Monthly Archives: April 2010

Letter from the Editor

Dear friends and loved ones,

If you are getting married in the near future (and I know some of you are), and you have invited me (and I know some of you have), then I implore you: serve this at your wedding. Pretty, pretty please. I promise if you do, I will bring you a way nicer gift than I had originally planned.

photo c/o Momofuku.com/milk-bar/

In case you were unaware, as I was until today, Momofuku Milk Bar (one of my favorite places on planet Earth), makes wedding cakes. Oh yes, they do. And friends, loves, nearest-and-dearest-to-my-hearts, if you’re not down for a whole wedding cake, you can order slices of Crack Pie as wedding favors. Nothing says “thanks for celebrating my union” like a slice of Crack Pie.

Seriously.

Nothing.

And if you can’t manage to serve this tower of perfection at your own wedding, maybe you could set me up with a single friend who will soon propose so I can thus serve it at my own. Deal?

Thanks and all best wishes for the future,
Lauren E.

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The War Against School Lunches Continues

I can’t help but be completely fascinated by all of the attention being placed on schools and school lunches lately. Michelle Obama is the biggest advocate with the White House Garden, followed closely by Jamie Oliver’s six-episode Food Revolution (all episodes available on Hulu right now!).

So while it’s still a year away from materializing, FoodCorps really, really excites me. A project of the National Farm to School Network, FoodCorps will focus on lending a hand to schools in need of assistance, in the form of lunch room aid, nutrition education, garden planting, and other tasks relating to bringing a healthier lifestyle to schools across the country. It’s in the same vein as AmeriCorps, which provides service to communities in need in the form of recent college graduates.

If I wasn’t so old, I’d join up myself but if you’re interested, keep your ears and eyes peeled for more info. You can join their mailing list here.

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Skippy 2.0

photo c/o MilkMadeIcecream.com

During the summers of my youth in lovely Rochester, NY few sounds brought greater joy to my little heart than the ringing bell of Skippy, the ice cream truck (was he called Skippy everywhere? Or is this another local word that I’m unaware of?). I remember begging for a dollar and then chasing that truck down the street, hoping for some sickly sweet frozen dessert that would promptly melt down my forearm because I ate so freaking slow.

Nowadays, there is an easier and way chicer way to have ice cream delivered to you, and it’s called MilkMade. This brilliant company will deliver handmade ice cream to your door, once a month for three months at the low, low price of $50 (I know, it seems a little steep but with flavors like Coffee and Donuts made with Crop to Cup‘s Uganda Bugisu coffee and REAL Doughnut Plant donuts, I’d say: worth it). Their focus is on using products from local companies and creating stellar combinations of flavors you won’t find in the grocery store.

If you’re outside their limited delivery area, you can also find them at the Greenpoint Food Market. The next market is May 22. See you there? That’s what I thought.

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Happy National Pretzel Day!

I know these look like tiny blobs, but I promise they taste like tiny blobs of perfection

Remember that time I tried to make pretzels (in honor of National Pretzel Day!) and used three cups of flour instead of four? And the dough stuck to my hands like glue and I collapsed in a fit of laughter on my own kitchen floor at my own stupidity and the cat stared at me like I was nuts? Remember that? That was fun.

My pretzels are not pretty. But if you have any sort of artistic flair, you’ll make yours look much lovelier than mine.

On the menu:
“Mall” pretzels (they really do taste like Auntie Anne’s!)
Adapted from this recipe at AllRecipes.com

1 (.25 ounce) package active dry yeast
2 tablespoons brown sugar
1 1/8 teaspoons salt
1 1/2 cups warm water
4 cups all-purpose flour
2 cups warm water
2 tablespoons baking soda
2 tablespoons butter, melted
For topping: raisins (press these into the pretzel dough right before you bake them) and cinnamon sugar, or salt, or sauteed butter and minced garlic, or a drizzle of sweetened cream cheese

In a large mixing bowl, dissolve the yeast, brown sugar and salt in 1 1/2 cups warm water. Stir in flour, and knead dough on a floured surface until smooth and elastic, about 8 minutes. Place in a greased bowl, and turn to coat the surface. Cover, and let rise for one hour in a warm spot (you can turn your oven to its lowest setting, let it warm up, then turn it off and keep the door closed. This is the perfect environment to get those little yeast cells to multiply). NOTE: Spray whatever you use to cover the bowl with (a towel, plastic wrap, etc.) with cooking spray and it won’t stick to the dough once it rises.

Combine 2 cups warm water and baking soda in an 8 inch square pan. After dough has risen, cut into 12 pieces. Roll each piece into a 3 foot rope, pencil thin or thinner (these suckers SWELL as you can see from my tiny blob photo so do make them as thin as your dough will allow). Twist into a pretzel shape, and dip into the baking soda solution. Place on well-greased cookie sheets, and let rise 15 to 20 minutes.

Bake at 450 degrees for 8 to 10 minutes, or until golden brown.

*You’ll want to brush melted butter and salt or cinnamon sugar or icing (whatever your topping of choice) right before you serve them. If you brush the butter on and then store them, they’ll get soggy.

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Food Cart Friday

I have to blame my hatred for lunch on my lack of midday meal options during the week. Anyone who works in midtown Manhattan knows that after your hundredth Cosi salad, Europa “pressata” sandwich, or Cafe Metro wrap, you grow to dread your lunch hour and look to McDonald’s as a source of nourishment. It’s that dire.

