Thursday, January 29, 2009

Watch out, Miss Moy-Borgen

My own personal kryptonite is now being sold in stores. My true, deep dark weakness, the thing that reduces me to a salivating chocolate crazed monkey, is now gracing the shelves of New York drug stores.

That's right, Cadbury mini eggs are now on sale. Aren't they an Easter candy? Isn't it January? When is Easter, anyways? Not for months, I'm sure.

I'm trying to only buy the tiny bags of eggs, not the giant bags......however, at 210 calories for 1.5 oz of chocolate, the tiny bags aren't exactly a pouch of virtuous eating.

I hope I can stay strong until spring.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Sometimes God punishes you

On a whim, I bought non-organic, waaaay non-local, out of season cherries from a fruit stand. Cherries! Clearly, I was just asking for it. Cherries in January, for god's sake. What was I thinking?

I plowed ahead and decided to make a claufuti, which as far as I understood it, is supposed to be like a pancake with cherries in it. Sounds good, right? I used Juila Child's recipe (I figured she wouldn't mind my out of season-ness, she was all about making regular items taste good).

three cups of pitted fresh cherries
1 and 1/4 cup milk
3 eggs
1 Tablespoon vanilla extract
1/8 tsp salt
2/3 cup sifted all purpose flour
1/3 cup sugar (set aside)

You're supposed to take all the ingredients except the sugar and the cherries and blitz in the blender for one minute. I was too lazy to get out my blender, so I just mixed it by hand. In retrospect, I'm pretty sure that this is where the problem was - the batter wasn't well incorporated enough. There's a lot of liquid and not that much flour.....

But undisturbed by this, I plowed on. I poured a little batter into a pie pan, baked it at 350 degrees until a little film set, took it out, dumped the cherries in the pan and sprinkled them with the sugar.

Then I poured in the rest of the batter.

I put it back in the oven for an hour, and it was supposed to puff up and turn brown. It puffed up, but it was wildly uneven and it did not turn brown. I put it back in for another 15 minutes, but I couldn't get it to turn brown. I finally took it out, figuring it would be okay.

It was not. So much egg separated to the top of the claufuti, making it really custardy (or baked egg-y, if we're really calling a spade a spade). I had one piece, but I don't think I want any more. I may force some on Zack later.

Clearly, God is punishing me. It's back to apple crisp and bread pudding until the spring.....

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

God, that's good

In the spirit of the song for which this blog is named, I'm making meat pies! Okay, technically, I'm making Goan Meat Tarts, which are Indian meat pies, as far as I understand it.

I decided to make these to go with all the vegetarian dishes (not everyone wants to abstain from meat all the time). They were nice. They're not the prettiest thing I've ever made, but pastry is hard and this was my first try. They still tasted good.

For the pastry:
2 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1/2 tsp salt
2 Tbs sugar
1/4 tsp baking powder
1 cup vegetable shortening (or lard, if you have it - I didn't)
1 large egg
1 Tbs rice vinegar
2 to 3 Tbs cold water, if needed
1 egg, for an egg wash (at the end, optional)

Combine all the dry ingredients in a bowl and stir to mix well. Cut in the shortening as if you were making a pie or tart crust (like I did here), until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Mix in the egg and the vinegar and pull the dough into a ball. If it doesn't form, add some water. Form the dough into two balls, flatten into disks and wrap in plastic wrap. Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes (I know I don't have any pictures of this. I forgot. Check out my pie crust pictures, and you'll get the idea).

For the Filling:
8 dried red chilies
1 tsp cumin seeds
4 cloves
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1/2 tsp mace (I couldn't find this and I just skipped it)
2 Tbs coconut oil (or peanut/sesame oil, but I had coconut)
1 cup minced shallots
2 Tbs minced ginger
2/3 pound ground beef
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper
2 Tbs rice vinegar
2 tsp sugar

1. Grind all the spices together in your mortar/pestle or spice grinder. Or just get some ground spices, mix them together and call it a day.

2. Heat the oil in a pan over medium heat. Add the shallots/ginger/spices and cook for five minutes, or until the shallots are soft.

3. Add the meat and salt, stirring to break up lumps. Add the pepper, vinegar and sugar. Cook, partially covered, stirring occasionally until the meat changes color.

For the tarts:

Roll out the dough and make little circles for the tarts. I used my Zabar's coffee cup instead of a cookie cutter, because I don't have any cookie cutters.

You're supposed to make 16 circles per disk of dough - I didn't quite get that many. But that's okay.

Put some filling in the center of a dough circle.

Brush some water around the edges, then put another dough circle on top.

Push down the edges and press with a fork, so you get cool little ridges. You're supposed to cut slits in the top, but mine all kinda broke while I was making them, so I figured that counted.

Put them on a baking stone (if you have one, if you don't, just use a cookie sheet), and bake in an oven (preheated to 375 degrees) for 20 minutes or until very golden.

