Category Archives: taste

love: best of 2013

A very brief (well, OK, actually kind of long) review of some of the best things that I read, ate, or otherwise consumed this year. I didn’t bother writing down everything we ate in Paris, but yep, pretty much everything we ate in Paris. Happy 2014, Mardi Gras, and graduation, from Fuzzy Red Jesus:
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taste: cold poached salmon & pimm’s

Pimm’s is the taste of a British summer, and any pub will serve it by the jug once the weather heats up. Every end-of-term summer party at Cambridge was a shameless Pimm’s-fest, usually mixed strong and sweet with garden of fruit in it, strawberries, citrus, and herbs. The one non-negotiable, in my book, is cucumber, which brings out the grassiness of the drink, and I like it less sweet now. Since what Americans call lemonade (tart, still, strong) is quite different from its British cousin (sweet, sparkling, weak), and because the minimalist recipe on the back of the bottle calls for it, I made us Pimm’s with a  weak  ginger ale (homemade ginger syrup + sparkling water). With ice, cucumber, and lemon, it was vegetal and refreshing.

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It was a fine accompaniment to cold poached salmon, insanely easy and perfect for a day when you can’t bear to turn a burner on for longer than five minutes. Continue reading

taste: on oysters

Before I met my husband, who basically has a second stomach just for oysters, I’d eaten them once in my life. I might have tried them when I was younger, but I’m pretty sure I’d been overwhelmed by the smell, the texture, and the general all-or-nothing, down-in-one commitment that they took. You can’t nibble the corner of an oyster to see if you like it. The first time I remember eating oysters and enjoying them couldn’t have been more absurd, and perfect. It was at a friend’s extremely fancy Cape Cod wedding, where there was a raw bar and champagne after the ceremony, and what could I do but pretend like I belonged there? As a handsome waiter watched, I did my best impression of a WASP to the manor born, and learned the value of a squeeze of lemon on hand.

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I’ve gone from cautious to obsessive at warp speed. Oysters make anything an occasion, and now, for us, it’s not really an occasion without them. Luckily New York is in the midst of a full-on bivalve infatuation, and there are dollar-oyster happy hours all over the city (and of course, a website devoted to them.) And Astoria, I’m happy to report, is getting a dedicated oyster bar. Mar’s isn’t fully open yet, but it has a raw bar and fabulous cocktails (my friend had a Martinez with Dorothy Parker gin, which she–no martini novice–pronounced perfectly dry and balanced, and I tried the Negrosecco, a dangerously delicious Negroni variation with Prosecco). It made for the most decadent of midweek happy hours, with deep, creamy little west coast oysters and flat, briny east coast ones, served with a house-made horseradish, a deconstructed mignonette (vinegar separate from spices) and lemon. They’re certainly among the best I’ve had.

taste: caesar salad (again)

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I’ve written about Caesar Salad before, but this was my attempt at Bon Appétit’s recent no-messing real version. If you don’t want raw egg and anchovy in your Caesar, well, you’re in the wrong aisle. Pre-packaged mayonnaise is thataway. Since I didn’t have six people to feed, I cut their recipe in half, used regular green lettuce and some thinly shredded red cabbage, some ends of a baguette I had in the freezer (semi-thawed, tossed in oil and fried until they set off the fire alarm), cut the oil down and increased the lemon juice. Oh, and threw some anchovy chunks into the salad, because anchovies are so wrong they’re so, so right. What I’m saying is I played this by ear until I got a smooth dressing that knocked us into next week. It’s strong. It’s really strong.  I won’t venture my own version, because raw eggs and fear, but I urge you to try BA’s.

taste: rhubarb compote

This very quick recipe is for the lady at the farmers’ market last weekend who saw me buying rhubarb and wanted to know how to cook it. I don’t think I steered her too wrong. Rhubarb is another of those fruits (vegetables?) that I *hated* as a kid (hello kale) that are now everywhere, and some of my very favorite things. I know fashion influences what we find attractive, but it’s a bit more disturbing to think that it influences how we taste, although I’m sure it does. I don’t know what it was about rhubarb that I used to hate. Probably the texture, and the slightly cloying smell, or perhaps there was too much or too little sugar in the rhubarb crumble we got at primary school. I loved rhubarb and custard sweets, though (sorry, teeth).

