Friday, April 29, 2011

Collaborative Consumption

Rachel Botsman's amazing Ted talk which on the face of it doesn't seem to be about food, but it is and so much more.  I love the statistic about ownership and use and the example of a power drill, which she says we all own and on average will be used for a total of 13 minutes in it's entire life time.



Watch live streaming video from alldaybuffet at livestream.com

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Dessert at El Bulli

Much is being made of the closing this year of Adria Ferran's world famous "best restaurant in the world"  El Bulli.  Somewhere in all of the chatter about it someone posted this picture which represents only  one of I think 6 or more dessert courses - this alone looks like it could easily sate the sweet tooth's of about 4 people!

Job Wanted

This seems to be making the rounds, two friends emailed it to me in the last 12 hours, it's a very funny help wanted posting from the window of Vinnie's Pizzeria in Williamsburg (Hipster central).

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Save The Essex Street Market

Across the street from where we live (see above) are several large parking lots and few unused or partially used buildings that have been part of an ongoing development dispute for 40 years.  Recently the community board passed a plan to start to develop this land now that the Lower East Side is happening - after many years of being grungy, dangerous and decidedly not happening. Not to mention 40 years of squabbling and fighting over how this land should or should not be developed. 

They are calling this project SPURA - Seward Park Urban Renewal Area. 

One of the buildings that is included in SPURA is the Essex Street market, which was built by Mayor Fiorello LaGuardia in 1940 to get all the push cart vendors off the street and into one place.

 
In many ways the push carts defined the Lower East Side, these carts were how many poor immigrants were able to get started in their own business with little capital, so the final chapter of this rich history of entrepreneurism is the Essex Street Market, which is now on the chopping block.  According to the new plan, thus far, the market building is to be torn down and a new market building is to be built a block south and across the street. 

I shop at the Essex Street Market on a very regular basis, it houses an incredibly diverse array of stalls offering everything from local artisanal cheese to Mexican dried peppers and home made Spanakopita.

It doesn't seem to me like a bad idea to move the market to a new building that might offer more space, in a nicer, newer, more organized environment, but it does bother me to think that maybe some of the old time residence would not be able to afford the new space or that the history of this building would be lost, yet again, to greedy developers eager to build more ugly luxury condos. 

The other great thing about the Essex Street market building is how low rise it is, it was built on a human scale, and has served the community for 61 years, and continues to do so and evolve to cater to the needs to the ever changing demographic of the neighborhood.

A website, aptly called Save The Essex Street Market has been launched with information about the market it's history, this particular struggle and most importantly a petition, which I encourage you to sign to help save this import bit of lower east side history.




Monday, April 25, 2011

Truck Farm

There is a whole fleet of trucks like this all over the country. This one was visiting the Union Square green market the other day. Wicked Delicate is a production company that makes movies and Truck Farm is one of their projects. The basic idea is that truck farms are a great way to teach urban kids about food and farming and they can do that at school right in the middle of an asphalt jungle, as the trucks come to them. 

This particular "farm" was very kid friendly with lots of little tackers and little plastic animals.  very cute and a great idea.  Check out their site for more info.



Sunday, April 24, 2011

From Pani Frattau to Matzoh Lasagna

OK, I know it's Easter Sunday and everyone is making roast pork with ramps, or a turkey with a side of asparagus and finishing it all off with lemon cake with pink icing and lots of wonderful Easter eggs and chocolate bunnies.  But Passover is still here this year, overlapping Easter, and I wanted to share this most unusual of Passover recipes, one that has become a Passover tradition in our house and that I think could do double duty for both holidays.

As for Easter, I didn't grow up in  a religious family so to me Easter was all about chocolate.  I loved milk chocolate growing up and the success of Easter was based on how big my chocolate bunny was.  I still love going by Li-Lac Chocolates in the Village to admire the huge, ornate bunnies and chocolate eggs, but that's as close as I get to religious fervor.

Meantime, what follows is not so much a recipe as a set of guidelines.  For those of you who don't know, during Passover you can't have anything leavened nor can you have anything made from grains, the exception being Matzah itself, the flat, cracker-like bread that symbolizes the unleavened bread of the Israelites fleeing slavery in Egypt.  In New York and other cities with large Jewish communities you can usually find a large selection of Matzahs, everything from whole grain and organic to the ones below which are called Shmura Matzoh.  They are much more expensive then the usual square ones you buy at the grocery store, but they are bigger and often sold by the pound.  These are made by the very orthodox to meet their rigorous interpretations of how matzah should be made.
When I first saw this kind of Matzoh it rang a bell in my head.  As you can imagine I collect recipes and am always clipping out things that look interesting, tasty, or present a challenge that I think would be worth taking on. One such recipe was for Pani Frattau a lasagna-esque dish made with a traditional Sicilian flat bread called Carta Da Musica  (I call it a flat bread but for all intense purpose it's a big cracker).  Made with a thick ragu of tomatoes, meaty lamb bones and lots of Pecorino, the whole thing is topped just before serving with poached eggs.