Cool on a rack! That's it. In the words of Mr. Sondheim, "God, that's good! That is de-have-u-licious at the tasty smell such oh my god what's perfect more that pies such flavor God that's good!"

Monday, January 26, 2009

More vegetables for my dad

This one is really good and really easy. It's called Ladies' Fingers Curry (which apparently is what okra translates to in English from Sri Lanka and other places colonized by the English). This was my favorite dish of the night (and Zack's too).

1 Tbs coconut oil or sunflower oil
5 or 6 fresh or frozen curry leaves
1 tsp cumin seeds
1/2 cup chopped shallots
2 green cayenne chilies, thinly sliced
1/2 pound okra, washed, trimmed, cut into 1 inch pieces
1/2 tsp turmeric
1 tsp salt
1/2 cup water
1/2 cup canned or fresh coconut milk

1. Heat a medium heavy pot over medium heat and add the oil. When it's hot, add the curry leaves.

2. Add the cumin, shallots and chilies, cook for one minute, stirring occasionally. Add the okra, turmeric, salt and water.

3. Cover and simmer for 5 to 6 minutes, until the okra is just tender. Add the coconut milk, heat to almost a boil and serve.

It's really good. The okra still has a little bite and the coconut milk is sweet, but not too sweet. Really, the whole dish is great (especially for vegetarians). Just serve it with a little rice.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Everybody loves lentils

So yesterday, I said I would continue with recipes today, and today, I will deliver. I'm starting off simple with Mountain Dal, which is basically yellow lentils.

I decided to make a bunch of vegetable dishes - almost all my favorite Indian dishes are vegetarian, probably because I've spent my life following my dad into kosher vegetarian Indian restaurants. Don't get me wrong, I love my lamb vindaloo and chicken tikka masala, but when it comes right down to it, give me some saag paneer (spinach and cheese) or a vegetable curry and I'm happy.

Mountain Dal

1 cup mung dal, washed and drained (I neither washed nor drained my lentils)
5 to 6 cups water
1/2 tsp tumeric
1 tsp salt
2 to 3 dried red chilis
1 tsp coriander seeds
1/2 tsp cumin seeds
3 cloves
1 inch piece of cinnamon or cassia stick
seeds from 2 green cardamom pods
5 or 6 peppercorns
1 Tbs vegetable or mustard oil
1 cup finely chopped onion

1. Put the dal into a large pot with 5 cups water and tumeric and bring it to a boil. Reduce heat to a simmer and cook partially covered for 30 to 40 minutes, until it's almost mushy. If it gets too thick for your taste, add more water.

2. Use your mortar and pestle to grind all remaining spices (except salt). What's a mortar and pestle?

You could also use a spice/coffee grinder if the mortar/pestle is too labor intensive. Or just use already ground chili powder/pepper/cinnamon, etc (I may have done that for some of the things - my mortar and pestle action is lacking).

3. Heat the oil in a skillet over medium high heat and stir-fry your onion for five minutes.

4. Add your spices and keep cooking for another 1 to 2 minutes.

5. Add to the pot of dal and serve!

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Unemployment leaves a void in my life

I'm currently unemployed. That leaves a lot of time for special self invented projects. I mean, I've got to do something with my days (although the freezing cold makes me never want to leave the house - pair that with no job and you've got quite the homebody - which makes these projects even more necessary). So, when Zack gave me this book for Christmas this year -

I decided to try out some recipes from it. And since it's filled with ingredients that are seldom found outside of India, I went to the next best place: Jackson Heights.

Jackson Heights is a great little neighborhood in Queens. It's filled with amazing restaurants (not just Indian, I've had great Colombian food there), places to buy cheap phone cards, saris, and all that great outer-borough charm that you don't get when you're in Manhattan. I went to the best place for one stop Indian food shopping:

Patel Brothers, 37-27 74th St, Queens, NY. There are rows and rows of Indian products.

Even the frozen food section is all Indian-ed out, so that if you're too lazy to cook your own Indian food, you can just defrost it.

I, however, am not that kind of of lazy. I used my groceries to make all of this:

But that's a story for another day (maybe tomorrow).

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Baby, it's cold outside

Happy Inauguration Day! If you're on the East coast watching the speeches, either outside on the mall or on TV, well then you're probably pretty cold. And what's good when you're cold? That's right, a big bowl of soup.

This recipe was given to me by my Aunt Terry, back around the time I first moved to New York. For many years, this was one of the only things I could make (this, chocolate chip cookies and smoked salmon pasta....that was pretty much it). I've made some minor adjustments to the recipe, but it pretty much stands the same. It's a wonderful filling delicious soup.

Tortilla Soup!