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(See how much prettier things are with the good camera? Man.) As a compote, poached in the simplest way, this has been a lovely breakfast all week (once again inspired by the Paris market, where the stalks were twice the size). Even though the rhubarb stalks from the Socrates farmers’ market were a bit wilted in the afternoon heat, once washed and sliced into one-inch pieces, all streaky green-and-pink, they looked fine and fresh. In a medium pan, I half-covered them with water and sprinkled them with about a quarter cup of sugar, and heated them gently until they did their thing–obligingly collapsing together into a a lovely rosy orange mush. I turn off the heat while there are still a few visible chunks, so this takes about ten to fifteen minutes. I had nothing on hand to jazz them up – orange juice and/or zest, fresh ginger, or strawberries. But chilled and served in glop over plain yoghurt and sprinkled with granola, they don’t need anything else.

explore: new neighborhood eats

Astoria’s never *not* been a great food neighborhood—it tends to be the one thing any New Yorker who’s never been there knows about it. Although things are changing rapidly, as the old Greek places start to close and the influence of All Things Brooklyn makes itself felt, there are still more great places to eat within walking distance than we could reasonably get through in a month of all-out gluttony. What with one thing and another we ended up eating out a lot this holiday, including at two new places.

The Strand Smokehouse opened earlier this year, but we hadn’t made it there before their Fourth of July party yesterday. There was a band playing something appropriately bluesy and down-homey, and there were casks of bourbon and pounds of meat.

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These photos are terrible, I apologize. They’re just phone snapshots, since I still struggle with feeling self-conscious and weird when I take my big camera out to a restaurant, and because I also want to eat and not get rib juice all over my Nikon. But I will be making the effort to up my visual game in these posts.  

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Here’s what we ate, and while the last thing I want to do is delve into any kind of Paula Deen controversy, I think we can all admit that while this is delicious, it is also bananas from a dietary point of view. Meat! Mac and Cheese! Pickles! Biscuits! Bourbon! God bless America–you are all going to die. While we didn’t try the eight varieties of home-infused moonshine (we’re going to wait and enlist Sam in that), we did have a bourbon-mint-chamomile iced tea and a very tart rye Manhattan twist with “hop bitter” and moonshine fruit. I wasn’t 100% sold, but I’d try something else from the list. The space is vast, with a terrace out front, a lovely garden out back, and a cavernous, airy hall between them. Go big or go home. There are huge long wooden tables, and last night there were girls in red, white & blue dresses playing cards and sharing beer from a growler.

Tonight was a little less festive, but just as delicious. Milkflower is what I mean when I say that we’re all Brooklynites now. It’s a new wood-fired pizza place around the corner from us, with a huge floor-to-ceiling window in the front with the name etched on the glass, brick walls and Narragansett lager, locally-sourced veggies and house-made mozzarella and gelato. It hits me where I live.

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I almost didn’t get a picture of it, we ate this special salad so fast: pineapple caprese, with that fabulous chewy house mozzarella, pineapple, tomato and basil in a rich and tangy balsamic dressing. They also have a Hawaiian pizza on the menu. Is pineapple becoming a thing?

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And this was the Brussels Sprout pizza with egg, pepper, and truffle oil. My  dining companion in the appropriately hipsteriffic Lebowski t-shirt wholeheartedly approved its message.

taste: julia child’s clafoutis

So, obviously, since I was just in Paris (I swear, those pictures are coming) I am even more obsessed with French cooking than I was before. I’m trying to master Julia Child’s French omelette recipe, which you can watch on Youtube here. No amount of transcription or description could do it justice; you just have to watch and learn how to swirl and then jerk the pan just so. I sprinkled mine with dill rather than parsley because that’s what I had (my cookbook will  be called That’s Just What I Had in the Fridge: What? It’s Just As Good, And I’m Too Lazy to Go to the Shop)–and it was delicious, although I am still, apparently, too tentative in my wrist action. I shall have to do as JC preaches, and practice with a panful of dried beans.

