Thursday, June 30, 2011

Strawberry Tart with Goat Cheese Whip Cream

This seemed like a perfect 4th of July treat.  My friend Michael turned me onto the original recipe for this "icebox strawberry pie" it's based on a classic recipe that was probably published in a Kraft foods cookbook originally featuring as many Kraft products as they could cram in.  Not surprisingly I rethought the recipe so that if focused on ingredients not products.

My strawberry strawberry tart is a seasonal dessert that highlights the juicy sweetness  and intense flavor of local strawberries with the added bonus of being made with Agar Agar so it is vegetarian (unlike Gelatin).

To the topping I've added fresh local goat cheese which adds a wonderful zest without any of the additives and thickeners you'd get with commercial cream cheese that the original recipe calls for.

If you really want to make this 4th of July festive you can sprinkle local blueberries over the tart just before serving.

Strawberry Tart with Goat Cheese Whip Cream

Both the strawberries and the tart dough benefit from sitting over night in the fridge, but if time is tight not to worry an hour will suffice.

For the pâte sucrée:

Place 8 T room temperature butter in a mixing bowl (I use my standing mixer, you can do this by hand or use a hand held mixer, your choice) and 1/3 cup of organic cane sugar, beat until fluffy. Add a 1/4 teaspoon of salt, 1/4 teaspoon vanilla and 1 egg yolk beat until well incorporated, then add 1 1/4 cups of all purpose flour, mix until the dough comes together, adding ice cold water if the dough is dry.

Place the dough ball in a plastic bag and flatten into a disk and refrigerate. Much is made about how cold the dough is when you roll it out, I find after an hour it's fine. In a pinch I will put it in the freezer for twenty minutes, it's best chilled over night.  I rarely plan that far in advance.

If you have the time the night before after you have made your dough, stem and slice in half (or more for the bigger berries) 2 quarts of local strawberries.   
My 2 quarts after trimming came to about 2 1/2 pounds, I put 2 pounds of the prepped berries in a bowl and tossed them with 1 cup of sugar, covered them and let them sit over night.  The other 8 ounces of strawberries I placed in a container with a lid and also put them in the fridge.

The next day (or an hour later):

Preheat the oven to 350 F

Roll out the dough between 2 pieces of parchment and fit into a 10" tart pan with a removable bottom.
using a fork poke holes all over the rolled out dough.  This is called docking.
Place the  dough in the oven and cook until golden.  Check in every so often and if the dough has puffed up just gentle pat it down with your oven mitt gloved hand.  When nicely browned (about 20 minutes) remove from oven and cool on a wire rack.
Place the macerated strawberries and sugar in a heavy bottomed pot and bring to a boil.  Reduce heat to a simmer and add 2 Tablespoon of freshly squeezed lemon juice and 1/4 teaspoon of salt.  Simmer for 15 minutes then add 4 Tablespoons of Agar Agar flakes (be sure it's flakes not powder), stirring frequently simmer for another 5 minutes until the agar agar has all dissolved. 
Add the remaining 8 ounces of prepared strawberries and stir.  Let cool for about 5 minutes.  The mixture will gel as it cools so don't let it cool too much (or if you do you can simply reheat it to melt it again).
Pour the slightly cooled strawberry mixture into the cooled baked tart shell.

To make the topping:

In bowl of a standing mixer add 4 ounces of fresh room temperature Goat Cheese, 2 Teaspoons of Vanilla Extract and 3 Tablespoons of Sugar

Beat with the whisk attachment until there creamy, about a minute, then add 1 cup heavy cream
beating until thick.
I got fancy and pipped the topping onto the tart using swirls and rosettes, if I had just used rosettes it would have covered the entire tart, as you can see below this version didn't quite make it.  I like that you can see a rim of strawberry. Your choice it would be just as nice with the topping spread on with a spatula.  If you wanted to be very festive serve this with a few local blueberries to get the full 4th of July effect or is your are celebrating Canada Day you could just add a few whole strawberries as garnish.

Bar Agricole: San Francisco

My friend Matt in Vancouver sent me the link to this new bar/restaurant in San Francisco: 
Bar Agricole.  This place is a sustainable design wonderland!

