Thursday, January 24, 2008

What's New?

I had the pleasure of going to Black Mountain Wine Bar for myself last night and really loved it. It has such a charming, low key atmosphere and was a perfect hideaway from the cold. The waitress was extremely knowledgeable about the wines and each glass was delicious. You could really taste and smell the favors in every glass. Sometimes there is nothing better then a glass of red wine on a chilly night.

The place for me to try this year is Blue Hill at Stone Barns
It's not new but would be new to me and I have heard nothing but raves about their tasting menu.

Construction is underway for a new Chocolate Bar location in Cobble Hill (there is already one in the Slope), right next to our favorite cinema. Now we can stock up on gourmet sweets before a matinee!

A couple other updates courtesy of Brownstoner:
Coming Soon: Morton's Steakhouse
333-335 Adams Street, between Tillary and Willoughby Streets, Downtown Brooklyn

Open: The Wine Bar
50 Henry Street at Cranberry Street in Brooklyn Heights
"...The space has had a complete makeover and a full bar has been installed along with a matching liquor license, impressive wine list and a chef formerly of Mario Batali’s Babbo behind the stove." [The Brooklyn Paper]

Edible Brooklyn has a new issue out!


Monday, January 21, 2008

More Soup (and a meatloaf)

Now Playing: Barack Obama's MLK Day speech

I know it seems like all I make is soup these days and frankly, I can't argue with that. This time of year when it is so cold that nobody wants to leave the house, a warm bowl of soup is the perfect remedy. So I made more since it is 14 degrees out! I keep making the roasted tomato soup I posted about so I decided to try a variation, Tomato Balsamic Soup. It is very similar to the process of the other soup but has a broth mixture that you add to the roasting process. You are supposed to add a bit of half and half at the end to make it creamy but I left that part out. I think the next time I would use fresh tomatoes instead of canned ones and maybe add a bit more garlic.

From Cooking Light: Creamy Tomato Balsamic Soup
Cooking the vegetables at the high temperature of 500° caramelizes their natural sugars and deepens their flavor; the liquid poured over them ensures they won't burn. Prepare the soup up to two days ahead; reheat over medium heat before serving.

1 cup less-sodium beef broth, divided
1 tablespoon brown sugar
3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1 tablespoon low-sodium soy sauce
1 cup coarsely chopped onion
5 garlic cloves
2 (28-ounce) cans whole tomatoes, drained
Cooking spray
3/4 cup half-and-half
Cracked black pepper (optional)

Preheat oven to 500°.

Combine 1/2 cup of broth, sugar, vinegar, and soy sauce in a small bowl. Place onion, garlic, and tomatoes in a 13 x 9-inch baking pan coated with cooking spray. Pour broth mixture over tomato mixture. Bake at 500° for 50 minutes or until vegetables are lightly browned.

Place tomato mixture in a blender. Add remaining 1/2 cup broth and half-and-half, and process until smooth. Strain mixture through a sieve into a bowl; discard solids. Garnish with cracked black pepper, if desired.

I also decided to make a meatloaf, my mom makes a great meatloaf and it was a weeknight staple on our mid western dinner table. I tried a variation on the one she makes as hers is a bit more caloric then what I was looking for. I got this recipe from Self magazine. Mix 1/4 pound ground turkey and 1/4 pound lean ground beef with 1/2 cup of oat bran. Add 1/4 cup pureed cannellini beans, 1 egg and 1/8 cup of tomato paste. Toss with 1/2 finely chopped medium onion and 1 chopped garlic clove. Season with salt and pepper. Transfer to a loaf pan and bake at 350 for 50 minutes.


Sunday, January 13, 2008

Lentils with a Twist

Now Playing :: Catpower - Metal Heart (cover version)

We are expecting a winter storm tonight so I decided to settle in and make some soups for the week. I made the standard favorite I have posted about before, Roasted Tomato and Garlic and I decided to try a recipe I saw in the Dining section of the NYT, Red Lentil with Lemon. I omitted the cumin and the cilantro from the recipe which I think would have made it a pretty different tasting version of lentil soup but I am not a big fan of either of those ingredients so I decided to fore go. I also used fat free chicken broth and doubled the recipe, freezing half of it. The soup turned out really delicious, the cayenne and lemon addition to a typical lentil soup made a for a more layered flavor.

