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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My Brush with Fame (or “The Day I Stalked the Food Network”)

After the unbelievable support from WordPress on Monday, I got a surge of confidence. I am surely bound for stardom, either as the smaller, cuter, slightly-less-off-putting Guy Fieri (taste testing diners for a living? YES PLEASE) or as the smaller, cuter, slightly-less-off-putting Rachael Ray. Today my horoscope told me that I’d meet someone who would help further my career. And the Food Network happened to be filming a segment at the Treats Truck parked right near my office. I figured I’d bump into a producer, pitch my idea for the best new food show ever, and be on TV in a matter of weeks.

The Food Network's Adam Gertler filming a segment on 38th St and 5th Avenue in Manhattan

I’m not famous… yet… but it was cool to see them filming. And I figured, “Heck, while I’m already RIGHT by the Treats Truck… might as well give them some business.” I purchased the Kitchen Sink Crispy Square, which I have to say was SLIGHTLY disappointing. It tasted like there was peanut butter mixed into the marshmallows holding the crispies together, which I thoroughly enjoyed, but I think I was hoping for something like Momofuku Milk Bar‘s Compost Cookie, which has potato chips, coffee grounds, and probably some angel’s tears mixed in. It is heaven in cookie form. This crispy treat was “meh.” But lovely looking, no?

See the Whopper? Beautiful.

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Some people eat to live… we are not those people

My family has many traditions, most of them based on food. I’m pretty sure that when asked “What would you grab from the house in the event of a fire?” my parents would answer the same: the dog and the Adirondack Country Cookbook. I could be blindfolded with my nose plugged and still recognize the taste of the pancakes and the cinnamon swirl raisin bread. Since this cookbook is no longer around (or if it is, PLEASE LET ME KNOW! Seriously… we’ve been searching) I pdf’ed the infamous raisin bread recipe, sent it to one of my favorite childhood neighbors, and saved it on my hard drive in case our decrepit old family copy of the cookbook bites the dust.

It’s all about preserving the recipes, people. I mean… the memories. It’s all about preserving the MEMORIES.

On the menu:
Spiral Cinnamon Raisin Bread

If you are Carol Knapp… or you know Carol Knapp… let me know. This bread deserves many kudos. Thanks, Carol!

This bread can be served as is, but I like mine toasted with butter. But you probably already knew that I liked mine with a little more butter, now didn’t you?

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The Cheesiest Mac of them All

I cook because I love food, but I also cook because I love making other people happy via food. One time my friend Meagan came over around dinner time when I had made mac and cheese, and proceeded to eat three bowls of it. I couldn’t have been happier. There is no higher compliment to a cook than guests going back for seconds.

On the menu:
Mac and cheese with pancetta (adapted from Bon Appetit)
Serves 6 as a meal, 10 as a side

6 tablespoons butter, divided
4 ounces thinly sliced pancetta, coarsely chopped
1 cup onion, finely chopped
3/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1 garlic clove, minced
1/4 cup flour
3 1/2 cups (or less) whole milk
2 cups coarsely grated sharp cheddar cheese
1 cup finely grated Parmesan cheese
8 oz. mascarpone cheese
1/2 cup panko (Japanese breadcrumbs)
1 pound macaroni (any medium-sized pasta will do: penne, orecchiette, gemelli, etc. – I used penne and gemelli here because it’s all I had in my pantry)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees, and get a large pot of salted water boiling for pasta. Melt 1 tablespoon butter in large deep skillet over medium-high heat. Add pancetta; sauté until crisp, about 6 minutes. Add onion; sauté until tender, about 5 minutes. Add crushed red pepper and garlic; stir 1 minute. Stir in 3 tablespoons butter; allow to melt, then add flour and stir 1 minute. [Now is a good time to start cooking your pasta - cook until al dente] Gradually whisk in 1 cup of milk; simmer until thick enough to coat spoon thickly, stirring frequently, about 5 minutes. Remove from heat. Whisk in all cheeses. Whisk in more milk by 1/4 cupfuls until sauce is thick but pourable. Season with salt and pepper.

Melt 2 tablespoons butter in large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add panko and stir until very light golden, about 5 minutes. Remove from heat. Lightly butter 13x9x2-inch glass baking dish. Add warm cheese sauce to drained al dente pasta; toss to coat. Transfer mixture to prepared baking dish. Sprinkle crumb mixture evenly over. Bake mac and cheese until heated through and topping is golden brown, about 30 minutes. [I added a little more cheddar to the top of mine, because I really, really like cheese... but if you're trying to avoid a heart attack, maybe leave off the extra]

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