Friday, October 31, 2008

Holidays are nice

Hey readers. Did you know it's a holiday? If you have a small child or a love of costume parties, you probably know it's Halloween. To me, the best part of any holiday is the food, but since I have shows tonight, I'll have to settle for movies instead. Here's a clip from my favorite Halloween movie.

Back to cooking soon.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Cheese fries and Custard

When you're in New York, one of the nice things you can do is go to Madison Square Park and get burgers and fries at the Shake Shack. Rita, Brian and I did so last May, when the weather was nice (you can read about that here). But now that the weather is cold, I don't want to stand in a long outdoor line, just so that I can eat in the freezing cold park. And that's why they invented the Shake Shack: Upper West Side.

Despite some rumblings on Serious Eats, I found the new Shake Shack just as nice as the original. The food was delicious - I had the chicken hot dog with all the fixings (old habits die hard - I still love my chicken dogs), Rita had the Shack Burger and we split the cheese fries (which normally, I wouldn't pick in fear of gross fake cheese sauce, but theses were amazing - warm and cheesy - real cheese! What a concept) and a pancake custard shake, which was very good. I'm not a fan of real pancakes, but the custard was tasty. Plus, it's indoors! Now that it's moving into the winter months, I'm a big fan of the indoors. Check it out.

Ooh, and if you remember from the original Shake Shack, the lines were out of control - today's line? 5-7 minutes tops. Granted, it was 1:45pm, a little past normal lunch hours, but an improvement nonetheless.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

And to think I was raised by Jewish Vegetarians

Meredith and I have been planning on having lunch at Porchetta for a little while. I don't know how she heard about it, but I read about it here. Basically, it's a no frills pork place - they have pork sandwiches, a pork plate and a few sides. Porchetta (which in Central Italy means a whole boned and roasted pig which is cooked with salt, pepper, garlic, and wild fennel - apparently) has been on our radar, at any rate, and was pushed into focus when the New York Times published this today. We figured we'd better get over there fast before it was mobbed.

The pork was amazing. It was moist, flavorful, tender and delicious. We split the sandwich (on bread from the Sullivan Street Bakery), cooked greens and potatoes and "ends" which had leftover pork cracklings in it. The food was great, we were enjoying immensely, when in walked this guy.

If you don't know who that is, it's Mario Batali, famous chef and Food Network personality. He was dressed in the same outfit I see him wearing on tv all the time - orange clogs and crazy shorts with a little vest. We felt totally cool then. We were at the place that one of the best chefs in the city eats at! Take that, foodies. Lena and Meredith are super cool.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Why would you make a restaurant for only one week?

It's freezing cold in New York and I still can't find my camera cord (though to tell the truth, I haven't been looking that hard). But I still have a blog, so and when Meredith blogs every day, well darn it, I feel guilty for not doing the same. Peer pressure! I should have listened harder in those middle school assemblies.

I was running errands yesterday and stumbled across the Bon App├ętit Supper Club. Sponsored by the magazine and featuring take out food from an array of famous chefs, it has popped up in midtown Manhattan for one week (yes, just one week. I don't really understand why). Meredith and I tried to go on opening day (last Thursday), but it was too crowded and we went to the Burger Joint instead (and it was also crowded. But the food was great).

However, when I went by on Monday, it seemed fairly low key, so I snuck in and ordered the roast beef and arugula sandwich. It had a nice horseradish cream and the bread was nicely salted and baked with rosemary. I liked it.

I also got a little cake made from chocolate, hazelnuts and grapefruit, which sounded weird, but tasted nice. The citrus added a little something different. I want to go back and try some of their other things, but who knows if I'll be in the area again? Stupid one week restaurants. Oh well.

Monday, October 27, 2008

One Borough at a time

Still no camera cord, folks. So I'm going to take this moment to tell you about the super amazing play that I saw that I think you should see too (if you live in the New York Area anyways).

Have you ever heard of Danny Hoch? Chances are, you haven't. I'm still not sure why I have. He's an actor/playwright/director who writes and performs in these really great shows and started the Hip Hop Theater Festival (maybe that's why I've heard of him - I performed in the 1st and 2nd Annual SF Hip Hop Theatre Festivals - believe it or not). I'd seen some of his work on video, but never live before.

