Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Fiori di BK

Something pretty amazing just happened. Expect caps and exclamation points to follow. I found / stumbled on Zucchini blossoms on MY OWN BLOCK! To be accurate in my reporting, they were actually up the block from my house in an unmarked, non residential plot. Best to rewind…

2 days prior to this miraculous event I became aware that they were in season. I began a local search for them, first the food co-op, then Pumpkins, then Union Market. No go. Being that it is early in the season, I figured next time I was in Manhattan I would go to the farmer’s market. BUT there would be no need, since they were found, growing happily on MY block in Brooklyn. I looked around (was I a thief??) and began carefully plucking them until I had enough for my meal.

And so it happened, in homage to Eugenia on the farm where I once worked and where I learned their preparation in Southern Italy, I cooked with passion and remembrance.

First, for the antipasto I stuffed the delicate flowers with Provolone & Prosciutto Cotto and deep fried them in beer batter!

A Risotto followed; my single favorite dish from the farm. I transported myself back to that tense kitchen and retraced the steps of this dish acutely. I made the 10 minute Vegetable stock, sweated a conservative amount of diced onions, allowed the white wine time to perfume the base, carefully ladled in the stock, stirred occasionally but never rigorously, added the first half of the blossoms and when ALMOST ready and as the joke goes, “when no one was looking” added butter, parsley, veal stock, Parmesan and the rest of my blossoms.

I accompanied my Risotto with a salad of Radicchio, Mixed Greens, Blue Cheese and oven roasted Mushrooms.

What a day!

Monday, July 21, 2008

Pizza, again!

As you probably know, like many New Yorkers, I am fixated by Pizza. Click here, here, here, here, here and here if you don’t believe me and remember this blog doesn’t account for 28 years of daily intake. So…

Last week I ventured to Arthur Avenue in the Bronx to sample a different borough’s Italian offerings. I wandered the market, sampled Mozzarella, sipped espresso and then landed at Pizzeria Zero Otto Nove.

Although my meal was authentically Napolitano and the Pizza Margarita was excellent, the excursion itself felt frivolous.

Sometimes, your local Pizza joint simply hits the spot! For the second time that same day (not recommended ;), I ate Pizza; this time in my trusty neighborhood at Luigi’s. Our first slice was fresh Mozzarella with Basil oil, which was bright and flavorful! A regular New Yaawk slice followed, familiarly oily orange, cheesy and succulent.

Fact is, as much as I feel adventurous and authenticated by traveling by train and bus to “The Real Little Italy”…there is nothing like home.

Monday, July 14, 2008


Brunch bothers me. Painfully long waits, staff in the “weeds”, bland cocktails, over poaching, recycled ingredients and unjustifiable pricing usually keep me in my own kitchen on weekend mornings. It is the only genre of food that, hands down, Manhattan wins. But this past weekend, I had a brunch of literal perfection @ Belleville in Park Slope, BK.

Ever since they took their basket of croissants off the menu and my sister moved to Westchester I have only rarely returned to Belleville. Although beautifully adorned in inviting brassy bistro décor, I have never been particularly impressed or cared to afford its offerings. Indeed, I unfairly tend to denounce local French fare as rich and pretentious. This Brunch, however, did more than deter my morning hangover, it made me fall back in love with French technique.

The meal began with a black pepper speckled Bloody Mary, bright red, pungent and spicy. All my liquid needs accompanied including strong coffee and Lemony cold Water.

A beautifully plated Pork Pate platter followed ($8.50). At first glance, I questioned its singularity. I tend to expect pate as a tasting exercise in different texture and technique, but how could I possible complain. The mustard was creamily tangy, the cornichon’s crunchy and the mixed greens conservatively dressed. Though not spreadable, the pate left me happily perplexed. Its pink hue, meatiness and form were unequivocally enjoyable. My bistro needs were further realized by the springy basket of bread. I almost forgot how much I love a good baguette.

And then it happened. Those damn eggs followed! Two pillows of perfection; a coagulated shell showcased all the different possible textures of the whites. With a light score of my knife the yolk leaked without drowning the plate, a bright yellow glistening film. To be clear, I never order poached eggs. The balance always seems off as if $12 doesn’t warrant the care. But this dishes excellence was not only in the poaching. As if beautifully seasoned soft spinach swimming in rich hollandaise wasn’t enough, a light, just-melted, cheese rested atop to make sure all of the elements stayed in place. It was as if the melted cheese had been strategically placed to perfect the plate. Heaping forkfuls followed. I loved every bite.

