BOO!

Happy Halloween.  This is my first experiment with cookies as art.  

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The scariest part turned out to be my kitchen counters splattered in black food coloring and icing.  I went totally old school and used the excellent recipes for sugar cookies and royal icing from Martha Stewart's Baking Handbook.  I discovered some really festive supplies at New York Cake & Baking Supply on 22nd Street in the Flatiron district.  A great resource, it turns out, for cookie cutters in the shape of spiders ... and rats.

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I couldn't find many inspirational images, so these are my own special creations.  The cookies are actually edible and yummy.  They will be the treats for the little goblins in our building and dessert, along with homemade popcorn balls, for a dinner party tomorrow night.  

A PACK OF FRESHLY BAKED RATS

A PACK OF FRESHLY BAKED RATS

Learning to Make Chinese Dumplings

Last night I took my second cooking class at The Brooklyn Kitchen thebrooklynkitchen.com in Williamsburg, which also happens to be a fantastic store for kitchenware and features a butcher, The Meat Hook themeathook.com, that supports only local farmers.  My criteria for selecting the classes is to learn how to cook things with which I'd never experiment on my own.  I took a gnocchi class in the spring, and now ... Chinese dumplings.  

Spinach & Mushroom Dumplings with Spicy Soy & Vinegar Sauce

Spinach & Mushroom Dumplings with Spicy Soy & Vinegar Sauce

 

Our instructor was Diana Kuan, who's also a food writer www.appetiteforchina.com .  Her dishes are a combination of family favorites, recipes she picked up while living and teaching in China and her own fresh takes on classics.  We learned the techniques of stuffing, pinching, pleating and cooking -- steaming and pan frying --  these little pockets of goodness.  

Pan-Fried Vegetarian Dumplings

Pan-Fried Vegetarian Dumplings

My neighborhood is Chinatown adjacent.  But I find the bustling markets so loud, packed and intimidating that I've never really explored them.   With Diana's recommendations of resources and a shopping list for building a Chinese pantry, I will now dive in with confidence.  Here's a basic filling that we worked with and that lends itself to lots of variations.  Serve with the spicy version of Soy & Vinegar Dipping Sauce.

VEGETABLE  DUMPLING AND WONTON FILLING

(from "The Chinese Takeout Cookbook" by Diana Kuan)

8-10 dried shiitake mushrooms

2 lbs baby spinach

2 scallions, finely chopped

1 tbs soy sauce

2 tsp sesame oil

1/4 tsp salt

1/8 tsp ground black pepper

1. Soak the shiitake mushrooms in warm water for 15-20 minutes.  Drain and squeeze out the excess water.  Discard the stems and finely chop the mushroom caps.

2. Bring a pot of water to a boil and boil the spinach for 1-2 minutes, or until wilted but still bright green.  Strain the spinach in a colander, rinse under cold water and strain again.  Shake out the excess water and wring the spinach with your hands.  Finely chop the spinach.

3.  In a large bowl, mix together the mushrooms, spinach scallions, soy sauce, sesame oil and pepper.  

 

Golden Gazpacho and Quinoa Burgers

Here's a really refreshing gazpacho that  I've made several times so far this summer using whatever tomatoes are freshest from the green market or garden.  This time  I used Sun Gold tomatoes, yellow peppers and cucumbers from my garden, and served it as a first course, garnished with thinly sliced cucumbers, in short glass tumblers.  I recommend a food processor over a blender, and I always strain the mixture to get a really smooth consistency.

Gazpacho with Sun Gold Tomatoes

Gazpacho with Sun Gold Tomatoes

Quinoa and Greens Burgers

Quinoa and Greens Burgers

These burgers, also a NY Times recipe, are a tasty and healthy option to beef.  If you aren't strict vegan, I suggest adding the egg (and maybe two) to the mixture so that the burgers hold together when cooking.  Consider serving over a bed of greens an an entree or as a side dish alongside fish, because they will be too crumbly for a bun.

http://cooking.nytimes.com/recipes/1015440-quinoa-and-greens-burger

 

 

When Summer Gives You Tomatoes

It's a happy daily "chore" in August to harvest the dozens of tomatoes that seem to ripen overnight on the vine.  Once you've ingratiated yourselves to the neighbors and served as many caprese salads as your family and guests can put away, there's still a big bowl waiting on the counter to be fashioned into something delicious.