My version is vegetarian and I bake it (Pani Frattau is served at room temperature), because our Passover seders (the traditional dinner held on the first two nights of the eight day festival) are vegeterian.  You could make it a meat dish, but then, since mixing meat and dairy isn't kosher, you'd have to leave out the Pecorino.  Again, i'm offering guidelines!

For our version, the first thing I do, the night before, is make a very rich tomato sauce that is redolent of rosemary.  I sautee a head of garlic in a sauce pan with about 1/3 cup of olive oil.  I add 4 large cans of crushed or diced tomatoes.  I add 2 hot dried red peppers crumbled up and add salt, freshly ground black pepper and a titch of sugar to taste.  I also add 1 or 2 tablespoons of tomato paste and about 6 tablespoons of fresh rosemary leaves and let the sauce simmer for an hour over low eat, adjusting the seasoning as it cooks (I'm a little obsessive that way).

Grate about 2 cups of Parmesan or Pecorino cheese.

Preheat the oven to 375 F

To assemble the lasgana I use my casuela and spread a generous amount of sauce over the bottom of the dish then sprinkle it generously with grated cheese, then add a Matzoh and repeat. I usually make 6-8 layers depending on how much sauce I have.  Top the lasgana with the rest of the cheese and bake for about 20-30 minutes, you want to get it hot and melt the cheese a little.

While the lasagna is baking place a splash of white vinegar in a 1/3 filled pot of simmering water.

Just before you are about to take the lasagna out of the oven poach 6-8 eggs - I usually do an egg per person this year we had 7 people so...judge accordingly.

I like my eggs runny so 2 minutes should do it.  Drain with a slotted spoon and place on the lasagna, I squash them so the yolk runs then sprinkle another tablespoon or so of chopped rosemary on the top.

While writing this it occurred to me that this would be a perfect Easter recipe as well.... mix into the tomato sauce some nicely roasted lamb if you want!

Oh and sorry, but I don't have a picture of the final dish.  But so much was going on during Passover dinner and it was so completely devoured I had no time to think never mind take a picture...maybe next year or maybe I'll make it again with my left over Shmura Matzahs, because this is one dish you doesn't need a holiday as an excuse!


Hanksy

This humorous piece of street art is on Rivington St just by Freeman Alley, it's become a very good little block for interesting work, of course the proximity of the New Museum has changed everything.  There are now three art galleries on this block as well.  Anyway I love that my walk to yoga and the green market every day is like a stroll through one big gallery.  

I hope Banksy sees this and is amused.


Friday, April 22, 2011

Happy Earth Day



This is the trailer from the spectacular BBC documentary called Planet Earth, which I have watched and highly recommend. It shows the Earth in all it's splendor and it also takes on all the ways in which humans are destroying it.

The Huffington Post has a rather grim reading list posted this Earth day, basically a best of - of books that discuss how we are totally fucked and how there is no stopping what we have already put into motion (destroying the planet).  Starting out with Eaarth by Bill McKibbons , here's a highlight from the discription:

Even if we stopped emissions immediately, global warming would continue. He explains that because we're living in the midst of this crisis, it's important that we think about our survival. 

Then moving on to Alan Weisman's The World Without Us - I don't really need to comment on that one....Oh and then there is Rachel Carson's upbeat (that's sarcasm) Silent Spring which I tried to read and got three quarters of the way through and had to stop.  It was just too much.  Ms Carson is a hero and researched and wrote about the devastating Affects of fertilizers and other chemicals that we gingerly throw about with gay abandon with deadly results.  For good measure Jon Stewart and Dr Seuss are on the list, but even then they just look at a grim situation from a funny or illustrated point of view.

Still the earth is a pretty amazing place and well worth celebrating, for as long as we can....check out Grist.org and Danielle Nierenberg's piece 15 Ways to Celebrate Agricultural on Earth Day.

Happy Earth Day!

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Little Italy Late At Night

I took this picture late one night walking home and it seemed to me to sum up the sad and rather barren state of Manhattan's Little Italy.  If you want real Italian culture and food you need to go to the Bronx of Brooklyn....

Chocolate Cake for Passover or Anytime.

