Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Happy Almost Halloween!

I am a big fan of Halloween. Not so much "grown up" Halloween, where you wear sexy clothes and go to big parties and drink a lot, but "kids" Halloween, where you carve pumpkins and eat a lot of candy. I'm a six year old at heart.

I went to the Farmer's Market this afternoon (the lines are short in the pouring rain) and got a pumpkin. I decided to make roasted pumpkin seeds (or pepitas in Spanish), and after I scooped out all the seeds, I figured, what the hell -

- and I made a tiny Jack-o-lantern. I don't have a front porch like at my old house, so I'm not quite sure what to do with it, but that's okay.

Anyways, on to the seeds. It's super easy. Just scoop them out and put them in a bowl.

Then put them in a colander and rinse them. Pick all the pulp off. This is tedious, but I really like it. I love really repetitive food tasks, like rolling cheese balls or stuffing mushrooms or kneading bread. I find it very soothing.

So, once all the pulp is gone, spread them on a baking sheet. In an ideal world you'd let them dry out over night. But life just isn't like that sometimes. So I poured a little olive oil on them, sprinkled them with Lawry's Seasoning Salt and stuck them in the oven (375 degrees for 15 minutes). Here they are!

Yum. Yay for fall. Go out and have a happy halloween! Oh and in case you're curious, I'm dressing up as Joan Holloway from Mad Men.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

My favorite restaurant in Queens

The problem with learning how to cook is that it makes you not want to go out to eat anymore. "What's the point of going out to eat," you will ask yourself (or your husband will ask you), "when you can make better food at home for less money?" And sometimes the answer is "I can't stand being in my stupid messy house for another second" and then you have to go out just to save your sanity.

When that happens to me these days, I almost always want to go to Vesta. Vesta is a great place that is walking distance from my house (okay, it's kind of a long walk, but I can drive there and there is always parking) and has delicious food that I can actually afford. I like it so much that I rented it out for the rehearsal dinner for my wedding. If that's not a vote of confidence, I don't know what is.

I went there for brunch today with Zack and the in-laws. I forgot to take many pictures, but Joe was so pleased with his soup, I took a picture of it.

It's butternut and acorn squash soup - it was creamy and flavorful. Yum!

What else can I say about it? I've had so many great meals there - fried eggs with asparagus and polenta, pizza with potato, panchetta, apples, arugula and goat cheese, creamy amazing pasta with cauliflower. Plus, you can get a variety of wine by the shot, glass or bottle! It is awesome (I love the blanc de blanc).

I will admit - I've had a few small service issues the last few times I've been there. Today we waited almost 40 minutes for our brunch (but the owner came over and personally apologized for the wait). But I will continue to go back over and over again.

Oh, and order the Baby Jesus cake. You will not be disappointed.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

These brownies might kill you

So, last Friday, I was out with my friend Danny and he mentioned that he wanted to make brownies, but the kind with hard chocolate across the top and a graham cracker crust. Oh, and he didn't want them to be too "cake-y." I didn't really have a recipe in mind, but I wanted to be accommodating (I have a foodie reputation to uphold here) and so I adapted my regular brownie recipe to fit his demands.

And I came up with this:

1 cup graham cracker crumbs (I like to take graham crackers, put them in a sealed plastic bag and whack them with a hammer or a fork or something - or use your hands)
3 Tbs sugar
1/4tsp salt
1/2 stick butter, melted

Editing note: Danny said that there was too much graham cracker mixture - so maybe make 3/4 of a cup of crumbs....and the same amount of butter probably wouldn't kill you.

Combine the ingredients above and press into the bottom of you 9x13 baking dish. Set aside.

1 pkg. (8 squares) BAKER'S Unsweetened Chocolate
1 cup (2 sticks) butter or margarine
5 eggs
3 cups sugar
1 Tbsp. vanilla
1-1/2 cups flour

Melt chocolate and butter in small saucepan on very low heat, stirring constantly. You can also zap it in the microwave. Do it 30 seconds at a time. Take it out and stir the chocolate after each time until it's melted. Cool slightly.