It is in that vein that I am constantly on the lookout for new and exciting midday menu options. Introducing Mia Dona‘s meatball cart. For $7 from 12-2PM Monday thru Friday midtown lunchers can enjoy 4 tasty meatballs on fresh baked rosemary focaccia with melted caciocavallo cheese and spicy arugula ($6 gets you the meatballs a la carte).

On the menu:
Meatball sandwich

Verdict: HELLO MY LUNCH HOUR SAVIOR! My dining companion, Meagan, put it best: “At 12:51 I opened the sandwich. By 12:54, it was gone. That sandwich didn’t stand a chance.” The meatballs were done just the way I like them: mostly ground beef with just enough spice to hold them together and give them a robust Italian flavor. The bread was soft and salty, the cheese the perfect smooth complement to the Italian spices, and the arugula the touch of spicy freshness needed to break through all the heartiness.

The Meatball Wagon (too few phrases inspire the salivary glands like ‘Meatball Wagon’ eh?) has only been open for just over a week but the woman working the cart told me they’ve been selling out every day. We commiserated over the lack of lunchtime options for a midtown worker and I sheepishly told her I’d traveled sixteen blocks and three avenues for this tasty treat.

“I’m too lazy to make my own lunch sometimes,” I told her, woman to woman. Midtown worker to midtown worker.
She responded brightly, “But you’re not too lazy to make the long trip for a meatball sandwich!”
Thanks for pointing out the great lengths I’ll go to for a meatball sandwich, Cart Lady. Thanks a lot.

If you’re in the neighborhood (or even if you’re not…), Mia Dona‘s Meatball Wagon is worth the trip and the $7 you’d normally spend on a mediocre salad at Cosi. 58th Street between 2nd and 3rd Avenue

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Summer’s So Close I Can Taste It

I’m obviously a girl who loves her sweets. But there is a sweets subcategory that always gets me: fruit. I love a good peach pie, or a lemon raspberry cake, or even an apple baked with sugar and cinnamon. Now that summer is waving at me from just a few short months away, I’m thinking lemons. And since I’m always thinking dessert and I’m always thinking cheese, what came out of my brain were these deliciously light, crispy lemon cookies with a smooth, creamy center to round it all out.

On the menu:
Crispy lemon cookie sandwiches

Cookies:
(recipe adapted from Martha Stewart’s Lemon Poppyseed Cookies)

1/4 cup fresh lemon juice, plus 2 tsp freshly grated lemon zest (2 to 3 lemons)
8 ounces (2 sticks) unsalted butter (make sure 1 is at room temperature)
2 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 large egg
2 tsp vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Bring lemon juice to a simmer in a small saucepan over low heat; cook until reduced by half. Add 1 stick butter; stir until melted. Cream remaining stick of butter and 1 cup sugar on medium speed. Mix in egg and lemon butter. Mix until pale, about 3 minutes. Mix in vanilla and zest. In a separate bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, and salt. Combine dry ingredients with wet ingredients and mix completely. Refrigerate dough for 30 – 45 minutes.

Pour remaining 1/2 cup of sugar on a plate. Roll spoonfuls of chilled dough into 1 1/2-inch balls; roll them in sugar. Place 2 inches apart on baking sheets. Press each with the flat end of a glass dipped in sugar mixture until 1/4 inch thick. Bake until just browned around bottom edges, 8 to 9 minutes.

Filling:

4 oz. cream cheese
4 oz. mascarpone cheese
2 Tbsp butter (at room temperature)
2 cups powdered sugar
2 tsp vanilla extract
2 tsp lemon zest (2 lemons)
1 Tbsp milk (only if your filling is particularly dry or sticky)

Cream together both cheeses, butter, and powdered sugar, adding milk if necessary. Add lemon zest and vanilla. Mix well. Spread 1 Tbsp of filling between two completely cooled cookies. Refrigerate sandwiches until ready to serve.

Note: if you’re serving these for guests, make sure you refrigerate at least one hour before serving so the filling firms up completely.

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I ate the day, deliberately

Allow me a completely self-indulgent moment to be a full-on geek. Last night I attended a poetry reading by one of my absolute favorite poets, Seamus Heaney. When he read this one aloud, I was immediately reminded of why I love to write, and why I specifically love to write about food. This poem is as much about food as it is about history and conquest, but like all poetry… the reader can take what he will. I promise, tomorrow I’ll be back to photos of sweet and/or cheesy goodness.

Today we feed our brains.

Oysters
by Seamus Heaney

Our shells clacked on the plates.
My tongue was a filling estuary,
My palate hung with starlight:
As I tasted the salty Pleiades
Orion dipped his foot into the water.

Alive and violated,
They lay on their bed of ice:
Bivalves: the split bulb
And philandering sigh of ocean
Millions of them ripped and shucked and scattered.

We had driven to that coast
Through flowers and limestone
And there we were, toasting friendship,
Laying down a perfect memory
In the cool of thatch and crockery.

Over the Alps, packed deep in hay and snow,
The Romans hauled their oysters south of Rome:
I saw damp panniers disgorge
The frond-lipped, brine-stung
Glut of privilege

And was angry that my trust could not repose
In the clear light, like poetry or freedom
Leaning in from sea. I ate the day
Deliberately, that its tang
Might quicken me all into verb, pure verb.

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