Friday, May 27, 2011

Something I'm Not Expecting

I always try and get Jon to tell me what we are having for dinner during the day or the night before when I know he's off and going to be cooking.  I ask for a few reasons 1. So I know how lightly to eat at lunch, 2. It gives me something to look forward too, and 3. Ohh,I give up, I love food, thinking about it, eating, it, I mean, damn it, I just want to know!!!!   But, he usually refuses to tell me—and tonight's put off as I beg on the phone at work, hoping my boss thinks I’m talking to a client, was something I'm not expecting.  This makes me nervous... I'm sure it will be fantastic, but I just want to know people!   

I arrive home, after a vigorous workout, hungry and ready to consume all the delicious calories that Jon has prepared.  I go into the kitchen to “pour myself a glass of water” aka snooping through the fridge to see what’s he’s prepped so I can try and figure out what we are having, I find chopped up pancetta, garlic, and parsley.  HUMMMMM, (somehow I manage to miss the big glaring key ingredient that would have tipped me off) so I’m still left to wonder. 

As I sit down on the couch, freshly showed and changed, wearing a sundress because it was hella hot!  I sweetly ask, “honey, what’s for dinner?” the response is “pasta.”  Does anyone not see how infuriating that answer is????!!!!  Finally after begging he tells me, Linguine with clams or linguine alla vongole, Urban Chef Style baby!

Linguine with clams is one of my favorite dishes!  Garlicky pasta with sweet succulent clams, how could it get any better!!! Shockingly, (gasp) Jon has never made it for me before last night.   It was perfect, we had just received a Fresh Direct delivery so we had the best dry pasta, De Cecco, and Jon had gone all the way to Fish Tials at the Bergen G/F stop to get fresh clams.  The pasta was perfectly done to al dente, the garlic was like perfume, and the ham gave it that salt that it needed without actually having to over salt the pasta.  The sauce clung perfectly to the pasta (a trick, you never put olive oil in the pasta water, EVER!!! It makes the pasta slippery and it doesn’t stick.)  Instead, you boil the pasta in salty water, then, when you drain the pasta, reserve some of the water, it is beautifully starchy, and when you toss your pasta with your sauce, in a frying pan or some other type of shallow pain, use tongs, and add a little bit of the starchy water to get the consistency you like.  This was a perfect summer pasta, hearty, yet light, full of flavor, and refreshing.

Just a little something to get your holiday weekend going—Jon is working, so I am on my own meal wise this weekend.  Just a little plug for my cousin, Lady has a booth at the Brooklyn Flea on Sunday, she is selling original cloths, I believe some furniture, and fabrics!  She is a fabulous designer, come get a Lady Soule original while you can.  Plus, the food carts at the Flea are to die for!  Check it out here: The Williamsburg Flea

Hope your memorial day is safe, fun, and of course, delicious!

Lingune alla vongole—Urban Chef Style
1 box De Cecco Linguine
½ cup olive oil
24 Little neck clams
5 cloves of garlic
1 cup of dry white wine
½ lb of pancetta
½ cup of flat leaf parsley
3T crushed red pepper flakes

In large pot over moderately high heat bring a pot of water to a boil, when boiling, add salt, then add linguine and cook to 1 minute short of al dente according to package directions (pasta should still be quite firm).

Meanwhile, in large sauté pan over moderately high heat, heat 6 tablespoons extra- olive oil until hot but not smoking. Add garlic and sauté until just golden, about 30 seconds. Add clams and 1 tablespoon red pepper flakes and sauté 1 minute. Add wine, 1/2 cup parsley, and the ham and simmer, uncovered, just until clams open, 7 to 8 minutes. 

Reserve 1/2 cup cooking water, then drain linguine and add to pan. Simmer, tossing occasionally, until linguine is just tender, about 1 minute. If necessary, add some of reserved cooking water to keep moist. Remove from heat. Add remaining 2 tablespoons parsley, 1 teaspoon red pepper flakes, and extra-virgin olive oil, tossing to coat.

Transfer to large bowl and serve family style.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

More Family, More Food, More Fun!

A lot to catch up on with this post—it’s been awhile,  I have been doing a lot of eating out, both in NY and outside—get ready for restaurant review extravaganza as well as a celebrity sighting! 

I was on vacation in St. Martin from May 5-9, so that put a slow down on a few things—as many of you told me, I needed a vacation!  Let’s start with the island, it was simply fantastic, clear water, blue sky’s and relaxing vibes.  The food was also amazing—my two favorite meals were at a local Creole shack in Grande Casse and an upscale restaurant in a hotel, Ocean Lounge in Phillipsburg—two completely different experiences, but equally satisfying.  The Creole shack was lively, relaxed and simply delicious.  I had a whole grilled red snapper, it was supple and fresh.  The meat fell off the bones, and the sauce they put on it was savory and spicy at the same time (but did not overpower the fish).  The sides it came with were weird but all delicious, a mélange of different things including, rice and beans, macaroni pie, spaghetti with tomato sauce, and plantains.  You would think it wouldn’t work, but it did! It was a perfect first meal on the island.  The place had no name, but if you want to know how to find it post, and I’ll give you detailed instructions and description.

