Maybe it's because it has yet again skipped directly from winter to summer, or maybe it's because life still hasn't settled down for me, but admittedly I haven't done nearly as much cooking as I would like to lately. That's not to say that I haven't been eating well. It's just that J-Cat and I keep eating out, which is something that we hardly ever used to do. I guess what kicked it off was my birthday last week, when we had a very nice meal at Cacio & Pepe in the East Village. The very next night was $12 Lobster Night at Wombat, and since most Tuesdays I have rehearsal, we hardly ever get to partake in that. But the absolute height of dining out happened this past holiday weekend, when we got a Zipcar so that we could do some large item shopping. We decided to make full use of it by going out for dinner somewhere we normally wouldn't go because we'd be too lazy to take the subway to it. We found an incredible Italian restaurant right in the middle of Clinton Hill, Locanda Vini & Olii. You would never think that one of the best restaurants I've been to in the city would be located on this quiet residential block in a Brooklyn neighborhood that's not exactly known for its cuisine. The space is an old drugstore, and they have retained much of the original structure of the space, complete with lovely wooden shelving and those awesome teeny little drawers that I guess they used to put pills in? Anyway, it is a charming space and made for a nice romantic setting. But obviously the food was the star. After almost three hours and 4 courses, we were pretty stuffed, but not in that sick way, in that perfect, satisfied, we-have-to-come-back-here-very-soon way. Here's what we had:
Duck & foie gras "salsiccia" with an apple, blackberry, and red onion compote
Gnocchi with tomato and basil
Braised wild boar spare ribs "alla maremmana" with canellini beans
Blackberry and lemon tart
"Piattino di primizie" (salad of fava beans, peas, arugula, mint, scallions, cheese)
Chive maltagliati "sagra della cipolle" with baby leeks, cipolline, cipollati & herb pesto
Marinated grilled lamb chops with radicchio "Trevisano"
Blackberry and lemon tart
All of this was washed down with Prosecco, cappuccino, and some fancy sparkling mineral water from the Italian Alps. So luxurious! I can't wait to go back, those marinated sardines are calling out to me!
Wednesday, May 30, 2007
I think it's time for J-Cat and I to find a bigger apartment. And to move out of our very played out neighborhood. I feel like I'm finally ready for that real grown-up apartment that I've always dreamed about. Time to have enough space to really organize, have enough bookshelves for all the books, a real coffee table instead of an aerobic step with a bedsheet on top. You know, grown-up.
So, if anybody knows of anything out there, let me know! We want to stay in Brooklyn, and I think our preferred neighborhood is Boerum Hill, near Van and Pam. 1+ or 2 bedrooms that take cats. A good kitchen is paramount!
Posted by faycat at 11:51 AM
Tuesday, May 29, 2007
J-Cat was out of town on Friday night, and with hardly any food in the house, not liking to order delivery for one person, and not wanting to get back out of my pj's to go out and pick something up, I raided the pantry for my dinner. The result was random but satisfying: Fried Eggs and Buttermilk Biscuits
I had some buttermilk in the fridge from those blueberry pancakes last weekend, and after discovering that buttermilk doesn't go bad very quickly, I was inspired. I love biscuits, and admittedly could pretty much just eat a batch with nothing else. I did decide to fry a couple of eggs though, figuring that I could use a little protein. Recipe after the jump.
2 cups all-purpose flour
4 tsp baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 teaspoon salt
4 tablespoons cold butter, cut in small pieces (Some people sub 2 tbsp shortening for half the butter to make a lighter biscuit. I am a little scared of shortening so I avoid it. I don't mind a slightly dense biscuit.)
1 cup buttermilk, chilled
Preheat oven to 450º. In a large mixing bowl, combine flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Add the butter and use your fingertips to incorporate it into the dry ingredients. Don't overwork or you will melt the butter with your fingers. The mixture will look crumby. Make a well in the middle and pour in the buttermilk. Stir until just combined.
Turn dough onto a floured surface. Fold over onto itself 5 or 6 times, then pat into a 1-inch thick disk. With a 3-inch biscuit cutter, cut out biscuits and place on a baking sheet with edges just touching. Use the scraps to reform the dough and continue cutting until you've used all of the dough.
