or braised short ribs. Skip the hot coffee and finish with a chilled digestif.
1 cup milk / 6 Lapsang Souchong teabags / 3/4 cup of sugar / 6 egg yolks / 2 t. flour / 1/4 t. salt / 1 cup half-and-half / 1 cup heavy cream
- Bring the milk to a boil in large saucepan and remove from heat. Add teabags.
- In a mixing bowl, beat egg yolks and sugar until thick and yellow. Beat in flour and salt. Step away.
- Remove teabags from milk (after 15 minutes or so) and add half-and-half to milk. Bring to a simmer and slowly beat in egg and sugar mixture.
- Pour entire mixture back into saucepan and heat gently, stirring often, until thickening occurs. DO NOT overheat as will eggs will scramble (rather gruesomely we might add).
- remove from heat and pour through a strainer into a large bowl. Cool slightly, stir in the cream and refrigerate for several hours (overnight is best). When ready, freeze in ice cream maker following manufacturer's instructions.