Normally, in the 24 years since I met Neil and have made Passover Seders I have tried to avoid any cakes that has matzoh cake meal in it, as it seem like a recipe for leaden cake. 

This year I finally gave in after looking and looking for a dessert to make. I was going to try and re-work one of my all time favorite recipes, Lenzer Torte: a rich chocolate walnut cake baked on top of a layer of sour cherries.  I found a bunch of sour cherries in the kosher for passover store and bought them.  Then when I opened the can I saw that the cherries where soft and mushy and would just melt away if I baked them, also the recipe had too much flour in it I was scared it wouldn't work if I replaced it with matzoh cake meal. 

I decided to try and make a chocolate walnut torte and serve the sour cherries in a simple sauce on the side along with the usual dollop of unsweetened whip cream.

It was with great surprise and joy that this recipe worked out so well, as a matter of fact I think this recipe is so successful that you really would never know it was made with matzoh cake meal.  Of course the cake can be made all year round with cake flour, so this is not only a kick ass passover cake it is a great year round chocolate cake!

This is a boozy chocolate cake, I was happy to find kosher for passover brandy that was cheap and perfect for cooking, but if you are making it say for Christmas or a birthday feel free to use Bourbon, scotch, rum or cognac!
Chocolate Walnut Torte
  
Preheat the oven to 325 F.

Generously butter a 10" spring form pan, line the bottom with parhcment and butter the parchment.
Place a saucepan half filled with water over a medium heat, place bowl over it and add 14 ounces of bittersweet chocolate chopped.  Stirring occasionally until the chocolate has just melted.  Turn the heat off and add 2 sticks of unsalted butter, a couple of tablespoons at a time stirring until each addition has been incorporated. When all the butter has been incorporated into the chocolate add 1/4 cup water and mix.  Remove bowl from the hot water and place aside.

Toast 1 1/4 cups of walnuts until lightly brown and aromatic.  When cool chop finely - I use a food processor.  Add the finely chopped walnuts to a medium sized bowl and mix in 1/2 cup plus 2 Tablespoons of Matzoh Cake Meal (or cake flour) and 1/4 teaspoon of salt.
Separate 6 large Organic Eggs.

In the bowl of a standing mixer beat the egg yolks until the become more yellow and start to increase in volume (about 2 minutes) then gradually add 1 cup cane sugar and 1/3 cup of brown sugar.  
Turn off the mixer and with a spatula fold in the chocolate mixture.

Starting and ending with the nut/flour mixture fold into the chocolate batter alternating with 1/2 cup of brandy (or booze of your choice).

Place the eggs whites in a mixing bowl (I like to add a pinch of cream of tartar but didn't as I was unsure if it was Kosher for Passover) and beat until soft peaks for.

Fold into the batter in 2 parts. 
Pour into the prepared pan and tap a few times to remove any air bubbles, place in the middle of a preheated oven and cook 40-50 minutes, when a tester comes out clean it is done.

Cool on a wrack until room temperature then refrigerate, preferably over night.

Remove from pan, turn upside down and peel off the parchment and place on serving dish.

In a small sauce pan bring to a boil 1/2 cup of heavy cream, the minute it start so boil take off the heat and pour over 4 ounces of chopped bitter sweet chocolate, stir until the chocolate is completely melted and incorporated into the cream, add a splash of brandy (if you want, vanilla works too).

Spread the ganache over just the top of the cake.  If it is raspberry season they look lovely placed in concentric circles on top of the ganache.

I made a very simple impromptu cherry sauce, I drained the cherries and heated the juice in a saucepan with about 1/3 cup of sugar, in a small bowl I whisked about 1 Tablespoon of potato starch (organic cornstarch works year round) with about 2 Tablespoons of water after the juice mixture comes to a boil I turned the heat down and slowly add the starch and water mixture and stirred until it thickened, then added the reserved cherries, adding more sugar to taste and 1/2 teaspoon of 5 Spice powder or Cinnamon.

I cut small slices of this rich cake and served the whipped cream and cherry sauce on the side so my guests could add as they liked.
 
 
 

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Andy Loved Union Square Even Before the Green Market

Andy Warhol  actually had 2 Factories, the first one was in the Decker building on Union Square West, but then he moved it to the building on the corner of 17th Street and Broadway, which is where this newly erected Rob Pruitt sculpture sits.  So now every time I go the market I feel like Andy is watching over me.

The actual Factory Building isn't in this shot, you can only see just the edge of it on the far right hand side.

Ramps Announce Spring at the Market

This was my first sighting of Ramps at the Union Square market, the first green of the year, Fiddleheads are next!
In addition to the start of the growing seasons Ramps also are the start of the pickling and canning season.   One of my all time favorite pickles is a quick and easy Ramp Pickle care of David Chang.

