February, 2007 Archive

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

mom’s chocolate chip meringues

mom's chocolate chip meringues

It only took us over a year, but Alex and I finally had dinner at Tia Pol, a closet-sized gem of a tapas restaurant on 10th Avenue on Saturday night. We live so close, it’s embarrassing that we hadn’t eaten there yet, but the thing with the proximity is that every time we’ve popped our heads in, taken note of the mob of people crushed against the entryway and the “at least an hour and a half” wait, we’ve rationalized that we’ll go another time — later. Well, six months had passed since our last “later,” when on Saturday, so we decided arriving at the criminally early hour of 6 p.m. would outsmart the crowds. The laugh was still on us but the 45 minutes were well worth the wait, the tight space not claustrophobic but cozy on a freezing night as we snugged into a row of coats while drinking our first then second (mon dieu!) glass of their delicious sangria. At the bar, we couldn’t resist trying one of almost everything — marcona almonds, potatoes with aioli and hot paprika, ham-wrapped artichoke hearts with manchego cheese, deep-fried spicy chickpeas and thick, fork-tender white asparagus stalks again with that blessed aioli.

By last night, it had been a whole two days since our last dose of aioli and we needed a fix. Alex grabbed some white asparagus, red potatoes and salad greens on his way home and I began mincing garlic for the sauce. Oh, how easy dinner will be, I thought… And now you see where this is going. The first aioli started out splendidly, but at some point near the end, when you start drizzling the olive oil more confidently, it split and if there’s one thing that’s impossible to fix, it’s a broken mayonnaise. Frustrated as hell, I didn’t want to associate mayonnaise-making with failure and unhappiness, and forced myself to make another, this time in the food processor. I’ve seen Emeril make his in there often (say whatever you want about the man; he always makes his mayo from scratch), and hey, isn’t that what the little drip-spout is for? This batch not only didn’t break, it didn’t come together at all. Four egg yolks, two CUPS of good olive oil, twelve cloves of garlic and any remaining joy I’d had toward cooking that night went right in the trash. I was ready to write the evening off completely — never happened, nobody needs to know, let’s not dwell on these failures, okay? — but I still had those four egg whites and I got clingy, unable to part with another ingredient.

mom's chocolate chip meringues

Continued after the jump »

Monday, February 12, 2007

green tea shortbread sandwiches

green tea cookies with white chocolate ganache filling

Ah, right… So where were we? There were tarts best forgotten, fat, squishy pretzels, horribly-named “meatovers” and I’m sorry, but the rest of the week escapes me. However, I can assure you it was nothing interesting until Sunday when my friend Crystal decided that rather than going out for dinner, drinks or any other birthday party standards, this year she would keep the shenanigans as well as inevitable embarrassments within her apartment walls, purchasing a karaoke set, imploring us to bring excesses of sake and starting the party in the middle of the afternoon. Let’s just thank the heavens above that I averted the camera’s glare, didn’t not imbibe myself enough to get to crooning “Midnight Train to Georgia,” (though I may actually regret this — rest assured, nobody else does) or eat so many white chocolate ganache-filled green tea cookies that I began to reconsider my previous anti stance on this empty form of cocoa mass. Except that last part, which happened repeatedly.

As using my friends as guinea pigs is my favorite hobby these days, I took this birthday party as an excuse to tackle a few things I’ve long itched to work out: a core, classic shortbread recipe that could be tweaked into any format that pleased me, green tea powder and resisting the impulse to heighten the color with food dye, a fine flavor pairing for the aforementioned matcha as well as a place where white chocolate is actually better suited than it’s more tasteful and widely-loved counterpart. I studied more shortbread recipes, techniques and variations than could ever be considered healthy in the latter part of this week, and though I am eager to share with you all the juicy things I have learned (reminiscent of the sun’s rays! dates back to the 16th century!), I suspect you didn’t come here to fall into a deep slumber. Suffice it to say, almond and green tea are a match made in heaven, white chocolate is an infernal pain in the ass to work with but in the end, potentially rewarding, and anyone who claims to have their own shortbread recipe is lying. I’ve read them all, and within two degrees, they are identical.

Continued after the jump »

Wednesday, February 7, 2007

sour cream bran muffins

sour cream bran muffins

To celebrate my sister-in-law’s swearing in to the New York bar on Monday, we went to Blue Smoke for lunch. I ordered a pulled pork sandwiched stacked about as high as my chin, and in a frightening act of who-is-this-girl and what-did-you-do-with-Deb, finished all but one or two bites of it. Later, we (mercifully) spent some quality time at the gym, and at the exact moment that Alex said “Mmm… leftover applewood-smoked chicken for dinner!” I realized not only was I still full, I had the dreaded Meat Hangover.

winter fruit salad

We all detox differently. Some of us imbibe themselves with (I’m sorry, somewhat frightening) Master Cleanses for weeks on end, others eschew breads, starches or noodles for as long as they can keep away, and a good lot of us chug water and chomp crudites till the bad feelings pass. But my Meat Hangover, like all of my other afflictions, came with very specific instructions: fruit salad, yogurt and whole grains, and I was too glutted to argue.

Continued after the jump »

Tuesday, February 6, 2007

miniature soft pretzels

miniature soft pretzels

I wish I had something more eloquent to say about the miniature soft pretzels I made for the two Super Bowl parties we attended on Sunday, but every time I look at them, intelligent words escape me: they’re sooo cute! Are they not the fattest, more adorable little things you have ever seen?! They were so plump, all their holes closed up and while I tried to twist them into the traditional pretzel shape, as if all they really wanted to be when they baked up was a dinner roll. With turkey and mustard, I believe they requested.

rolling and rolling and
tying the knot

Ever since I made bretzel rolls (something I just learned are actually called Laugenbrötchen, such a cooler name) in October, I have been looking for excuses to do so again (and not leave them to stale and condensate in a plastic bag this time). It hasn’t helped that I am suddenly seeing varieties freshly-baked pretzels in all sorts of places, above and beyond the stale street cart fare. First, there was an impulsive trip to the Schaller and Weber store on East 86th Street two weekends ago, where the most gorgeous soft pretzel sticks were sold in threes, clamoring to be dipped in something fantastic and spicy. Then, I saw them again at the Garden of Eden by us last night. And, could fuel for my pretzel obsession not get any stronger, there is apparently a place called the Columbia City Bakery in Seattle whose charming s-shaped pretzel slits might alone be enough reason to visit.

Continued after the jump »

Sunday, February 4, 2007

caustic confit

lemon confit shortbread tart

When I first saw a recipe for a Lemon Confit Shortbread Tart in Wednesday’s New York Times, I was still too deep in my cooking-failure funk to consider trying my hand with it, although I did say out loud and to nobody in particular, “Well, doesn’t that look nice?” But when making weekend plans with my parents and my mother told me that she’d seen some lemon tart in the paper and really wanted to make it, I knew it was destiny, and secretly rejoiced that it would be someone else coughing up for nine lemons.

lemon confit

And what’s not to love? Shortbread, double-crusts, Mom’s ancient fluted tart pan and lemons, from pulp to pith and peel all sound sounded so irresistible. I have been absorbed with this “whole lemon” cooking concept since I made a sorbet last summer that involved exactly that, ground with sugar, and frozen with pureed fresh strawberries. It’s the best recipe to have graced my ice-cream maker to date.

Continued after the jump »


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