Bake in the preheated oven for 15-20 minutes, until lightly brown on top. [You could brush the tops of the biscuits with melted butter before baking for a really nice surface, but I'm a little lazy and I'm going to put butter on my biscuits anyway]
Posted by faycat at 5:11 PM
Friday, May 25, 2007
I think I have to start a new post series focusing on news that is so ridiculous, you have to do the cognitive double take, what I like to call "Wait...what?!". The first entry in the series comes from a post from the fantastic blog angry asian man, about the casting of an upcoming Hallmark Original Movie called Marco Polo. Starring Brian Dennehy. As Kublai Khan. The Mongol conquerer. Let that sink in. I can't even muster up a "WTF?!" for this one.
On a positive note, there is an actual Asian person in this movie. B.D. Wong plays Polo's companion/servant, Pedro. I'll give you another second for that one.
Anyway, I imagine that at least there will be some noodles.
Posted by faycat at 10:26 AM
Tuesday, May 22, 2007
Last night was The Jesus and Mary Chain at Webster Hall. I admit the show didn't blow me away, and it took a few songs for them to get their shit together, but it was still worth it to see them live. Strange crowd, though. And what's with the wandering beer guy? Are we at a baseball game? God, Webster hall sux.
Anyway, on to more important issues: Strawberry Rhubarb Pie.
Or, as it has now become known, "The Mildly Disastrous Fruit-Plant Pie Incident". Perhaps I'm being too hard on myself, but the rundown of mistakes is a little disheartening. First, I totally didn't get enough rhubarb. How the hell should I know? I've never cooked the weird plant before. That led to the most annoying disaster, the top of the pie caved in.
There it is off to the right. Okay, so I tried to take the photo so that you couldn't see the extent of the cave-in. But it's there. I made the mistake of using the deep-dish pie plate for a pie that didn't have enough filling for a deep-dish pie because I didn't get enough rhubarb, so I couldn't make a decent edge on the pie and there was not enough filling to hold up the top crust. It was a sad little pie in that deep-dish plate.
I also put too much orange rind in it. One recipe did say to use orange rind in a Rhubarb Pie, but omit it for a Strawberry Rhubarb Pie. But another recipe had it, so I went with it, and totally didn't measure. I just zested directly into the bowl of fruit/vegetable. If you didn't know, rhubarb is already pretty tart, so it really doesn't need a lot of orange zest. And oh yeah, I initially cut the pieces way too big, got nervous about the potential stringiness of the rhubarb, and ended up cutting everything smaller after I had already let it sit in the sugar/tapioca mixture. Thus, a big mess. I should have anticipated disaster when the box of tapioca spilled all over my apartment. It was doomed from the beginning. But actually, it was still pretty good. J-Cat ate two big pieces and didn't find it tart at all. I think the reason things went wrong is that I read many many different recipes and cobbled together different elements and maybe I just got confused? Yeah, I'll blame it on that. But hey, it's a learning experience, and I think that next time it will work much better. My (amended, but still cobbled together) recipe after the jump:
STRAWBERRY RHUBARB PIE
2 1/2 cups rhubarb (approx 4-5 stalks), ends trimmed and all leaves removed, cut into 1/2 inch pieces
2 1/2 cups strawberries, hulled and halved
1 1/4 cups sugar (this can be adjusted depending on how sweet the strawberries are, mine were not that sweet)
3 tablespoons quick-cooking tapioca
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 tsp grated orange zest, optional
2 tbsp unsalted butter, cut into pieces
1 egg white
additional sugar for sprinkling
pie crust recipe of your choice, for a 2-crust 9-inch pie
Preheat oven to 400º. In a large mixing bowl, combine rhubarb, strawberries, sugar, tapioca, salt and orange zest. Let sit for 15 minutes.
Line a pie plate with the bottom crust. Fill with the strawberry-rhubarb mixture. Dot the top with the butter pieces.
Lay the top crust over, using egg white to seal if desired, crimp edges. Brush egg white over the top crust and sprinkle lightly with sugar. Cut slits for steam vents.
Place on middle rack of oven and bake for 20 minutes, then lower heat to 350º and bake an additional 30-40 minutes until the crust is browned and the filling is bubbling. Can be served warm or cold, with whipped cream or ice cream.
Posted by faycat at 2:57 PM
Monday, May 21, 2007
I realize that it looks like a giant bug in a sandwich, but soft shell crabs are so good, you totally get over the creep factor. You can only get soft shells - which are blue crabs that have just molted - for a couple of months a year, if you're lucky. I've never actually cooked them myself before, and was actually a little nervous about doing it right, but it was surprisingly easy. Recipe after the jump:
SOFT SHELL CRAB SANDWICHES
4 soft shell crabs, cleaned
1 cup flour
2 tsp sea salt
1 tsp freshly ground pepper
1/2 tsp paprika
2 tbsp vegetable oil
Either 2 large sandwich rolls, or 4 small crusty rolls
1 tbsp lemon juice
Heat oil in a skillet large enough to hold the crabs over medium-high heat. Dredge the crabs in the flour, shaking off excess. Fry for 3-4 minutes per side, until they develop a nice brown crust. Remove from pan and drain on paper towels.