Recipe: Red Lentil Soup With Lemon

3 tablespoons olive oil, more for drizzling

1 large onion, chopped

2 garlic cloves, minced

1 tablespoon tomato paste

1 teaspoon ground cumin

1/4 teaspoon kosher salt, more to taste

1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper

Pinch of ground chili powder or cayenne, more to taste

1 quart chicken or vegetable broth

1 cup red lentils

1 large carrot, peeled and diced

Juice of 1/2 lemon, more to taste

3 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro.

1. In a large pot, heat 3 tablespoons oil over high heat until hot and shimmering. Add onion and garlic, and sauté until golden, about 4 minutes.

2. Stir in tomato paste, cumin, salt, black pepper and chili powder or cayenne, and sauté for 2 minutes longer.

3. Add broth, 2 cups water, lentils and carrot. Bring to a simmer, then partially cover pot and turn heat to medium-low. Simmer until lentils are soft, about 30 minutes. Taste and add salt if necessary.

4. Using an immersion or regular blender or a food processor, purée half the soup then add it back to pot. Soup should be somewhat chunky.

5. Reheat soup if necessary, then stir in lemon juice and cilantro. Serve soup drizzled with good olive oil and dusted lightly with chili powder if desired.


Sunday, January 6, 2008

Neighborhood Visits

Now Playing :: Beach House- Devotion

I made two Brooklyn restaurant visits this weekend. Neither are new but both are locals favorites: Joya and Robin Des Bois. Joya is constantly packed on the weekend thanks to their combination of great food, fair prices and fun (although somewhat loud) atmosphere. I ordered the special, spicy noodles with skirt steak and Tom Gha Kai soup to start. The portion was huge and the soup was pretty filling but it was absolutely delicious. I also hit Robin Des Bois which also has a great atmosphere, way more cozy and charming. After a good glass of wine, I ordered the couscous with chicken, it came with a great spicy sauce and I definitely want to try to recreate it at home. Both really viable local standards.



Now Playing :: Born Ruffians- Hummingbird

As part of my 08 health kick off, I have been trying to regularly make soups that I can eat throughout the week. Today I decided to make a butternut squash soup. I used a basic recipe and then added some roasted apples to the blender when I pureed it. Also instead of full fat chicken stock, I used the low sodium, fat free version. It is a hearty and easy soup. I would definitely make it again and using pre cut squash makes it that much easier.

1 butternut squash, peeled
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
Salt and pepper
1 onion, chopped
6 cups chicken stock

Cut squash into 1-inch chunks. In large pot melt butter. Add onion and cook until translucent, about 8 minutes. Add squash and stock. Bring to a simmer and cook until squash is tender. Remove squash chunks with slotted spoon and place in a blender and puree. Return blended squash to pot. Stir and season with nutmeg, salt, and pepper.


Wednesday, January 2, 2008

Fruits of the Holiday Season

Now Playing: Anyone Else But You- Michael Cera and Ellen Page

Last holiday post I promise but I got some great cookbooks for Christmas, found an interesting magazine and want to share one of my current favorite food sites, how can one not share!

My friends and family know how much I appreciate foodie gifts and while this year, I tried to curtail it a bit, I still happily got some great stuff. I got 4 books: the out of print Joy of Baking by Barbara Grunes (of Joy of Cooking fame), it has great old fashioned photos and lots of delicious desserts; 500 Cupcakes by Fergal Connelly and 500 Cookies by Philippa Vanstone, tons of good recipes in here, 1000 to be exact; and possibly my favorite, The Food Snob's Dictionary by David Kamp.

One food site I can't help but visit everyday is TasteSpotting. The layout is simple but site almost acts like an aggregator for other food sites and their recipes. Definitely one to check out on a regular basis as it is updated daily.

Finally, my fellow blogger and my favorite ex pat, FromParisWithLove turned me on to an interesting magazine out of New York that is solely focused on the culture/art of meat, Meat Paper. Although my favorite food culture magazine is still Edible Brooklyn, put together so well and the photography really lovely.


