June, 2007 Archive

Monday, June 18, 2007

strawberry tart

classic strawberry tart

A few times a year, I fall in love with tarts all over again, and not only because Alex thinks that “fluted removable bottom tart pan” is the best name given to any kitchen tool, ever, but because there are few things not made tastier when rendered wide and shallow, in a flower-like shell. In the winter, I gush over slices of warm quiche, on a plate billowing with lightly-dressed greens, or a deep, rich, hard-to-forget ganache tartlet but in the summer, its fresh fruit or bust.

whole lemon tart

This past weekend not one but two tarts exited my kitchen in a new Envirosax tote bag, both entirely inspired by the city of Paris. The first headed for my friend Molly’s dinner party on Friday night, a take on the classic tarte au citron (lemon tart) so fabulous, I might never make stove-top curd citrus curd again. I’ve mentioned before an ongoing fascination with “whole citrus” recipes, those that know that the whole shebang–from peel to pith to pulp–smartly leveraged in a dish is infinitely more satisfying that those that just go for the more low-hanging ingredient of juice. This entire tart is made with one single lemon, ground to a pulp with sugar, then mixed with egg, melted butter and cornstarch and seared in a par-baked crust until the top is bubbly and the taste is absolutely worth bragging about. The simplicity of ingredients alone makes it worthwhile, but the grown-up flavor with the bitter, fragrant vibe straight from the lemon’s edge makes it ready for its close-up. I can’t wait to make it next with two key limes, half a ruby red grapefruit or a whole orange.

Continued after the jump »

Friday, June 15, 2007

fideos with favas and red peppers

broken noodles

Some people are chef-chasers, meal-collectors. Being at the right restaurant exactly when it’s the newest thing so they can say they ate there first, or knew so-and-so would be the next Top Chef long before anyone else is where it’s at. Some want to be the first in line for Chef’s take on ramps, rhubarb, some adored garlic chive tangle and five different soft-shell crab specials each spring. Some people rank bathrooms (no really, they do) at the city’s best eateries. The thing is, I don’t know these people, and secretly, I’m kind of relieved.

For me, restaurants are about something else. I love to go to great ones, glorious places where each and every dish is perfect in a way you hadn’t considered before. Cranberry beans in an artichoke cup? I’m so glad I’ve met you. Seared quartered baby artichokes with pistachios, mache and manchego cheese? Two weeks without you makes me sad. Tabla’s Indian-spiced popcorn? It’s pathetic, but you can actually make my day. In their own ways, restaurants have become my muse. Thus, I didn’t just want to go to The Little Owl for my birthday Monday night because a friend had raved about it after her Food & Wine holiday party, I wanted to go because one glance at the constantly-changing menu told me I’d be brimming with new ideas when I left.

with roasted tomato, jalapeno and onion puree

Continued after the jump »

Monday, June 11, 2007

gateau de crepes

gateau de crepes

I know that you and everyone else must think that I’m crazy–it’s okay, I’m used to it–but I actually regret not making my own wedding cake. My cake standards are staggeringly high, and it’s nearly impossible for most bakeries–especially those servicing locations with 225-person weddings–to make cakes as good as homemade. They’ve got to start earlier than you or I would, and worse, they need to make sure that the costs are streamlined enough that someone can make profit along every step in the process, and hoo boy, do they, and in too many cases, they use shortening in frosting, when they ought to be using butter–hiss! And this is why I confess that when I had that first bite of cake gleefully shoved in my mouth, by a sweet husband, too concerned about messing up my makeup or dress to actually do the face-smoosh, my first thought was “aw” but my second thought? Well, the cake was really dry, and pretty flat-tasting.

making crepes

I know what a horrible person this makes me, and I accept it, but I’m actually more interested in fixing this karmic imbalance. Aside from having a somewhat open invitation to make a wedding cake for friends who are not allowed to pay me for it, I’ve also finally come to terms with the fact that purchased cakes rarely cut it for me. My one exception is Carvel ice cream cakes, because I grew up eating them and you seriously cannot make them the same at home (believe me, mom and I once tried) lest you have a soft serve machine in your basement, in which case, I actually might move in and not tell you though you might figure it out when the crane comes to remove me from your house because I’ve gotten too fat and look! I’ve digressed again. After 10 years of Carvel birthday cakes in a row, however, this year I decided that I was making my own birthday cake and nobody could talk me out of it or should even try.

Continued after the jump »

Tuesday, June 5, 2007

spring vegetable stew

shelling peas

Last month, en route to a cousin’s baby shower in Connecticut, my mother, sister and I realized that we needed a new envelope for the card we’d brought and swung into a strip shopping mall which housed a crafts store. I ran in to buy one, and found myself smack dab in front of something so mind-blowingly awesome, it took me nearly a minute to remember to breathe: as if I couldn’t love her any more, Martha Stewart apparently has a line of crafts products, and people, if there are two things I’m powerless in the face of, it’s a rack that contains not one, not two, but eleven different types of crafts glue and their doyenne. That I walked out of the store that day with not a single MSC product is nothing but a testament to my refuse-to-overstuff-my-tiny-apartment willpower, but it’s been three weeks now, and still, almost every other worth that breathlessly escapes my lips sounds like MonkeyPartyinaBox! or PaperBagPuppetKit! I am nothing if not a sensible, level-headed individual.

shelling peas

Monday, the mailroom guy arrived at my desk with the Biggest Box in the Whole world, and people, it was from Martha Stewart Freaking Crafts Dot Com. I shit you not. I briefly worried that I had in fact lost what was left of my mind and ordered a Leaf Wood Stamp 1 whilst drunk or something. (Hey, some people drunk-dial exes, perhaps drunk-buying multi-colored Evening Terrace Decorative Adhesive could be my thing. Can you imagine what a riot it would be to tell this story at a party?) I mean, this really crossed my mind, and left me so panicked that I went to see if I had an account, or old emails confirming an order, but retrieved nothing. So I IM-ed Alex and confessed that I thought I might be placing orders on MarthaStewartCrafts.com in my sleep, and why couldn’t I just be a normal girl and sleep-shop for Manolos? And do you know what knee-weakening sweet nothing he whispered into my monitor? Do you?

“That’s box one of two.”

Hummuna. Did I score well or what?

favas, out of their pods

Continued after the jump »

Sunday, June 3, 2007

black-bottom cupcakes

some of them, however

I’ve always thought one of the best lines in Pulp Fiction is wedged almost unnoticeably early on. Fabienne tells Butch that she wants a pot belly because she thinks they’re sexy on women (though, kind of hilarious, she thinks they make men look oafish). Butch disagrees, tells her she should be happy she doesn’t have one because guys don’t find it attractive. She snips back that she doesn’t give a damn what men like, before musing somewhat sadly that “It’s unfortunate what we find pleasing to the touch and pleasing to the eye is seldom the same.”

And I have to admit, if you swapped “touch” with “taste,” you’d have exactly what was going through my head this weekend as I made a quickie batch of David Lebovitz’s famed Black-Bottom Cupcakes from his Great Book of Chocolate. A spin on the classic devil’s food cake, each cupcake gets a dollop of cheesecake filling which is decked out with chopped bits of bittersweet chocolate before it’s baked into something almost too delicious for words. Since they lack frosting, they’re superbly easy to schlep from one place to another, and should you have time to zap them in the fridge, I think they’re a rare cupcake that actually tastes better cold. And seriously, chocolate and cheesecake? It is beyond my comprehension how everyone does not dream about this flavor contrast. I know we here in the SmitKitch certainly do.


Continued after the jump »