His new show, Taking Over, is about the gentrification of Williamsburg (Brooklyn, not colonial). Like his previous shows, Hoch played several different characters who relate to their surroundings in various ways. There's the guy who grew up in the neighborhood who hates the way that it's changing, the girl who just moved in and sells t-shirts on the streets, the developer, the real estate agent, the guy who speaks only Spanish and runs a car service - well the list goes on and on. It's a great slice of the changing neighborhood and Danny Hoch is a great performer. He's got an amazing ear for the rhythm and cadence of people's voices.

I saw the show on the free interborough tour (Danny Hoch is a man of the people - bringing free theatre to those of us who don't live in Manhattan), but the rest of you can see it at the Public Theatre starting November 7th.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Curses, foiled again

Once again, ladies and gentlemen, I have lost my camera cord. I own two of them, to avoid moments such as this, but my messy apartment has foiled me again. Well played, apartment. Well played.

Check this out in the meantime - it's not my cast of Like You Like It (we're sooooo much better) but it'll give you an idea of what's to come.

Monday, October 20, 2008

It all ends up like you like it

So the reason that I've been so busy lately is that I'm in a play that opened on Saturday night! It's called "Like You Like It" which is based, as you might have guessed on Shakespeare's As You Like It, except it's set in a mall in the 1980's - kinda like a John Hughes movie. You can see it at the Gallery Players in Brooklyn on all these dates:

Performance Schedule Extended by popular demand!
Saturday, October 18th at 8 pm - opening night- sold out!
Sunday, October 19th at 3 pm - matinee
Thursday, October 23rd at 8 pm
Friday, October 24th at 8 pm
Saturday, October 25th at 8 pm
Sunday, October 26th at 3 pm - matinee
Thursday, October 30th at 8 pm
Friday, October 31st at 8 pm
Saturday, November 1st at 2 pm - matinee w/author talkback
Saturday, November 1st at 8 pm
Sunday, November 2nd at 3 pm - matinee
Added performances!
Thursday, November 6th at 8 pm
Friday, November 7th at 8 pm
Saturday, November 8th at 2 pm - matinee
Saturday, November 8th at 8 pm
Sunday, November 9th at 3 pm- final performance!

You can read more about it or buy tickets here. You know you want to see it. I play a Goth Girl and have awesomely hilarious hair and makeup. There's singing and dancing. What more do you need to know?

Friday, October 17, 2008

Honey, but no apples

This here is a short one, folks. I'm spending many hours rehearsing in Brooklyn, pretending to be an actress. So I haven't had that much time to cook delicious things. That will change today, but in the meantime while I work on that, here's a picture of one of the lovely desserts I made for Rosh Hashanah (this may be the last Rosh Hashanah posts....we'll see).

Serious Eats suggested these cookies as an alternative to Honey Cake (which I haven't made since the first year - it's kinda boring). They were crumbly, buttery and a tiny bit salty. I really liked them, as did others, especially Matt, who kept stealing them off the cooling rack.

These are Honey Lavender Shortbread cookies (click the link for the recipe). I probably wasn't supposed to bake them until they were golden brown, but they tasted good anyways. So there.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Maybe this will make my dad happy

In case you've missed the sparkling comments by my father lately, here's his comment for my chopped liver entry: another disgusting looking recipe...make something more the lovely challah...enough jewish foods...don't you make anything else?

Always quick to my defense, Meredith wrote this in response: Wow. Don't judge the weird looking food, Mr. Borgen. Just because a food isn't pretty, or is Jewish in origin, doesn't mean it shouldn't get fair and balanced coverage. Power to ugly ethnic foods!!!

Thank you, Meredith. That's why we're such good friends. Despite my appreciation for your comments, sadly, I am out of ugly ethnic food for the moment. So, my dad wins this round as I move onto a Ruth Reichl dish named "Dottie's Spinach." I don't know who Dotty is. Ruth Reichl doesn't either. She said so.