Strangely, the clichéd unhurried and rude French service felt justified.

Wine Spillage

My obsession with photographing even the most peripheral references to food resulted in this ridiculous image of red wine spillage on my once pristine white kicks. It’s the background which actually reveals the hidden reference of the photo. My foot in between these drunk singing girls on the F train. Ha!

The Other Maine

Although my experience in Maine was focused on the farm, the other Main attraction, Lobster and Clam Chowder, seductively loomed. A morning spent in Bar Harbor brought New England Clam Chowder into the fore of my palette and inspired the recipe below…

The way I see it, the best Soups fall into two categories; the throw everything into a pot and walk away (Tuscan style) or the carefully layered, strained, simmered production. My New England clam chowder recipe is def the latter and may be time consuming, but well worth the effort.


2 dozen clams (Cherrystone preferably)
3 Medium Potatoes
2 slices of Bacon
1 large diced Onion
Tabasco sauce
Tomato Paste
1.5 cups ½ & ½
1.5 cups Whole Milk
1.5 cup Water
1.5 cup Dry White Wine
1.5 cup fresh Clam Juice
3 Tablespoons of unsalted Butter
Dry Sherry
Fresh Thyme
1 Bay Leaf
S&P (always)

Clean your clams by first soaking them in cold fresh water for 2o mins. Remove by hand from the water and brush clean. Put your clams in a large stockpot with 1 cup of water and cover for approx 10mins. Once opened, remove clams and let cool. You now have 1.5 cups of clam juice to set aside. Wash your stock put and bring back to the stovetop.

Render strips of Bacon on a low heat. Set aside the bacon to garnish a salad or to rekindle with the soup later. Add butter and the diced onions. On a medium/low heat sauté the onions until tender and transparent. Add the Wine, Clam Juice, Cubed and peeled Potatoes, fresh Thyme and Bay Leaf. Bring to a boil and then simmer until the Potatoes are just cooked, about 20-25 mins. Bring the soup back to a medium boil and simmer again. This time adding your chopped fresh clams, milk, ½ & ½ , Tobasco to taste, Tomato paste, Salt and lot’s of fresh cracked Pepper. Stir in the ingredients and simmer for another 10 mins. Final step, bring the soup back to a medium boil. Turn off the heat and add the dry Sherry. This will beautifully perfume your soup.


Thursday, July 10, 2008


For many, getting Corn from a local stand, Apples picked from their orchards or Lobsters from the nearby shore are everyday occurrences. Despite road trips, beach houses and daylong excursions, the fact remains; I am from Brooklyn NY and not until my trip to Italy had I spent any real amount of time in the dirt, living and breathing what I eat. The week of July 4th brought me to Mandala Farm in Gouldsboro Maine; a rustic, self sustaining, 100 acres of grass fed Animals, organic seasonal produce, Timber Frame cottages and extended families.

Kale, Peas, Basil, Dill, Turnips, Radishes, Mixed Greens, Strawberry’s (to name a few) are carefully tended and divided between local restaurants, the on site general store, for CSA members and the weekly Farmer’s market. The surplus is cooked up by the family and their interns on a rotating cooking schedule.

While the Norwegian Fjords (Horses) are put to work, the Pigs, Chickens, Cows, Sheep and Goats are raised for their fibers and meats. My city vantage gave me a childlike fascination with the animals’ individuality and grace and an important reminder of the lineage of the ingredients I lovingly cook up in my own kitchen back in Brooklyn.

Eating is not the luxury one might assume from an environment ripe with ingredients. It is part of the sustainability and a necessity. Although the Holiday week brought in Lobsters, Smores and Hot Dogs for the kids, the everyday meals were balanced, colorful and heartily prepared for large groups. Vera, the farm’s matriarch, began each day making cheese and yoghurt and prepping hearty bowls of greens, grains and granola!

As dusk descended and blue hues opaqued the landscape we would sit by the fire, gaze towards the stars and share stories, contented that another day yielded the fruits to carry on living.