2 onions
2 peppers
1 pkg chicken breast
1 qt chicken stock
1 qt beef stock
1 28 oz can tomatoes (I use the whole ones and then blitz them in the food processor or just smoosh them with my hands, depending on my mood)
Lawry's seasoning salt
chili powder
basil (fresh or dried)

sour cream, chips, shredded cheese, avocado and lime as garnish

1. Dice your onions and pepper. Feel guilty about buying pepper at all in the winter time, as they were grown in Israel. Think that you are a really bad local food enthusiast. But see how pretty the peppers are?

Sigh. You could use any color pepper in the soup. I picked these today because they were pretty.

2. Get a really big pot. Put both the stocks in the pot, along with the onions and peppers. Simmer for about 30 minutes, or until the vegetables are tender.

3. Chop your chicken into bite size pieces. Add it to the pot, along with the tomatoes (if it wasn't winter, you could add fresh tomatoes and that would be excellent. But it's January, so....yeah). Add the spices to your taste. If you like it spicy, add more chili powder, or even some red pepper flakes. I added a few dried chilies instead of any powders, since I had some on hand. Add lots of Lawry's! It may seem low-rent, but it's awesome.

4. Simmer for a while longer, at least until the chicken is cooked through, but longer is better. The longer it cooks, the more the flavors meld together and the better it gets. This soup is ridiculously good the next day.

5. Ladle some in a big bowl and add all the toppings (you can use low fat sour cream if you're all health conscious, or low fat cheese, etc, but you really want to get a little bit of everything in the bowl). Meredith had the brilliant idea of adding a squeeze of lime. That was a nice touch.

Eat! You're going to want seconds. And thirds. I think I ended up having four or five servings of this over two or three days....Zack only got two. Whoops.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

BBQ in Brooklyn?

The problem with living in Queens is that most people I know live in Brooklyn. Now, I love my neighborhood. In fact, it's hard to imagine living anywhere else right now. However, that does not negate the wrenching pull of dread that I feel whenever any of my friends in Brooklyn ask me, "hey, why don't you come over to my house?"

Since I'm a good friend and a nice person, I usually feel a giant wave of guilt for not wanting to cross the interborough lines and suck it up, get in Zack's minivan and drive down the BQE (as opposed to sitting on the subway for over an hour). So when Ana and Sarah asked me to come down to Brooklyn for the opening of a new BBQ restaurant, cheesy dvds and Rock Band 2, I said okay.

So where did we go? Billy Sunday’s (47 Lincoln Rd., between Flatbush and Ocean avenues in Prospect Lefferts Gardens), named after the early 20th century evangelist who was a huge supporter of Prohibition (it's ironic. Because it's Brooklyn). It has the distinct advantage of being around the corner from Ana's apartment. Here's Ana and Sarah, looking happy that I came to Brooklyn (or maybe they're just excited about the beer list that Ana's holding - you can get a half pint, pint or....whatever the next size up from a pint is. Damn. I should write things down more).

It's been serving drinks for a while now, but the food is brand new. They weren't serving the full menu yet, which I was initially annoyed about, but all my annoyance dissipated when they brought out a tray of free food for us. Here's our free chicken and ribs.

They were very good. Disclaimer: I'm from California, which is not exactly a BBQ haven of excellence. But as far as I could tell, this meat was good. It was nice and tender, fell right off the bone, and had a lot of flavor. It came with three sauces that I forgot to take a picture of - a mustard/vinegar type sauce, a more traditional BBQ sauce and my personal favorite (although it freaked Ana out), a berry infused sauce that was a little bit sweet and tangy.

We also got a plate of sides:

I could have had about a billion more of those biscuits. They were buttery and flaky. Other highlights were the breaded mac and cheese, the sweet potato (or maybe butternut squash? yams? I don't know) mash, and collard greens. I also liked the red cabbage coleslaw.

Bottom line - the drinks are good, the food is good and the decor is exactly like you would expect a BBQ place in Brooklyn to look (which to me means lots of wood and booths, but Cartoon Network plays on the TV). I would definitely go back again, even though it's all the way in Brooklyn. And hey, if you're already in Brooklyn, you've got no excuse not to go.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Go see a show. Right now.

Hey, you know how I was yelling at you to go see theater and you were all like "well, I would go, but I never know what to see. Why don't you just tell me what to see?"

Go see this:

Red Terror Squad

Family Bed / A Completely Different Circumstance

Friday & Saturday | January 16-17, 2009 at 8pm
$15 General Admission | $8 Low-Income
Rservations : call 708.832.0018 or visit BAX

ALSO FEATURING : Ivy Baldwin & United Theater Broadcasting Company

The Red Terror Squad is way cool. Plus, Zack has a cameo in the performance. That's right, Zack on stage! When was the last time you saw that? Probably never. If you go on Saturday night, I'll sit next to you (unless you smell bad).