I LOVE spinach. Especially cooked spinach. This is probably subconsciously a reaction to my mother who hates spinach. I just have to be contrary. But I can't help it. Spinach is so amazing. I've made this dish many many times and it always is gone within five minutes. It's not the healthiest way to cook spinach, but you will never receive a single complaint about it. I would bet even my mom would like it.

Dottie's Spinach
2 lbs spinach (or 3 10 oz bags....or as much spinach as you can get a handle on)
2 onions
1 head garlic (you read that right, one HEAD, not clove)
1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
12 ounces cheddar cheese, grated
2 cups fresh bread crumbs
1 stick butter (yeah, a whole stick - this recipe just gets better and better)

1. Wash the spinach well and drain it. Remove the coarse stems - I did this halfway and got tired. Whoops. It was still good. Cook over moderate heat until slight wilted, about one minute. If you have a lot of spinach, you may have to do this is batches.

2. Drain your spinach. When it's cool, squeeze out the excess water (you can use a paper towel if it's sturdy or a clean dish towel if you have one...I never do. Well, sometimes). Chop it if you're not lazy. I've chopped and not chopped - it's good both ways.

3. Melt the butter over moderate heat. Chop the onions (I used my food processor - love it) and cook in the butter until soft, about 8 minutes. Look how pretty it is.

4. Add the garlic and the cayenne pepper and cook until the garlic is soft, about another 2 minutes. See the nice red color? Amazing.

Once I added triple the cayenne pepper by accident. And I used broccoli instead of spinach. It wasn't as good, but Adam still ate it. He's a good eater. That's why he's always invited back. But anyways.

5. Add the spinach, cook for another few minutes.

6. Add the cheese! Oh I love this dish.

7. Add salt and pepper to taste - if you've used an oven proof skillet, you can just top everything with bread crumbs. I used whole wheat ones. You know, to make it healthy. Haha. If your skillet isn't oven proof, put the spinach mixture in a baking dish and top with the bread crumbs then.

8. Heat your oven to 350 degrees and bake until the mixture is golden brown and bubbling, about 20-25 minutes. I forgot to take a picture of the finished dish - and when I remembered, the vultures of Rosh Hashanah had eaten it all. It's that good. Sorry!

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Watch out - we're really Jew-y now

We're coming to one of the ultimate Jew foods, folks: Chopped Liver. You know who loves chopped liver? Partly Jewish boys. I'm not sure why, but as far as I could tell, the only people who truly enjoyed the chopped liver were Adam, Zack and Matt (although I bet Meredith would have liked it. But she wasn't there). My recipe comes once again from Joan Nathan (maybe I should just buy this cookbook - although it's never unavailable at the library). A warning - if you serve it, it will provoke about a bazillion "what am I, chopped liver?" jokes before the evening is over.

Chopped Chicken Liver

1/2 pound chicken livers (I got organic ones from Whole Foods - you really don't want substandard liver)
1/2 cup chopped onion
1/2 cup chopped celery
2 Tbs chicken fat (if you can get it. I couldn't. I used olive oil - but received some complaints from aforementioned partly Jewish boys)
2 hard boiled eggs
salt and pepper

1. Broil the livers lightly and quickly. This is a kosher law thing and could totally be skipped if you're not kosher. Which I'm not. But I did it anyways.

2. Saute livers with onions and celery in the fat of your choice until the onions are golden brown.

3. Place the mixture in a bowl with the eggs. I prechopped the eggs.

4. Then chop it all with a hand chopper like this one.

Or you could use a food processor - which I have, but I wanted everything a little chunkier and less paste-y. Add salt and pepper and serve with crackers. This is not a dish for everyone - but I dug it. Get the chicken fat if you can though. Next year, I will.

Monday, October 13, 2008

The Jewishness continues

Hey there folks. The Jewish food buffet continues with a sweet noodle kugel.

My memories of kugel all center around Christmas (oddly enough). Every year, our old family friends, the Kahn's have a holiday party (holiday means Christmas here in America). There's always tons of amazing food and Vicki (an amazing cook) would make a kugel. I always liked it. I like all her food. I got my recipe a few years back online - it's from Kraft foods, but don't hold that against me. The kugel is still good.