BEAT eggs, sugar and vanilla in large bowl with a hand mixer. Add chocolate mixture; beat on low speed until well blended. Gradually add flour, mixing until well blended after each addition. Spread into greased 13x9-inch baking pan.

Bake for 35 minutes at 375 degrees.

While the brownies cook -

1/2 cup heavy cream
1 cup chocolate chips (I like bittersweet, but milk or semi sweet would be good too).

Another note: I usually use Mexican chocolate here - it is intensely sugary and amazing. But Danny was worried that he wouldn't be able to find it in the Brooklyn supermarket. So I adapted.

Heat the cream over low heat until it's hot but not boiling. Pour on top of the chocolate chips. Let sit for a minute and then stir until it's smooth.

Spread the chocolate/cream mixture over the finished brownies. Put in the fridge until the chocolate hardens. Cut into pieces and serve.

Danny very nicely sent me back the photos that you see and this email:

So I made it tonight and here's what I've figured out --

1) That's a ton of sugar.

2) I think I put too much graham cracker crust in the bottom, or my pan isn't that deep and stuff overflowed a bit

3) I cooked it for 45 minutes and I still don't think it's super done, but I'd rather it be a little undercooked as opposed to overcooked.

4) It's effin' delicious.

I think that's a check in the victory column, don't you?

Sunday, October 18, 2009

What's better than hockey on a Sunday morning?

I'm pretty sure the answer to that is: pancakes.

My hockey game was canceled today, so Zack and I woke up and made pancakes (well, I made them and he played computer games. But he was there). They were easy, delicious and made from things I already had in my fridge. No freakin' Bisquick for me.

Ruth's Pancakes - from the Gourmet Cookbook (RIP Gourmet)

note: I halved the recipe because I didn't have enough butter. This is the original recipe.

1 cup whole milk (oh and I actually used buttermilk because I was out of milk in general - but that worked just fine)
2 large eggs
3 tbsp plus 1/2 teaspoon vegetable oil
1 stick butter, melted and cooled
1 cup flour
4 tsp. baking powder
4 tsp. sugar
1 tsp. salt

Whisk together milk, eggs and t tbsp. vegetable oil in medium bowl, then whisk in butter. Stir together flour, baking powder, sugar and salt in another medium bowl. Whisk in egg mixture until just combined.

Heat a nonstick pan over moderate heat and add 1/2 tsp oil until it's not but not smoking. 1/3 cup batter = one pancake, so slap about three down and flip when bubbles appear on surface (about 2 minutes). Flip and cook for another minute, then serve with maple syrup.

We ate them before I took any pictures. But they were really good. And now I'm not as sad about hockey being canceled. Win-win.

Friday, October 2, 2009

Oh Paris, I am not doing you justice

So, I realize that I did not take enough pictures while I was in Paris - which is weird because I took a few hundred of them! But where are the pictures of crusty fresh baked bread? Of handmade chocolates or stores filled with cheese? These were some of my favorite things in Paris, but I did not take pictures of them.

Sometimes I got embarrassed taking pictures of my food in fancier restaurants. It's hard enough to be the young American girl who doesn't speak French (at ALL) and feels intimidated. But the thought of being the young American taking pictures of everything she eats like some sort of crazy person kind of pushed me over the edge.

Plus, I was on my honeymoon! I was enjoying myself! Reveling in the excitement of my brand new marriage and all that jazz. So I don't have as many pictures as I would like. Bear with me. Use your imagination.

One of my favorite meals in Paris was the picnic that Zack and I had in the gardens at Versailles. They are just beautiful.

We sat in a little enclave with a fountain and benches and feasted on a freshly baked baguette, two kinds of cheese (I would tell you what they were if I knew - the guy at the fromagerie picked them for us. All I know is that one was goat and one was cow) and a half bottle of wine (that we got in a grocery store for a few Euros. It had a screw top, but it was delicious). Look how happy Zack looks.

I'm pretty content as well.

On to the palace at Versailles!

Now that it's really fall in New York, I want to be back in Paris even more. It's cold here! And I can't just eat cheese with gay abandon in my regular life. Oh well.