Take the time to click on the link and in the "location" section there is an option to view a slide show of "our artisans"  it's amazing the collection of crafts people they brought together to create this bar.  Everything from the hand made salt glazed wood fired tea cups (Walter Slowinski see video below)  to the amazing hand crafted chairs that are made from old oak wine barrels (made by Sebastian Parker) are loveingly made to order by talented artisans.  

I want to get on a plane right now and go visit!  

This kind of meticulous attention to craft, the environment, and to sustainability is rare to find, especially done so exceptionally well.  If anyone reading this has gone to Bar Agricole and want to share their thoughts in the comments section I'd love to hear them.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Street Art

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Veg Patch Stew by Nigel Slater

Nigel Slater is a man after my own heart.  He is a fervent believer in growing your own food when possible and is very much about creating dishes that are simple and easy to prepare yet beautiful and tasty all the same.  A kind of British Alice Waters.

This clip is the first two days of a week long menu plan, I looked for the rest of the week, but can't seem to locate it anywhere so here is Monday, Tuesday and little some extra he makes with some folks who live on a boat and have a communal garden with the other boat owners.

Sweet and kind of funny (he's so sincere and British) with 2 great recipes and some helpful kitchen tips.  I want to make the chicken and rice right now!

My intention was to post a 4th of July recipe for Strawberry Pie here, but it's still in process, tomorrow! 

Until then enjoy Nigel.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Climate Change Video

A great way to start your week!  

All the Republican presidential nominees agree that Climate Change is a myth, kind of like Santa Clause.

I like how this video connects the dots, depressing, but very informative... it was based on an Op Ed piece Bill McKibbens did for the Washington Post for more check out

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Thai Sweet N' Spicy Cashews and Coconut

I've made these twice and both times I mean to take pictures and then forget.  So I promise to get a visual in here sooner than later, but for right now I thought I'd start with the recipe!   Which is an easy to make classic Thai combo of sweet, salty and spicy.  I use mild local honey to sweeten them.

Cover a cookie sheet with parchment paper.

In a wok or frying pan add 1 tablespoon of organic Peanut oil (or any other flavorless oil like Canola) and 4 Tablespoons of mild Honey bring to a boil over medium/high heat, boil for a minute then add 2 cups of cashews (or organic peanuts) reduce heat to medium/low and cook slowly, stirring often, when the Cashews start to brown add 1 1/3 cups of unsweetened dessicated coconut.  Continue to cook and stir until the coconut has browned. 

Remove from heat and stir in salt and freshly ground black pepper (I like them salty so I use about 1 1/2 teaspoon salt and about 1/4 teaspoon of pepper,  if you are worried about it being too salty start out with less salt, say 1/2 teaspoon, and add more until you have them like you want them). 

Seed, stem and finely chop 1 or 2 red Thai chili peppers add to the nut mixture and stir until well incorporated. Add more honey if the mixture seems dry or you taste it and want to sweeter. 

Spread the nut mixture in one layer over the parchment paper and let sit at room temperature for about an hour.

Best served on a plate not in a bowl.  Warning!  Highly addictive!

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Celebrating with BOE Wine from Brooklyn

It seems only fitting that to celebrate New York State's passing of the historic same sex marriage law last night that we should all raise a glass of New York State wine.

Last week while wandering through Williamsburg I came across the BOE wine shop tasting room and bar.  I've seen their wines with their distinctive labels for sale all over town, but didn't know about the shop/tasting room.

Unlike a typical wine store this space allows you to taste (at very reasonable prices) the wine you are considering buying. 

The bartender the night I was there was incredibly well informed and told me that all the grapes for their wines were from New York State, the Finger Lakes and Long Island being the two main growing regions.  The grapes are then brought to Brooklyn where the wine is made.  It isn't made in the homey old industrial space that houses the shop, but the entire process is, indeed, Brooklyn based.
The wines are well priced, most being in the $15-20 range, and even if you aren't interested in buying any wine BOE also hosts tastings and classes galore, not to mention it's just a great, comfortable place to hang out and enjoy a glass of wine (with or without your same sex spouse - though next time I'll bring mine along).