Now's the time to start thinking big and cooking with pounds of tomatoes at a time.  My favorite sauce made can be made in 30 minutes and easily frozen for future enjoyment.  Here's the "recipe" but please don't take it too seriously.  It's really just a matter of cooking down the tomatoes -- seeds and all (gasp) -- with a few simple ingredients.  

30 Minute Summer Tomato Sauce

Place 2 lbs roughly chopped tomatoes (use whatever tomatoes you have on hand in any combination) in a medium saucepan over medium flame and pour 2 tablespoons olive oil over the tomatoes.  Add garlic, salt, black pepper, red pepper flakes and oregano to taste and 1/4-1/2 cup of water to pan.  Once the tomatoes have begun to break down, reduce to simmer.

This sauce can be doctored up with fresh basil (in place of oregano), ground anchovies, capers, peppers, onions, mushrooms, zucchini or any other vegetables that strike your fancy.  And it makes a great topping for grilled pizza.  I added fresh uncooked, peeled & deveined shrimp directly to the sauce for 5 minutes before serving over strozzapreti pasta.  (No cheese on any pasta with seafood, please.)




Summer Sunday LES

Manhattan beckoned me from the shores of Maine for several days, and we found ourselves wandering through the Lower East Side, doggies in tow, in search of the perfect spot for an outdoor brunch on a hot and humid Sunday afternoon.

Like an oasis in the desert, Mission Cantina www.missioncantinany.com offered a shady spot on Stanton Street and an enticing menu, including a wonderfully refreshing La Paloma made with tequila and fresh grapefruit juice and classic Micheladas.  The guacamole, perfectly spiced and topped with sunflower seeds and crispy onions, is served with shrimp crisps instead of traditional tortilla chips.  The enchilada burrito -- exactly what it sounds like, an enchilada stuffed inside a grilled flour tortilla -- was a burst of flavor.  And the peppery and cheesy grits were a great accompaniment.

Noted to self, on the way to brunch, Melt Bakery http://www.meltbakery.com on Orchard and their delectable little ice cream sandwiches that are made from scratch -- the ice cream and the cookies -- daily.  So, we doubled back down Orchard after brunch for one of their cool summer treats.  If you must be in New York during the dog days of summer, this is a pretty delicious way to pass a few hours

GUACAMOLE WITH SUNFLOWER SEEDS & CRISPY ONIONS SERVED WITH SHRIMP CRISPS AT MISSION CANTINA NYC

GUACAMOLE WITH SUNFLOWER SEEDS & CRISPY ONIONS SERVED WITH SHRIMP CRISPS AT MISSION CANTINA NYC

LA PALOMA AT MISSION CANTINA NYC

LA PALOMA AT MISSION CANTINA NYC

THE ENCHILADA BURRITO WITH TOMATILLO SALSA AT MISSION CANTINA NYC

THE ENCHILADA BURRITO WITH TOMATILLO SALSA AT MISSION CANTINA NYC

CHEESY AND PEPPERY GRITS AT MISSION CANTINA  NYC

CHEESY AND PEPPERY GRITS AT MISSION CANTINA  NYC

MELT BAKERY NYC

MELT BAKERY NYC

MELT BAKERY NYC

MELT BAKERY NYC

THE S'MORE ICE CREAM SANDWICH AT MELT BAKERY NYC.  GRAHAM CRACKER COOKIES WITH CHOCOLATE MARSHMALLOW ICE CREAM

THE S'MORE ICE CREAM SANDWICH AT MELT BAKERY NYC.  GRAHAM CRACKER COOKIES WITH CHOCOLATE MARSHMALLOW ICE CREAM

A Menu Inspired by the Greenmarket

Throughout the year, micro farmers markets pop up all over Manhattan, including one  a block away from me at City Hall Park. GrowNYC  is a "grow-your-own market with rigorous producer standards."  One of the produce vendors I shopped yesterday told me that GrowNYC does regular site visits to ensure that these standards are maintained.  