Pickled Ramps   

Clean and trim 2 pounds of ramps, small early in the season ramps can pretty much be left whole, on the later in the season Ramps the green leaves should be trimmed to about an inch or so.  

These are refrigerator pickles, because rice vinegar doesn't have a high enough acidity for canning. I found these pickles can last several months in the fridge.

In a sauce pan bring 1 cup of water1/2 cup of Rice Vinegar, 6 Tablespoons of sugar and 2 1/4 teaspoons of kosher salt to the boil, remove from heat and add 1 teaspoon of Kochukaru (available in most Asian/Japanese/Korean grocery stores)  and 1 Tablespoon of white peppercorns to the brine  and pour over the ramps, which you will have packed into your favorite clean refrigerator pickle jar.

If you think you wont be able to eat these all in a month best to not pickle the greens which start to go soft after a month.

More Yarning

I've been following this yarn artist who does work around the Lower East Side now for a while, back in March I posted about a very colorfully yarned bike that was sitting on Grand near the Bowery.  The other day when I walked by I noticed it was gone only to have been replaced a half block away with this.  Given it's out of reach location I hope this will stick around longer than the bike did....

Chinatown Monk Asking for Alms

Anyone tell me what the statue means?

Monday, April 18, 2011

Hester Street Fair

 The Hester Street Fair which had it's inaugural season last year is back!  Opening day is Saturday May 7th, located at Hester and Essex Street.  The first weekend is going to be held in collaboration with the Lower East Side Food Festival a joint venture with the LES BID and the New Museum's Festival of Ideas.  The New Museums Festival of Idea's is going to also have a day long food festival which I will post about after Passover has passed over! 

The good folks at the New Museum invited me to their press conference announcing the event and it looks like it's going to be a very exiting week (well 4 days) of activities, events and lots of really interesting speakers.  The festival is May 4-8th so mark it in your calendars!   Of particular interest to foodies is May 7th when not only can you can see your favorite vendors at the Hester Street Fair after a Winter off, but you can also wander around the Lower East Side Food Festival.  Which will be held in the Sara Roosevelt park between Rivington and Houston, Forsyth and Chrystie streets.

Like I said in addition to food there will be a lot of other things happening that week and it should be very fun, for sure check out the Festival's web site, of particular interest to me is the conference, where a lot of Architects , Mayors and other visonary folks will be speaking and taking part in conferences and workshops. 

Here's the blurb from the site to wet your apetite:

A conference of symposia, lectures, and workshops with visionaries and leaders— including exemplary mayors, forecasters, architects, artists, economists, and technology experts—addressing the Festival themes: The Heterogeneous City; The Networked City; The Reconfigured City; and The Sustainable City. Events take place at The Cooper Union, New York University, and the New Museum, Wednesday to Saturday, May 4-7.

Much more on this later...



Saturday, April 16, 2011

Pop Up Restaurants: LTO

The new, or maybe at this point not so new, trend in both restaurants and stores are Pop Ups, places that takes over an existing space and occupy it for a short or temporary amount of time.  What Happens When is an example of a restaurant that took over a space in a building that is going to be demolished in the Fall, but until then the landlord wanted to continue to make some revenue so the chef John Fraser What Happens When enters and in a very clever and thematic way opens up a Pop Up restaurant on a tight budget to highlight new dishes, experiment and get some press and then before you know it close down.  It also gives the dinner a feeling of being in on something, and unlike a traditional brick and mortar establishment the evanescent aspect of these places give people motivation to go while they can.

Broadway East was a fancy place that opened a few years back with a very lofty, local, organic, mostly vegetarian menu and Gweneth Paltrow's personal chef in the kitchen.  It never took off and had many variations, each less successful than the last.   Finally sometime last year it closed and was used as a rental and sometimes club.  It was very fun as a club at least the one wintry Thursday I went, but a waste of such a nice space especially given the kitchen which was languishing when it was just serving booze.

So now it is a Pop Up appropriately called Limited Time Only (LTO) and will feature the cooking of James Beard award winning chef RJ Cooper, who will be using this opportunity to fine tune dishes for his new restaurant Rogue 24 to open in DC later in the Spring. 

His "Pop Up" is being billed as a preview.  So if you are interested from April 28th to May 8 he will be taking reservations for one of two menus, a 16 course menu called the Progression ($100) and a 24 course menu called The Journey ($125).

Make reservations here while you can! 