BOE currently carries 2 kinds of bubbly both made by Sparkling Pointea North Fork Long Island Champagne maker: Brut and Topaz Imperial.  The later is a sparkling rosé, which seems the perfect festive beverage with which to toast this historic occasion.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

The Link Between Climate Change and Food

Fascinating article from NPR about the increasingly large dead zone in the Gulf of Mexico and it's connection to commercial farming by Jenny Marder.

Nitrogen and phosphorous from farm runoff and animal waste are especially toxic to ocean life.  Read the article.  Scary stuff.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

The New Little Italy

I may be jumping the gun, but I see a trend starting on the northern end of Mulberry street. 

Traditionally Little Italy has been mostly centered on the south end of Mulberry between Canal and Grand.  Those blocks now are just rows of old school, red sauce Italian joints filled with tourist, who probably came looking for something that hasn't existed on those blocks in years: authentic, good Italian food.

Walk a few blocks north however and the feel of the street changes quite dramatically.  First off it's not all Italian, you can find good Middle Eastern food or even Australian food. You can also shop for things other than espresso makers and t-shirts, but mostly what makes walking a few blocks north will get you is really good Italian food

It comes in two different versions, Rubirosa is a retro red sauce place that may look old fashioned, but does things with red sauce that I never thought was possible.  They use top notch ingredients like Bobo Chicken and the sweetest tasting tomatoes that they can find to create amazingly transcendent food, in a fun, convivial, room.  They also have serious pros working mixologist magic at the bar, which is a great place to eat as well, if all the tables are booked (which is always).

Across the street is Torrisi a more upscale place with equally nostalgic ideas about Italian food, but with a more sophisticated and refined take on it. 

So fear not,  Little Italy is still alive and well, it's just moved a couple of blocks north.

Torrisi Italian Specialties from Photo Pow on Vimeo.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

What a Strange World We Live In

My friend Kurt sends out an email every week called: Kurt's Harper's Weekly Highlight

This weeks was particularly good:

Federal goose counters descended on New York in preparation for the city's second annual Canada goose cull. Unlike last year, when the geese were gassed and carted to the dump, officials plan to round up the fowl and ship them alive to Pennsylvania, where they will be slaughtered and distributed to hungry residents.
Customs agents along the U.S.-Mexico border seized 159 pounds of iguana meat, while their Russian counterparts in the town of Blagoveshchensk apprehended a China-bound cache of 1,041 bear paws, five woolly mammoth tusks, and 143 pounds of elk lips. 

In Portland, Oregon, 7.8 million gallons of drinking water were discarded after a man relieved himself in a reservoir in the early hours of the morning. Asked what difference a small amount of urine made, given that city officials routinely find dead animals in the reservoir, Water Bureau administrator David Shaff replied, "This is different. Do you want to drink pee?"

Monday, June 20, 2011

BP Shrimp

Here is this weeks Perennial Plate video, I know I posted one last week as well and I try to mix things up as much as possible, but I find this episode about a Vietnamese fisherman in New Orleans particularly poignant. 

The focus is obviously on the human toll of the BP spill and on the fish, but it would be interesting to me to know just how the health of the shrimp has been affected, which is to say: how safe is the seafood from the gulf to eat now?

The Perennial Plate Episode 58: Oil and Water from Daniel Klein on Vimeo.

Pop-Up Park

A few days ago I had a Williamsburg walk about day and came across this "Pop-Up park" which I thought was too funny and a brilliant idea: reclaim a small space of cement sidewalk  (if only temporarily) with replace it with something green.
It would be kind of impractical, but I love the idea of covering the smaller side street sidewalks of Manhattan with wild grasses and flowers and just have dirt path ways to walk along.  I'm sure the rat population would also love it and if you had a stroller or an old lady buggy you'd be furious and hate it, nonetheless it would be pretty and imagine all the wild edibles you could plant!   You could forage food on your walk home from work!

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Grumpy Coffee Opens on Essex

Cult coffee making has come to the Lower East Side with the recent opening of Cafe Grumpy.  

Cafe Grumpy started our in Brooklyn (Park Slope and Greenpoint) then they expanded into Manhattan with their Chelsea store.  The latest addition is at: 13 Essex Street between Hester and Canal.  The tiny space was bustling today when I walked by.