Then to end our trip, we ate at Ocean Lounge a fabulously chic restaurant on the Dutch side of the island.  It was a chic and beautiful atmosphere with solid 2 star NY food with corresponding prices.  The food was well executed, refined, and sophisticated.  The most memorable dish was my sister’s Grilled Sea Bass with spinach, sautéed mushrooms, sweet onion compote, truffle butter and sauce served with red creamy potato purée—a very satisfying combination of flavors. They also served us a fine beef tenderloin, terrine of fois gras, and fresh scallops.  (As a side note—those of you who remember Jon’s Halibut with the room temperature tomato sauce, this restaurant used that technique as well with the scallops—I of course did not care for it, but the scallops were of excellent quality).  Ocean Lounge is the perfect place, with a serene atmosphere, to have a lovely meal on the island. 

Other quick highlights were the Palm restaurant, beautiful beach club, but watch for the pretentious French attitude, it comes out more from some than others, and the Spice Man—any spice you want as well as local hot sauce, including one made from Pineapple at the Margot market.

May 10- back to reality.  In NY things were winding up for a great weekend!  My Aunt Cindy and Uncle Donald came into town last weekend from Rochester as well as my cousin Amanda, PR expert who lives in Ohio, and Thea, business woman extraordinaire living in Sao Paulo, Brazil.  My Aunt Cindy is a fabulous chef, her meals are beautiful, classic, and comforting all at the same time.  Going to their house in Rochester was always so wonderful, it was homey, friendly, and warm—it still gives me comfort thinking about it.

Two brunches were planned, by Aunt Cindy, with the family from out of town.  Brunch #1 was on Saturday, at Norma’s in Le Parker Meridian.  Norma’s is a premier brunch spot, one of those classic New York institutions which executes on the classics perfectly without pretention (well, this is NY, so let’s just say the perfect recipe of pretention).  The portions were huge but everything was so delicious.  All the standard classics were available, but the most yummy was the brioche French toast.  I had an egg white frittata with shrimp, which was healthy, satisfying, and tasty.  (Although, the frittata was the size of my head!!!)  I found the coffee a bit stale and weak, but that just may be to please the clientele—I like my coffee extremely dark and rich (the Italian way).

On Sunday, brunch was at Morandi, a Keith McNally restaurant, picture Balthazar only Italian—but not quite as good (both in ambiance as well as the food).  The food here was fine, but the best things were the pastries, the rest was standard brunch fare.  You come here for the bread basked, fried ricotta fritters, and cinnamon donuts as well as the chocolate crepes, ohh my, those were to die for!  The egg dishes were inventive, but not familiar, they were “interesting”, which is not always what you want from brunch.  Also, the menu was very heavy, lots of lunch dishes, for 10am most were really not what you wanted.  This would be a good place for a late weekend lunch if you wanted hearty food, not breakfast.  BUT, what made this place so memorable, is who was dining there, none other than MARIO BATALI!!! I love love love him, his orange clogs and ponytail, he looked fabulous.  I really wanted to through myself on his lap and say “thank you, thank you for making real Italian food, in a way that is simple, yet extraordinary, elegant, and beautiful!”  But I digress… I actually never really care about seeing celebrities, but this one made me giddy!

So, to wrap up, after all this eating out, I needed to make something in my kitchen.  I decided to make a strawberry rhubarb pie as I thought it would be something that Jon would like.  Jon doesn’t like sweet desserts, so I thought this would be tart enough to please him.  Our urban chef loved it—he said it was not too sweet, but tart and refreshing.  For the pie, I only used one pie crust as I think the top crust makes it too bready and distracts from the fruit.  For those who do not know, rhubarb looks like celery and comes in stalks, but is bright red.  It’s an odd vegetable, but makes great pies! This pie is the perfect summer treat, light, tart, and well, simply delicious!

Strawberry Rhubarb Pie

Pie crust: for one crust
1 stick butter, cold
1 ¼ cup of AP flower
1 T sugar
1 t salt
5 T
Blend in a food processor (or in a metal bowl with two forks) then add 5 T of cold water until dough forms a ball (add more water if needed 1 T at a time).  Press down into a disk and freeze for at least 30 min.  (Can be frozen up to 3 days). 

Meanwhile make pie filling.

2 cups fresh rhubarb, chopped
2 cups fresh strawberries, chopped
1 cup sugar
¼ t of lemon rind
1 t nutmeg
3-4 T corn starch

Mix dry ingredients, then chop the fruit into small pieces, rhubarb 1 in, strawberry half if small or quarter if large.  Add fruit to dry mixture and stir until all are coated evenly.  Let sit for 15 min.  Stir occasionally. 

Pull out frozen pie curst, let come up to room temp, about 15min.  Roll out and put on the bottom of a pie pan.  Poke holes in the bottom with a fork.  Pour in filling.  Bake at 400 for 60 min!

Orient Bay & The Palm...good times
The Hyundai l10 is St. Martin's answer to the Ford Taurus, so in order to prevent an international incident by way of an arrest for attempted Grand Theft Auto, we cleverly left a Coke can in the console so as to our rental car apart from everyone else's.
 Thanks to my sister Adrienne for the pics, laughs and fun in St. Martin!