THE PROGRESSION
16 courses/4 pairings

snacks/soft-crunch/cold-hot

headcheese/pretzel paper/fried grilled mayo

quail egg/spring textures/anchovy

shima aji/black lime/yeast/puffed rice

catalina sea urchins/squid toast/lardo/clamato

smoked rap oyster/smilax/meyer lemon

liquid chicken/truffle/cepe/everona

conger eel/seaweed/grapefruit/bbq/charcoal

turbot/radishes/green garlic/roe

pain perdu/bacon/onion/caramel

lamb/blue ridge inspirations/peanut

dragon carrot soda/tapioca/satsuma crema

sheep’s ricotta/walnut/long pepper/manni

basil pound cake/lemon-rosemary/passion fruit

oliver & sinclair chocolate/acer ice cream/muscovado

happy endings

THE JOURNEY
24 courses/8 pairings

snacks/soft-crunch/cold-hot

headcheese/pretzel paper/fried

grilled mayo quail egg/spring textures/anchovy

shima aji/black lime/yeast/puffed rice

osetra/new classic garniture/gin infusion

iberico lomo/melon/coffee/manchego/almond

langoustine/chawan mushi/ginger/chorizo

catalina sea urchins/squid toast/lardo/clamato

smoked rap oyster/smilax/meyer lemon

fingerling trout/parfait/roe/meuniere

liquid chicken/truffle/cepe/everona 

conger eel/seaweed/grapefruit/bbq/charcoal

olives/goat cheese/bell pepper/basil

turbot/radishes/green garlic/roe

pain perdu/bacon/onion/caramel

quail/rhubarb/ramps/blood foraged in wild shenandoah

lamb/blue ridge inspirations/peanut

dragon carrot soda/tapioca/satsuma crema

wagyu brisket/ potato pave/morels

sheep’s ricotta/walnut/long pepper/manni

basil pound cake/lemon-rosemary/passion fruit

oliver & sinclair chocolate/acer ice cream/muscovado

happy endings

My suggestion is go hungry!!!!!

Friday, April 15, 2011

Dark Chocolate and Salted Caramel Squares

Sometimes it feels like I am writing a baking blog as so many of my recent recipes have been for sweets.  Ever since I was a kid I have had a wicked sweet tooth.  This is a great recipe because it's so easy and satisfying.  You can dress these bars up for company by adding unsweetened whipped cream and maybe even a glug of caramel sauce, but in this instance less is more they are just perfect as is!

Be warned you have to love butter to make this recipe, no substitutes are allowed! 
Dark Chocolate and Salted Caramel Squares

Preheat the oven to 350 F

Generously butter a 9 x 13" baking pan, place in it a large enough piece of parchment paper that it hangs over the sides (see below).  Then butter the parchment.

Melt in a small sauce pan 1 cup unsalted butter (2 sticks).

In a large bowl add:  1 1/2 cups whole wheat flour, 1/2 teaspoon salt, 1 teaspoon baking soda, 1 cup firmly packed brown sugar and 1 3/4 cups rolled oats.  Using your hands mix together well until most of the lumps from the brown sugar have been broken down.

Add the melted butter and mix with either a wooden spoon or your hands until the mixture is damp and thoroughly mixed.  Place 1/4 of the mixture aside and firmly pat the rest of the oatmeal mixture into the prepared dish.
Place in the oven and bake for about 12 minutes.  Remove from oven and cool.

Barely chop 1 cup of lightly toasted Pecans, I like the pieces to be big, so go lightly here.
Roughly chop 8 ounces of 70% Dark Chocolate.
In a medium sauce pan with a heavy bottom add  15 Tablespoons of unsalted butter (yes it's true this recipe calls for nearly a pound of butter) and 3/4 of cup of tightly packed brown sugar. Bring to a boil, and cook for a generous minute, then remove from the heat and had 1/2 teaspoon sea salt and 3 Tablespoons of Heavy Cream, stir until well mixed.  Let cool for a minute or 2.

Sprinkle the pre-baked and cooled base with the chopped Pecans and Chocolate
 
...then pour over the caramel and spread it evenly over the nuts and chocolate (which will melt a bit, not to worry).
Top with the remaining reserved Oatmeal mixture and place back in the oven for another 12-15 minutes, until the caramel starts to get bubbly and the top turns a nice brown.  Mine never gets' "browned" per se just a little darker.

This is the finished dish.
 Mmmmmmm bubbling caramel! 
Cool on a rack until room temperature then refrigerate for an hour or more. When ready to serve take out of the fridge and slide a knife around the pan, carefully lift up the parchment paper flaps and place on a cutting surface and slice into 2 x 2 squares.
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