Anyway, I had no video for this, and was short one egg and a blender, so this is not the glorious puffy clafoutis it should be. More of a claflatis. But it is tart and berry-saturated and I am looking forward to it for breakfast tomorrow:

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Here’s the New York Times recipe that adapts JC, which I followed to the letter except for being short an egg and using a hand whisk instead of a blender. Don’t do either of those things! As usual, I also pulled back a bit on the sugar, so this packs a pretty intense blueberry punch in a chewy, creamy, custardy base.

read & taste: ripe

ripeNigel Slater‘s Ripe is a gorgeous object: a heavyweight, clothbound, coffee-table tome that isn’t so much food porn as gastronomic erotica. There are gorgeous photographs throughout, of apricots poaching in fragrant tea and berries swooning on pillows of cream, of lacy stalks of blossom and rough hunks of pie. Ripe makes a pair with Slater’s previous book, Tender, both focused on the garden and the plate. Tender takes you through the cook’s vegetable patch and here, we’re guided through his orchard – a term he admits is generous for his tiny London backyard.

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taste: key* lime pie

* Featured limes may not actually be Key limes.

Friends, I apologize for a very short and lazy post on this pie, without even a picture of the finished product. But essentially this is a PSA: Key* lime pie is the easiest damn pie in the world to make. It is easy as pie. Really. I used the Pioneer Woman‘s recipe (original here - her pictures are excellent, and I swear mine looked just like that) and it was an excuse to use up some of the glut of limes we’ve had sitting around since the wedding, making me feel guilty every time I open the fridge door and it’s *not* to make margaritas. As for the Key lime/regular lime question, I think there’s already enough sugar in this pie to make tart limes actually preferable. Whisper: I think this might actually be the best [key] lime pie I’ve ever had.

1. Preheat the oven to 350° and dig out a shallow 9in pie plate. Take 18 Graham crackers (we used original Keebler’s) – about 9oz – and crush them mercilessly into submission, either in a food processor (boo!) or in a Ziploc bag using a heavy object and plenty of pent-up aggression (yay!)

2. Put the now thoroughly humiliated crumbs in a bowl and add 1/3 cup sugar, 1/3 cup butter, melted in the microwave, and if you’re feeling frisky, 1/2 tsp cinnamon. Scrunch together with your hands, and then scoop out and press into the pie plate. The crust will be thick – do your best to approximate a pie-crust shape. Pop into the oven for 5 minutes then pull out to cool slightly (a handy windowsill is your friend here.)

3. While the crust is cooking, zest 2 limes (to yield a heaping tablespoon of zest) and squeeze those two, plus 4-6 more limes (to yield 1/2 cup juice). Let the size of your limes be your guide, in this as in all things.

4. Place the lime zest and juice in a bowl, together with 2 egg yolks and 1 14oz can sweetened condensed milk (the can can do double duty as a cracker-crusher.) Stir until well combined.

5. Pour the filling into the prepared crust and put back in the oven for 15 minutes.

6. Let the pie cool to room temperature, then chill in the fridge for at least an hour or two. That’s it! That’s honestly it! How easy is that?

Serve with whipped cream if you’re feeling extra decadent.

taste: platonic form of the summer salad

Corn. Tomatoes. Basil. Peppers. Lime.

This was an adaptation of this Bon Appétit recipe, to which I added the grilled peppers – and, not pictured, a couple of hot Italian sausages. The title is not quite accurate, as I think we can all agree that the actual Platonic form of the summer salad should be prepared outside, on a charcoal grill, on a deck overlooking a sparkling lake. Continue reading