Combine mayo with lemon juice, spread on each half of the rolls, plop the crabs on the rolls. You can add tomatoes or lettuce or whatever fixings you like to the sandwich. That's it! Super easy.
Posted by faycat at 2:47 PM
I guess no matter what, you have to start getting back to normal life eventually. And as always, cooking some good food just makes me happier. Not surprisingly for my family, I think food is one thing that really helped us through the last few weeks, when the highlight of our difficult days was deciding what kind of food to eat for dinner. We had Thai, Chinese, German, Middle Eastern, Indian, Greek, Italian, and donuts. Mmmm donuts. But it was all take-out, which, while great, is just not the same as something homecooked.
Yesterday was the first day that I really cooked, and we started it off with some homemade Blueberry-Buttermilk pancakes. So good, we didn't even need the maple syrup. Recipe and more pics after the jump:
BLUEBERRY BUTTERMILK PANCAKES
(Adapted from about 5 different general recipes)
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 cup sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 cups buttermilk
1/4 cup melted unsalted butter, cooled
1 cup fresh blueberries (you could use frozen, too, just thaw and drain well)
Sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt into a large mixing bowl. In another bowl, whisk eggs with the buttermillk, then slowly whisk in the butter. Be careful to whisk continually as you add the butter if it is not completely cool, as this could cook the eggs. Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients, and mix just until combined. Do not overmix or it will toughen the pancakes, it is okay if there are some lumps.
Heat a griddle or frying pan over medium heat, melt some butter, and pour approx. 1/3 cup of the batter onto the griddle. Place blueberries and push them down into the batter. You need to push them in a little or they will stay right at the surface and when you flip the pancake they can burn.
Cook for 2-3 minutes on each side. The edges of the pancake will start to bubble and set when it is ready to be flipped.
Keep finished pancakes in a warm oven until ready to serve. Serve with maple syrup.
Posted by faycat at 12:19 PM
Wednesday, May 16, 2007
We lost my father on Sunday night after a 5-year-long battle with cancer. He was, and will always be, the best man that I have ever known. He was taken from us far too soon.
Thank you to all of our friends who have been so supportive of my family through this difficult time.
Posted by faycat at 10:30 PM
Friday, May 11, 2007
I'm going to start collecting owls. I have a thing for owls. It all started this past December when J-Cat and I went the the Bust Magazine Craftacular at the Warsaw. He saw a t-shirt with a cute owl screenprint on it and he really wanted one for himself, unfortunately the guy only made them in kid sizes. I hadn't realized before that he loves owls. Ever since then I've had my eye out for cute owls - on t-shirts or wherever. It's not easy to find for a guy, apparently wearing a cute owl on your shirt is girly? In the process of the Great Owl Search, I realized that I love owls, and I must have as many as possible. Anyway, I decided to make J-Cat an owl for Chanukah since I couldn't even find a stuffed owl that wasn't either lame or pricey. Here's Owly:
J-Cat gave Owly his highly original name. Owly is made of felt. I made up the pattern as I went along, and I hadn't really made stuffed animals like this before, so that explains his wonky uneveness. Unfortunately the felt has pilled quite a lot since J-Cat cuddles him a lot, so I am planning to make another one out of thin fleece fabric that I have.
Here is the second owl in the collection, an owl bank.
Here's an arty pic of Opaw and the owl.
And Owly warily watching Opaw go by.
Posted by faycat at 11:11 AM
Thursday, May 10, 2007
A hot day calls for salads! Above, a random barley salad with no real recipe. It entailed going to the vegetable store and buying a bunch of green stuff, then thinking that it needed a little more color so throwing in a red pepper.
Here's some of the green stuff. A bunch of fresh basil, mint, and rosemary. Not pictured: green onions and baby arugula.
Did you see the size of that bunch of basil? That's a lot of basil. Obviously that means I needed to make a caprese salad, even though that was officially way too much.