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Get up, get up, do something

I realize that I haven't been writing about theatre much lately. This doesn't mean that I haven't been seeing things - in fact, in the last month I've seen Diving the Estate, Speed the Plow and Equus. I haven't written any reviews because by the time I catch up on my food posts, the shows have closed, or the actors have left or the show will be closing in less than a month. Did that mean I didn't enjoy the shows? No. I enjoyed them very much.

This is a scary time for theatre. Theatres all over the country are closing, and not just podunk little operations, huge regional theaters are shutting down left and right. 13 Broadway shows will close (or have already closed) this month and at least two more are scheduled for next month.

What does this mean? Should we stop going to the theatre? Should we just give up?

No! For god's sake, stop reading this blog and go see a show. Get a cheap ticket (rush tickets are really easy to get now that no one is going to see anything), get an expensive ticket if you can afford it and just go. It doesn't have to be a Broadway show. See something downtown. See something your friends are in. Just see anything (or even better, invest in something theatrical. But if you're reading my blog, you probably don't have that kind of money).

It'll be better than sitting at home thinking about how broke you are, watching reruns on tv. I promise (unless you go see Phantom of the Opera or The Little Mermaid or something....then you may be better off with Top Chef reruns).

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

All dessert, all the time

This is my last French Laundry post. I'm a little bit sad about it. No more reliving the meal through blogging and I'll probably never get to eat there again (at least not for 20 years or so). Oh well. All things must end.

We start with the first dessert course - a buttermilk sorbet with what I believe were candied walnuts (or pecans maybe?) and a sour cherry.

I took a little bite of it before I took the picture. Whoops!

We moved on to the choice of what I think was a yogurt panna cotta and berry sorbet with some kind of snow.....

Or some kind of pumpkin gelato and chocolate hazelnut mousse? I'm bad with desserts. Doesn't this one look like a train?

They both were really good. At this point, I got very sad. I was like "aw man, the meal is over. Boo hoo." And then the waiter set this down in front of me:

An empty silver plate. But why? I was so confused. Then he brought out this:

That's right, three tiers of petit fours! All handmade and delicious! My favorite was the salted caramel (that's very hip right now) and the chocolate eclair was great as well (oh yeah, we ate the whole tray. We don't do things half way). To accompany the over the top petit fours were these:

Chocolate covered caramelized macadamia nuts. Oh man. I'm salivating again. It's a good thing there's chocolate in my house now. Or maybe a bad thing.

At this point, we're like, okay it's really really over. No more meal. And then the waiter brought out these:

Handmade chocolate truffles! Coconut, passion fruit, yogurt, pumpkin and.....I forget the last one. But they all very great. And very shiny.

Then, you're really done. But they bring you little bags of shortbread to take home and eat later!

See the little clothespin next to the cookies? That was holding my napkin together. I stole it. It's in my purse.

Then we paid the bill (and by we, I mean Zack), and said goodbye to the French Laundry. Goodbye, blue door!

And back over the bridge we go.

Zack thought the fog was really cool. I tried to explain to him that this is very common in California, but he liked it a lot, so I took a picture. Oh California. I miss you.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

The story goes on and on and on

Woo! It's time for the meat (Dad, look away). If you haven't been reading, this is part three in my French Laundry luncheon posting - just scroll down a ways to start at the beginning.

We start with a choice of either corned veal tongue or glazed pork belly. Zack and I both wanted the corned veal tongue, but I let Zack have it, since he loves tongue (isn't that bizarre? But he loves it). Plus, this way, I got to have the frog's legs (see below). Here's the corned veal tongue.

It was really good - very thin sliced. It was served over some SpƤtzle (it's kind of like tiny noodles or dumplings) and some fruit puree (I forget what kind of fruit). There was a lot of fruit purees with meat dishes in this meal....I liked it a lot. Here's my pork belly.

It was nice and tender, just felt apart in my mouth. It came with celery, prune puree, and something that tasted like fancy egg salad. It was less exotic than the veal tongue, but I still liked it.

Next came the lamb. It was cooked perfectly. We got a nice little chop (medium rare) and then a wonton filled with lamb shortribs. My mouth is salivating thinking about it. It was served with carrots, onions, almonds and another fruit puree. I wish I could remember what kind....

We're now transitioning away from the meat to the end of the meal with the cheese course! I love cheese. I wish all meals had a cheese course (even breakfast). Although my clothes probably wouldn't like that much. They did the thing again where they bring out the garnishes and then pour the cheese over it. Yum!

Little bits of butternut squash, glazed with something sweet and little crunchy bits, perfectly complimented the tangy cheese. It was a cow's milk cheese, very seasonal. I loved it. Plus it came with awesome purple raisin walnut bread!

At this point, the waiter saw me taking pictures and asked if I would like him to take a picture of Zack and me. He looked confused when I said no.

That's all for today....on to dessert tomorrow.