Post Holiday Catch Up

Happy New Year! I have been a bad, bad blogger as of late so in an effort to remedy that I will do my best to play a little catch up and offer a New Year's resolution to be much more consistent in posting! I have been doing a lot of eating before and during the holidays. Baking, cooking and stuffing myself on pigs in a blanket at various parties so I will get on with it...

With the holidays came holiday cookies and lots of them. I made a dining room table of sugar cookies and chocolate chips cookies. I am going to try to branch out in my variety next year but this year I decided to stay traditional. I used the Martha Stewart sugar cookie recipe, hoping that that this would be one woman who would have perfected the sugar cookie but actually it was just okay, pretty standard and slightly too dry and bland for my tastes. Chocolate Chip cookies are best made by the Tollhouse recipe on the back of the package so that's what I did. Never challenge the Tollhouse elf.

I have always wanted to bake a red velvet cake (actually, ever since seeing the groom's armadillo cake in Steel Magnolia). It is one of my favorite cakes but I had an impression that it would be a complicated process but in fact, it was quite easy, really moist and a Christmas hit. It was different from other cakes I have made in that it used almost just as much sugar as flour and had a splash of vinegar in it.

Red Velvet Cake
Vegetable oil for the pans
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon fine salt
1 teaspoon cocoa powder
1 1/2 cups vegetable oil
1 cup buttermilk, at room temperature
2 large eggs, at room temperature
2 tablespoons red food coloring (1 ounce)
1 teaspoon white distilled vinegar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Lightly oil and flour 3 (9 by 1 1/2-inch round) cake pans.In a large bowl, sift together the flour, sugar, baking soda, salt, and cocoa powder. In another large bowl, whisk together the oil, buttermilk, eggs, food coloring, vinegar, and vanilla.
Using a standing mixer, mix the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients until just combined and a smooth batter is formed.
Divide the cake batter evenly among the prepared cake pans. Place the pans in the oven evenly spaced apart. Bake, rotating the pans halfway through the cooking, until the cake pulls away from the side of the pans, and a toothpick inserted in the center of the cakes comes out clean, about 30 minutes.
Remove the cakes from the oven and run a knife around the edges to loosen them from the sides of the pans. One at a time, invert the cakes onto a plate and then re-invert them onto a cooling rack, rounded-sides up. Let cool completely.

Frost the cake. Place 1 layer, rounded-side down, in the middle of a rotating cake stand. Using a palette knife or offset spatula spread some of the cream cheese frosting over the top of the cake. (Spread enough frosting to make a 1/4 to 1/2-inch layer.) Carefully set another layer on top, rounded-side down, and repeat. Top with the remaining layer and cover the entire cake with the remaining frosting (I used cream cheese frosting).

Sweets weren't the only thing I made this season, I also helped my aunt make an amazing beef tenderloin with a mushroom zip sauce. After putting a homemade rub on the meat (a mixture of salt, pepper, garlic powder, rosemary etc), we seared the tenderloin before putting it in the oven for 30-40 minutes. While that was cooking, I took a variety of sliced mushrooms, butter, salt and pepper and some sherry and sauteed it until the mushrooms were thoroughly cooked. It was such an easy recipe but with a good cut of meat, it has a very sophisticated and rich taste.

There was lots more eating but I will spare you the gory details as we turned the page on 2007 and I am trying to cook more healthy dishes. In this effort, I have been on a soup kick. I attempted to make a Greek lemon rice soup that would mirror my favorite back home in Detroit at the Greek diner but mine turned out far too tart and the rice took over the dish. I think I would try another recipe all together that called for less fresh lemon juice and less long grain rice. My current favorite soup is by far also the easiest. You take 10-15 tomatoes (any type) and one large onion, cut them into chucks. Roast with about 15 cloves of garlic (increase or decrease amount according to love of garlic, I like lots of garlic, although in the second batch, I think I might have overdone it) for approx. 40 minutes at 350 with a little bit of olive oil and salt and pepper. Once roasted, puree in a blender and serve. It is so fresh, really healthy and super tasty. You can add a little milk or cream if you want to create a bisque or put a wee bit of parmesan on top.