Our one-block long market doesn't offer the extravaganza that one finds at the big Union Square location, but there is always enough beautiful fresh produce to build several meals around.  Here's a simple summer meal I was inspired to make for dinner tonight:

Crab & Corn Chowder (using Mark Bittman's "The Minimalist's Corn Chowder" recipe as a base: http://www.nytimes.com/2000/08/23/dining/the-minimalist-don-t-toss-out-the-cobs.html

Garden Greens (from my Maine garden) with Roasted Golden Beets & Goat Cheese

Martha Stewart's Peach Slab Pie 

City Hall Farmers Market: http://www.grownyc.org/greenmarket

City Hall Farmers Market: http://www.grownyc.org/greenmarket

City Hall Farmers Market: http://www.grownyc.org/greenmarket

City Hall Farmers Market: http://www.grownyc.org/greenmarket

From Maine garden to Manhattan table

From Maine garden to Manhattan table




Eating in Madrid, Spain

I recently visited Madrid for the first time in 10+ years.  I intentionally left our itinerary very loose to allow for lots of exploring and eating.  Because Madrid is so wonderfully walkable, in between visits to the outstanding museums, we filled our days discovering charming little spots to sit, enjoy a beer and some tapas and pinxtos.  

I became mildly obsessed with one pinxto in particular, called a gilda.  It's a skewer of vinegary little peppers, anchovies and green olives.  I had my first gilda on our first night in Madrid at Bosco de Lobos, and I think theirs are still my favorite.  I did recreate gildas at home the week of our return (thanks to wonderful ingredients and wine from Despana: http://www.despanabrandfoods.com), along with a tortilla Española

Technically Bosco de Lobos is an Italian restaurant, but there is plenty of Spanish influence here, and the space is spectacular, located within the Madrid Architects Association (http://encompaniadelobos.com/boscoMadrid.html).  Other favorite spots were Celso y Manolo  and Taberna La Carmencita (https://tabernalacarmencita.wordpress.com), all located in the Chueca neighborhood of Madrid.

Also in the Chueca and not to be missed is the Mercado de San Antón, a beautiful marketplace that includes several stalls where you can purchase prepared foods and drinks and enjoy in a fun communal atmosphere.  There are a few bars and restaurants (including some on the rooftop) that offer table service for lunch and dinner.  

On the same trip, we also traveled to Rioja and Bilbao -- look for a post on that wonderful adventure in food and wine soon on A Curious Palate.

TABERNA LA CARMENCITA

TABERNA LA CARMENCITA

COCKTAIL GLASSES PREPPED FOR VERMOUTH GREET YOU AT LA TABERNA CARMENCITA

COCKTAIL GLASSES PREPPED FOR VERMOUTH GREET YOU AT LA TABERNA CARMENCITA

MERCADO DE SAN ANTÓN

MERCADO DE SAN ANTÓN

LA MERCADO DE SAN ANTÓN

LA MERCADO DE SAN ANTÓN

GILDAS

GILDAS

THE BAR AT CELSO Y MANOLO

THE BAR AT CELSO Y MANOLO

BOSCO DE LOBOS

BOSCO DE LOBOS

BOSCO DE LOBOS

BOSCO DE LOBOS

MY GILDAS

MY GILDAS

MY TORTILLA ESPAŃOLA WITH ASPARAGUS

MY TORTILLA ESPAŃOLA WITH ASPARAGUS







The Big Day

My friends at Food52 are featuring my wedding on their blog today: https://food52.com/blog/13355-a-minimalist-wedding-with-a-garland-of-bay-leaves

There are some great food and drink moments created by the awesome team at Haven's Kitchen in Chelsea (http://havenskitchen.com) and flowers & decor by the  talented and lovely Emily Thompson, a fellow Food52 Tastemaker (http://www.emilythompsonflowers.com).  

Here are a few more of my favorites.  

All photography by Khaki Bedford (http://www.khakibedfordphoto.com)

Sweet & Salty cakes by BAKED (https://www.bakednyc.com)

Sweet & Salty cakes by BAKED (https://www.bakednyc.com)

Topiaries from Snug Harbor Farm, Kennebunkport, Maine (http://www.snugharborfarm.com)

Topiaries from Snug Harbor Farm, Kennebunkport, Maine (http://www.snugharborfarm.com)



Summer = Steamers

As a New Englander, I am hopelessly devoted to the soft shelled steamer clam.  For me, it is the essence of summer, served family style, piled high in bottomless bowls with plenty of clam broth and drawn butter scattered around the table.  I am sharing my father's recipe, which I believe is the only way to prepare them.  It is simple, fool proof and absolutely delicious.