Noodle Kugel - adapted from Kraft Foods

16 oz sour cream
16 oz cottage cheese (you can use low fat)
1 cup sugar
5 eggs
1/2 cup butter, melted (the recipe calls for margarine, but I never use that)
1 Tbs vanilla
1 pkg (12 oz) broad egg noodles, cooked and drained
cinnamon sugar (to taste) - just mix cinnamon and sugar together until it looks pretty

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Crack your eggs directly into a 9x13 baking dish. This way you won't have to clean a bowl later.

2. Beat up your eggs. This didn't really need to be a separate step...but I had a picture.

3. Here come the instruments of artery clogging....whahahah.....

Yeah, this dish isn't good for you. But I only make it once a year. Add them to your eggs and stir.

4. Add the sugar and stir....

Then the butter and vanilla. Try to cool the butter so that it doesn't curdle the eggs.

5. Mix in the noodles.

It looks good already.

6. Sprinkle your cinnamon sugar on top. This will give it some nice color.

7. Bake for 50 minutes to an hour until the center is set. Cool it for about 10 minutes, or chill it and then reheat it right before you eat it.

Friday, October 10, 2008

The Ultimate Challah (according to Joan Nathan)

At some point in my cooking endeavors, I became obsessed with the idea of making everything from scratch. Tomato sauce, ice cream, pie crust, nothing was too big or small for me to attempt. So a few years ago, when I was first embracing my inner Jewish grandmother, I decided to make my own challah. I chose Joan Nathan's Ultimate Challah recipe (she is my Jewish cooking guru) and nervously got to work. It's turned out splendidly every year, even the first time I tried to make it.

Ultimate Challah!

1 Tbs active dry yeast
1 3/4 cups lukewarm water
1/2 - 3/4 cups sugar
1/2 cup vegetable oil
3 large eggs
5 cups bread flour
3 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1 Tbs salt
Poppy or sesame seeds for sprinkling

1. Dissolve the yeast in the warm water. Add the sugar and oil and mix it up with a wooden spoon. I'm not sure why you use a wooden spoon. It's either that metal kills yeast or some kosher law. I can't remember. Beat in 2 of the eggs, then stir in the bread flour, 2 cups of all purpose flour and the salt. Once it's all incorporated (or at least, mostly incorporated, I tend to leave some flour behind accidentally. Oh well. It's never seemed to make a difference), then you can start kneading.

2. To start kneading, you put the dough on a lightly floured surface. You can sprinkle more flour over the top as well. Knead it up good. Do you know how to knead? Meredith can show you how here, or just push the dough away with the heels of your hands and then pull it back. Or just punch it a lot and move it around. That's kind of what I do. Don't tell anybody. Knead for about 10 minutes, or until the dough is smooth. I tend to knead longer because I find it very soothing.

3. Place the dough in a large oiled bowl, cover with plastic wrap and let it rest in a warm place for an hour. I like to put mine in the oven. I turn it on to 150 degrees for a few minutes and then just turn it off. Makes it nice and toasty. After an hour, the dough should have doubled in size. Take it out, punch it down a few times, get your aggressions out and then let it rest again for 30 more minutes.

4. Divide your dough in half. Here's half of my dough.

5. Divide each half into 6 balls.

(hehe - balls. I'm 12 years old)

6. Roll each ball into a long strand and connect them at the top.

7. Braid them! There's a detailed confusing diagram in the Joan Nathan book. Basically, just place them over/under each other and try to keep each side even. Here's mine.

8. Repeat with the other half of the dough. You'll have two loaves. Let the braided loaves rise for another hour. There's a lot of rising. You can use the oven again, or sometimes I take a space heater, turn it up high and point it at the loaves. That works well too.

9. Beat your last egg, brush it over the loaves and sprinkle with seeds. I like poppy seeds. It seems more traditional to me. Plus, Zack hates sesame seeds. Although he doesn't really like poppy seeds either. But I like them, so there.

10. Bake the loaves at 400 degrees for 10 minutes, then lower the temperature to 375 and bake for another 30 minutes. Turn off the oven, but leave the bread in it for another 5 minutes, then cool on a rack and eat.