In addition to quality espresso drinks they also pour individual hot cups of coffee from a selection of  freshly roasted beans, which they roast in Greenpoint. 
In addition to coffee the Essex Street location has baked goods that you know are fresh because the bakery that makes all the cafe Grumpy's goodies is right next store! 

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Dinner For Neil's Work Friends

Seems like ages since I posted a chalk board menu. This was a very labor intensive meal that took me two days to pull off, and created a fair amount of anxiety.  Usually when I make a dinner party I make things I have made before, tonight was all about pushing the envelope.  Luckily it all worked out and several new favorites where discovered!
The fish balls and the friend dumplings where both good but the fish balls with the cucumber relish where a perfect combo of spicy hot and cool n'crunchy.  I made the wonton wrappers for the dumplings (yes I know they look like samosa) and found it to be very easy, the problem then of course is you have t cut them in to uniform size and well, that took a while...well worth the effort.

Sorry the pictures are so blurry, not sure what was happening I wasn't wine soaked enough to justify such shoddy cameraman-ship.
Above is the cucumber relish on the left and the peanut pineapple sauce on the right.  Originally I was going to make Pineapple Salsa but then decided that I wanted to make peanut sauce with pineapple in it.  What a great combo! 

To the top left of the cheese plate is a bowl that is hard to determine from this picture but it is the  honey coconut cashews  - WOW this is a very simple recipe with big rewards.  It was pointed out that the mixture could be flattened out to make granola bars (and of course you could had dried fruit or whatever).  I'll post the recipes in the coming days.
This pie was very time consuming and I had many problems along the way, like the glass candy thermometer breaking and shattering glass into the just finished custard.  Grrrrrrrrrrr.  But all in all it was a hit, , my thought on it is that it is the interplay of the crust with the thick mouse filling that makes it work and I think it might be better if made as a tart.  I served it with local strawberries that had mascreated in a little sugar and unsweetened whip cream.

Friday, June 17, 2011

SHO Shaun Hergatt

Just before I left for Toronto I was invited by the Hall PR company  to a very posh cocktail party at SHO:Shaun Hergatt restaurant in the Financial district.  SHO (I'll usual the short form) totally blew me out of the water.

First off it's been in business for two years and I'd never heard of it.  Now that doesn't necessarily mean anything there are millions of restuarants in NYC and my focus is mostly the Lower East Side where I live and the East Village with the occasional foray into Williamsburg and other parts of Brooklyn.  So why should I know about fancy ass restaurants in FIDI (that's what we're call the Financial District these days)? It's not like I really care where Wall Street bankers go to spend their ill gotten fortunes.

SHO is on the second floor which is kind of odd for a fancy restaurant in this country, but in Asia is fairly common, my friend Marc who I took with me to this event has just moved back from living in Hong Kong, said it was considered much nicer to be away from the din of the street. 

Certainly this palatial place has a wonderful air of calm about it.  Set up into two main sections you walk in to the understated luxury of the bar and lounge area.  The decor is contemporary but with a decided Asian feel, down a hall way to the left are private dinning rooms, a canyon of glass enclosed wine storage and in the middle is an exquisite water feature with floating candles and candles which lead you to the dining room.  

I forgot to bring my camera so please excuse the shitty iPhone photo, but it gives you so idea.

The thing that really surprises you with SHO is the food.  No wonder the chef has his name in the name of the restaurant Mr. Shaun Hargatt is seriously talent.  The hors d'oeuvres were each a little work of culinary art my favorite was: foie gras balls rolled in squid ink dyed bread crumbs. 
Not to be out done by the kitchen the bar is holding it own. It's hard to remember now but I believe there were five cocktails the one pictured above is a Chill Passion, a frothy passion fruit concoction that was topped with red pepper flakes.  With drinks and food like this the evening has become something of blur, but SHO made such an impression on me I'll definitely go back and have dinner.  Even thought the sexy lounge area adjacent to the bar is so comfortable I'm tempted to go with Neil and drink cocktails and order from the incredibly reasonably priced bar/lounge menu.  Don't let the bankers and the location put you off, this place is a real contender on ever level and deserves to be a lot better know than it is.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Black Hoof: A little Bit of Brooklyn in Toronto

House made Charcuterie and an order of house made pickles.  I love this place.  The Black Hoof is a small store front restaurant in Toronto's uber hip west side.  It's the kind of casual, locavore, food centered place with a laid back, funky vibe that has taken over Williamsburg.