Steamers are always to be accompanied by a bowl of clam broth (never hot water) from the pot in which they were steamed.  Once the neck skin is removed, the clam is dunked into the broth to rinse off any sand and grit, then quickly dunked into the drawn butter.  If you are serving corn on the cob with steamers, you can steam them in the same pot, once the steamers are removed.

If you dig clams (pun intended), watch this space.  Summer has only just started.

Salvatore Mosca's Steamers

4 lbs steamer clams

4 celery stalks, chopped into 1" pieces

2 medium yellow onions quartered

1 bottle of beer (Sam Adams Summer Ale or something equivalent)

Red pepper flakes

4 tablespoons butter, melted

 

Rinse the clams thoroughly, at least twice, to remove as much sand and grit as possible.  Place into a stock pot.

Toss the celery and onions on top of the clams.  Pour the beer over and then sprinkle very generously with red pepper flakes.

Steam, covered, until all the clams are open

Ladle the clams into bowls.  Ladle broth from the pot into small bowls.  Melted butter in separate bowls.  

This recipe will serve 4 as first course or 2 as a main course.

 




St. Roch Marketplace, New Orleans

In April, while waiting at JFK for our flight to New Orleans for Jazz Festival,  I happened upon the NY Times Magazine piece on the recently revived St. Roch Marketplace.  Several European-style food halls and marketplaces have sprung up in US cities, including Seattle,  Washington, DC, and San Francisco.  This is good news for local food growers, farmers, and makers.  And for all of us who love food.  

St. Roch has a particularly rich and interesting history in New Orleans.  The original building, a fish market that was something of an institution in the neighborhood, was destroyed by Katrina.

I immediately added a visit to our already-packed New Orleans itinerary, and it didn't disappoint.  We arrived early Sunday morning, camp chairs in tow for Jazz Festival, and breakfasted on thick slabs of toast with strawberry jam, crepes and one of the most delicious things I've ever eaten -- a "leftover" cold fried chicken sandwich, pressed to perfection.   It's open throughout the day into the evening, offering cocktails, oysters, and dinner.  And several vendors, including a fishmonger and produce seller, offer beautiful fresh foods to prepare at home. 

TOAST & JAM

TOAST & JAM

"LEFTOVER" FRIED CHICKEN SANDWICH

"LEFTOVER" FRIED CHICKEN SANDWICH

A SELECTION OF BITTERS AND MUDDLERS

A SELECTION OF BITTERS AND MUDDLERS

www.strochmarket.com

Here's a link to the NY Times piece: http://tmagazine.blogs.nytimes.com/2015/04/09/st-roch-market-new-orleans-food-hall/?_r=0

Welcome to A Curious Palate

I'm delighted to introduce A Curious Palate, a blog dedicated to the happy pursuit of good things to eat.  

I will be spending most of the summer at our home in Ogunquit, Maine.  In the spring, with the help of my landscaper, Rachel Wakefield (www.wakefieldfinegardens.com), I expanded the potager from one raised bed to three, in anticipation of fresh summer meals and several weekends of house guests.  There are lots of vegetables -- including an entire bed just for tomatoes -- plus greens and herbs.  This past weekend, the first picks from the garden were inspiration for some delicious dishes, including a cilantro pesto for scallops, basil and oregano for grilled pizzas, and mint for ice cream, which I served with Maialino's olive oil cake and rosé champagne.

THE MAINE POTAGER

THE MAINE POTAGER

FRESHLY PICKED CILANTRO

FRESHLY PICKED CILANTRO

GRILLED SCALLOPS WITH CILANTRO PESTO AND WILTED BEET GREENS

GRILLED SCALLOPS WITH CILANTRO PESTO AND WILTED BEET GREENS

GRILLED PIZZA WITH LOTS OF GARDEN FRESH BASIL

GRILLED PIZZA WITH LOTS OF GARDEN FRESH BASIL

  

HOMEMADE MINT ICE CREAM WITH MAIALINO'S OLIVE OIL CAKE (https://food52.com/recipes/26709-maialino-s-olive-oil-cake)

HOMEMADE MINT ICE CREAM WITH MAIALINO'S OLIVE OIL CAKE (https://food52.com/recipes/26709-maialino-s-olive-oil-cake)