Yay! I feel really Jewish now.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Not my mother's brisket

For every Rosh Hashanah dinner I've ever thrown (so far, 4), I've made brisket. It has become a weird signature food for me (I mean, what non-religious 25 year old who was raised by vegetarians has a signature brisket dish? I ask you....). People expect it. They love it. It's bizarre.

However, this year, when I went to my bookmark for my recipe, the website had disappeared! What ever would I do? I turned to Joan Nathan's Jewish Holiday Cookbook (which I don't own, but get out of the library every year. I don't think anyone else has ever checked it out), my source for all Jewish Food. There was a recipe in there that I've always wanted to try, and never have, out of loyalty to my old recipe (I'm a big fan of repeating recipes. It's very comforting to me. I also read books over and over again).

My Mother's Brisket - adapted from Joan Nathan (one big inadvertent tweak - you'll see)

2 tsp salt
1 Tbs pepper
3 Tbs brown sugar
1 cup chili sauce
1 1/2 cups white vinegar
1 5 pound brisket
1 cup chopped celery leaves
2 onions, sliced
4 carrots, sliced
2 cups water

1. Mix the salt, pepper, brown sugar, chili sauce and vinegar together. Pour it over the meat. You're supposed to let it sit overnight....but I didn't. Whoops. That was my tweak.

2. Cover the meat/marinade with celery leaves, onions, carrots and water. Make sure the meat is fat side down.

This is where I realized I didn't take a picture of the big piece of meat! Argh. It was so impressive. It's huge! One big five and a half pound piece of flat brisket.....covered in stuff. Oh well.

I tried to push the stuff didn't really work. Oh well.

3. Cover the dish (mine came with a lid - love it) and cook it for nine hours at 200 degrees. I put it in at midnight and when I woke up at 9am, my whole house smelled amazing and the brisket was done. I put it in the fridge and warmed it back up right before people arrived.

It was so easy and delicious. It fell apart in my mouth, kinda like pot roast. I also forgot to take pictures at the end of the process. I am totally failing as a food blogger lately.

But I loved the cooking method! I may change the marinade next year and go back to my old recipe (or what I can remember of it), which had red wine and apricots.....delish. Stay tuned for much better documented posts about challah (from scratch), kugel, chopped liver and much much more.

Monday, October 6, 2008

Sometimes you have to be selfish

Recipes are coming, my dear readers. Rosh Hashanah was a huge success. I've still recovering from the exhaustion of holidays plus rehearsals plus....I don't know, whatever else is going on.

Sometimes, you have to make things just for yourself. Little things that you can enjoy alone. The other day, while prepping my apple tart for Rosh Hashanah, I found myself with a scrap of extra dough and a bit of fruit leftover. Rather than let it go to waste, I threw the fruit in a little ramekin, mixed in a pinch of sugar, flour and a tiny bit of butter and threw the dough over the top. I sprinkled some sugar on it and put it in the oven for 40 minutes at 400 degrees.

Back to feeding the rest of you tomorrow, I promise.

Friday, October 3, 2008

Jewish Housewife, thy name is Lena

I'm prepping my 4th Annual Rosh Hashanah dinner (Rosh Hashanah was earlier this week, but I can't get people to come eat brisket in Queens on weekday nights). I've been prepping, shopping, cleaning and cooking all week and tonight, we eat! To entertain you while I cook, I've put up this video of Fiddler on the Roof. It's got a little twist though....

Yes, it's in Japanese. Miyoko could show it to her kids or something.

I'll post all sorts of recipes soon. L'shana Tova!

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

No cacao beans were harmed in the typing of this post

In response to several snarky comments about veal, I decided to show you all what a humane friend to the environment and food rights I am by ordering some Fair Trade Chocolate for Halloween. I'm supposed to use it for "reverse trick or treating" (where you make your small children trick or treat, then give back a piece of fair trade chocolate and a little note about how bad the chocolate your neighbors just gave you is), but I don't have small children so I'll probably just eat that bad?

I ordered my chocolate here. You can too! It's free except for shipping and handling.