With all of that salad action, I almost forgot what was supposed to be the main attraction: panko- and dill-crusted bluefish. Recipes (or at least explanations) after the jump:
BARLEY SALAD WITH BABY ARUGULA
1 cup pearled barley
2 cups water
1 small red bell pepper, chopped (approx. 1/2 cup)
1/2 cup scallions, chopped, green and white parts
1/4 cup flat Italian parsley, chopped
1/4 cup fresh basil, chopped
3 tbsp fresh mint, chopped
2 cups baby arugula
1 garlic clove, minced
2-3 tbsp lemon juice
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
salt, to taste
fresh ground pepper, to taste
Combine barley and water in a saucepan, bring to a boil, then lower heat and cover, simmering for 40-45 minutes. Let it cool for a few minutes after it is done. While the barley is cooling, prep and combine the vegetables and herbs in a large mixing bowl.
To make the dressing, whisk the olive oil into the lemon juice and garlic until well combined. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Combine the barley with the vegetables, drizzle with the dressing, and toss well to combine.
1/2 lb fresh mozzarella
2 small ripe tomatoes
3 tbsp fresh basil, chiffonaded (is that a word?)
extra virgin olive oil, balsamic vinegar, salt and pepper, to taste
Slice everything! Put it on a plate! Sprinkle with basil! Drizzle! Eat!
PANKO AND DILL CRUSTED BLUEFISH
1 lb bluefish fillet
1 cup panko bread crumbs
2 tbsp dill (fresh or dried is fine)
1 beaten egg
flour for dredging
salt and pepper
Preheat oven to 400º. Rinse the fillet with cold water and pat with paper towels to dry. Combine the flour, salt and pepper on one plate, the beaten egg in another, and the panko and dill in another. Dredge the fillet in the flour, shaking off any excess. Dip the fillet in the beaten egg, shaking off excess. Finally, coat the fillet in the panko and place on a baking sheet lined with foil. Bake in the preheated oven for 20 minutes.
Posted by faycat at 10:59 AM
Tuesday, May 08, 2007
With all the time I've been spending at my parents' place these last couple of weeks, I haven't done much cooking at all. My brothers and I have really gotten to know the take-out options in Bay Ridge. But last night, I really needed to be at home at a normal hour, and I really needed to make myself some food for a change. I could have made something healthy to make up for all of the junk food we've been eating, but I couldn't deny the need for true comfort food. What could be more true than Mac N Cheese?
I've posted my Mac N Cheese recipe before, but now you can enjoy some pics of the process, after the jump:
The mornay sauce. This time I added a pinch of nutmeg to the bechamel. My cheeses were a sharp white cheddar, parmiggiano-reggiano, romano, and asiago.
The bread crumb topping, made up of panko bread crumbs, fresh chopped rosemary, and olive oil.
The assembled Mac N Cheese, just before going into the oven.
The finished masterpiece. And yes, I had already eaten some before I realized that I hadn't taken a picture. I was starving!
Posted by faycat at 12:04 PM
Monday, May 07, 2007
I love donuts so much. It's actually really hard for me to think of a dessert that I love better than a donut. So what could be better than a blog about donuts? I only wish that I had thought of it first. And now I find out that there is a great donut place just a few blocks from my parents apartment in Bay Ridge. Tomorrow I'm on a mission.
Posted by faycat at 10:40 PM
Thursday, May 03, 2007
Whenever I am packing a suitcase for a trip, Opaw loves to lounge around in the bag, making sure that I will take along a pound of fur when I go. I often joked that I wish I could just pack Opaw up in my suitcase and take her with me, or that she would want to go with me so much that she would sneak into the bag right before I left. You might think that you would notice if your bag was several pounds heavier than it should be, but I guess this lady didn't, because her cat stowed away in her bag for a 2-hour flight followed by a 1-hour drive, and she didn't find out until she opened her bag on the other end.
The best part of the story is that when she put her bag through the security x-ray, the guards asked her if she had a turkey in her bag and she insisted that she didn't. Really, how still can this cat possibly be? This bag was checked, not carry on. None of the baggage handlers noticed any movement in the bag?! Anyway, thankfully, kitty is just fine after her trip, and the airline let the cat fly home for free, in a proper pet carrier.
Look, I didn't make the "let the cat out of the bag" joke! Oh, I guess I just did...
Posted by faycat at 1:49 PM
See? I told you I wasn't overreacting. The shit has definitely hit the fan. But don't worry, the FDA says that we should keep eatin that pork and chicken! After all, they don't know what kind of effect that might have on us, and by their logic, what you don't know can't kill ya!
Click the badge for the best up-to-date info on the recalls and related developments. I'll also place this badge over on the right so that it can always be accessed even after this post falls off the front page.
Posted by faycat at 12:41 PM