Monday, June 16, 2008

My Gazpacho

I reckon we are overdue for a recipe. Welcome to my Gazpacho…a silky, refreshing, raw and ripe summer moment!


For the Soup…

Fresh Tomatoes
Day old bread
Red (& Orange / Yellow if you can) Bell Peppers
Olive Oil
Red Wine Vinegar

First coarsely chop 3/4 of your tomatoes, onions & bell Peppers and set aside. With the remaining fresh ingredients carefully dice them into small and equal sizes, douse with a touch of red wine vinegar, S&P and refrigerate. Next, cube day old bread, set aside half for your croutons and pour V8 (or choice Tomato / Vegetable drink) over the remainder. Give it a few minutes to soak in.

In batches blend first the soaked bread, a healthy handful of the coarsely chopped ingredients, a single garlic clove, a drizzle of olive oil, S&P, a teaspoon of red wine vinegar and Tobasco sauce to taste. Remove from blender and work the mixture through a fine sieve into a large bowl. Repeat process until you have a smooth(ish) soup base. Taste the mixture. Ask yourself what and if it needs more of? Return the mixture to the blender and even out your flavors according to your and /or your guests palette. Drizzle in Olive Oil as you blend to aerate the soup. Refrigerate the soup for a minimum of 4 hours.

For the Breadcrumbs…

Day old bread, cubed with the crust removed
Unsalted Butter
Chopped Parsley
Crushed or finely chopped Garlic

In a non stick skillet heat the butter until it begins to bubble on a medium low heat. Add the bread crumbs, garlic, and parsley and let it all rest for a minute in the pan, then move em all around until they are golden brown.

To Serve:

Ladle in your soup. Put a heaping spoonful of your nicely diced chilled ingredients and cover with bread crumbs. If you have a particularly good Olive Oil on hand, give it a drizzle for shine!

4 block radius

I always say New York’s culinary offerings are a full spectrum of possibility; that we have the best and worst food, at the most affordable and extravagant prices, in the most central locations to the farthest reaches, in the daintiest portions and grandiose exhibitions of indulgence and of course more gray area than a surrealist B&W short film.

It is no secret that I love fresh produce. I work and shop at the Food Co-op, actively embrace the green market’s seasonal selections and catalog artisanal finds throughout the city, but there is a new “4 block radius” in South Slope that has me overwhelmingly thankful and a little bit jealous of my neighbors’ choice and fittingly…speaks to my “NY as possibility” rhetoric.

First there is Pumpkins Organic Market (1302 8th Ave @ 13th St) a carefully curated, cheekily personable organic market; The McSweeney’s of food if I may! In addition to their bag exchange program, personalized notes, and intimate selections of local produce it is the first store that wholly speaks to food as an all encompassing rustically stylized movement. Often when I am cooking, I stare at my ingredients, amazed by their textural diversity and how each relates to one another, in production, cooking sequence, color, size, shape, smell and relevance to the meal. This poemic love of food is Pumpkin’s most surface asset, but does not outshine the sincere care for sustainable products and a greener life for all.

A beautiful walk (no really!) down 12th street towards 7th ave brings you to Union Market’s second Gourmet outpost in the neighborhood. As much as I have tried, I have found no justifiable reason to hate. Yes, the original’s store’s proximity to the Food Co-op reeks of the dichotomy between new & old and yes their prices can be scandalous, but whoever is sourcing their produce, cuts of meat, prepared food, juices, baked goods, coffee and cheeses has set the bar exponentially high for the neighborhood. In fact, the new store exceeded my expectations. My first outing inspired by Summer Lamb shank, a plate of Proscuitto Cotto (hard to find folks!) and an Heirloom Tomato salad, a perfect summer meal for two!

Although I only documented these two stores, there is more to take note. On 7th ave btwn 12th & 13th street, Mr & Mrs. Lee transcends the Korean Deli template beautifully caring for their produce. This neighborhood secret pre-dates them all! Grab on 15th street is working hard to differentiate themselves, but still stocking a very reputable selection of cheeses as well Jacque Torres Chocolates.

And if if all the fresh produce wasn’t enough to seduce you “post 9th street”, note I have not yet mentioned the Ravioli or imported Burrata at Russo’s or the impressive triage of wine emporiums.

Thursday, June 5, 2008

Corner Bistro

This may be redundant, but regardless of hype, Corner Bistro (331 W 4th St) really does make a damn perfect Burger. This sepia toned, West Village staple is the quintessential late night greasy grub experience.

Piled high, my “Bistro Burger” consisted of Bacon, Cheese, L&T, Pickles, Red Onion, Mayonnaise, Mustard & Ketchup @ $6.75!

Nothing fresh about it.

I don’t care how many nutrition initiatives a fast food company implements to deter hard facts, but I know that getting a “Subway” Hero is NOT an act of “Eating Fresh”. Nor does it correlate with Ice Cubes or giant Slurpees. Resounding WTF!

Is it wrong that…

…on the way to a club, all I could think about was rescuing these perfectly crispy French baguettes from the trash. What happened to making Breadcrumbs?


Off the bat, I knew I couldn’t achieve the “perfect char” which delineates a great individual thin crust pizza. What I could ensure was that the most basic ingredients and principles of a Margharita Pizza I learned in Italy were brought to succulent fruition. Without a Brick Oven or any of the necessary Pizza accoutrements, I set out to source the best ingredients and make the perfect Margharita pizza (minus the just burnt crispy crust). Beginning with the Mozzarella…

A&S Pork Store (274 5TH Ave) makes the best Cow’s Milk (fiore di latte) Mozzarella in all of NYC. There I said it! Tepid, moist, springy, slightly salty with a hint of tang! I set out to document my boy Sal as he made his first batch of the day.

The ingredients:

Dough, Crushed Whole Peeled Canned Tomatoes (not tomato sauce!), Mozzarella, finely grated Parmesano Reggiano, fresh Basil and Extra Virgin Olive Oil. I bought the dough from my favorite neighborhood Italiano Americano Pizzeria, Pino’s. Of course I could have made it, but it was a weeknight and I figured if I let it rise an additional 4 hrs it would reach its moment. I did just that...

Roll out your dough. Spread a thin layer of the crushed Tomatoes atop. Next liberally add torn pieces of the Mozzarella, sprinkle Parmesan, rip 2-3 Basil Leaves and lastly drizzle with the Olive Oil. Finnito. Bake on your highest temp until the ingredients have merged and just begin to bubble, assuming you too are without a brick oven ;( My advice, DON’T overcomplicate. Yes, Pizza is a template and anything is possible, but always have one basic, fresh and simple Margherita in your repertoire.

The result took me momentarily back to 6 months obsessing over Pizza in Bella Italia!

PS: The most avid Wine and Booze enthusiasts in Italy scoff at anything but a classic Coka-Cola to accompany their Pizza. I obliged their wishes from afar with these bitsy glass Coke bottle re-issues.