Located at 928 Dundas street in Toronto, The Black Hoof doesn't take reservations, are closed on Tuesday and Wednesday, but thankfully (for me) are open on Monday.  My advice is get there early and sit at the bar where you can watch the action happen. 
Or if you prefer there is a small dinner room at the back and in the summer a little outside space.
This was the mixologist (above) and our waiter the night we went.  He was great, he made great recommendations and from what I could tell made an awesome cocktail as well (we were drinking beer).  My brother lives with a fishaterian and I live with a guy who keeps kosher so this was our night to go hog wild on all things pork!    

The locally sourced house made Charcuterie (pictured above) was all amazing.  The platter is served with a selection of 6 Charcuterie, 2 dollops of grain mustard and a small bowl filled with lavender whipped lard to smear on your bread.  I wish the lard had been served melted on grilled bread - but it certainly didn't prevent us from eating it all up.

We then had roasted bone marrow served with Maldon salt and Chimichurri, the herb garlic wonderfulness of the Chimichurri served as a perfect foil for the fatty marrow.  

The marrow was from a cow, so we did take a short detour from pig.  My brother David and I drank local beers until the bar keep suggested a Belgium beer made from Hibiscus - it was like drinking a funky rosé wine, I liked it, it was refreshing and a perfect foil to the meal, but I preferred my IPA.
For a main course we split an order of pork tacos with pico de gallo and creamy guacamole, they are usually served as 3 to a plate, but the waiter knew we were splitting them so he had the kitchen make us four.  They were brilliant, unctuous meat, perfectly cooked, topped with the citric salsa and all smoothed out by the creamy avocado. Perfect.

For dessert we went down to Queen street and sat on the rooftop of the hipper than can be Drake Hotel.

All in all a perfect last night in Toronto.

50 Percent Budget Cuts Loom for the Bronx Zoo and NYC Aquarium

The Wild Life Conservation is doing an ad campaign to bring awareness to the budget cuts the city are proposing that would slash the zoo and aquarium's funding by 50%! 

Here's their ad, it made me smile, but you have to watch to the end. 

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

The Senator: Best Breakfast in Toronto

The Senator restaurant is now in it's 76th year, making it the oldest continuous restaurant in Toronto. Not much seems to have changed in those 76 years, the dedication to serving good, simple, farm fresh food was always there (now they even own their own organic farm) so if anything I'd bet maybe it's gotten better.

Various all day breakfast options are available. I ate here three times and each time ordered a different breakfast.
They were all really great, but I think the Huevos Rancheros ($10.95) was my favorite.  I love that they serve it with fried-on-the-griddle homemade corn bread and beans, but it's the local farm raised eggs that send it over the top 9ask for Tabasco sauce on the side).
 The counter was my favorite place to sit.  The rest of the room is all booths, all original.
The Senator opens at 7:30 am and is open all day for breakfast, lunch and dinner.  It was such a treat to have it up the street from my hotel.  Usually I would have shopped for groceries and had stuff in my hotel room, but this trip was pretty taxing, not to mention exhausting so it was nice to not have to cook and have a close regular place where I could relax and avoid the bland, over priced breakfast buffet at the hotel.

There are so many things that set this place apart it's hard to list them, obviously the great old fashioned decor and the incredible fun, efficient and friendly staff, the amazing food are all on the list, but I think the thing I  most liked about The Senator is how it is filled mostly with regulars.

This morning on my way to the airport to come back home I stopped in to have a bite to eat.  Across from me was a man with his wife ordering breakfast.  People stopped over and chatted with them, the waitress had an ongoing rapport with them and seemed to know what they wanted before they even asked.  The man was paralyzed and in a wheel chair, just after the waitress set the food down she went over to the counter and got a bottle of ketchup, came back, opened it and poured a generous amount on his plate.

It was obvious they had been coming here forever and that The Senator was their home, their place to come to feel taken care of and nourished.  That's certainly how I felt and I only went three times, when I walked in today with my luggage I said to the waitress who had served me each day I was there:

"I'm moving in!"
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