Sunday, May 31, 2009

sunchokes, nian gao, etc.



nian gao (?) (sliced stir-fried rice cakes with pork), made by my roommate's mother.

sunchokes, made by me (heavily modified the Claudia Roden recipe...I used preserved lemon instead of lemon juice, which gave it an awesome lemony flavor...I also left out half the ingredients and used fresh tomatoes--grape--instead of canned diced)...also, rice with chopped pickled ramps (also made by me).

La Superior

Priya and I wanted to try a new Mexican place and, after narrowing it down to two, flipped a coin and ended up at La Superior, in South Williamsburg.

Sesadillas (pig brain quesadilla), salsa sampler (three bowls each of tomatillo and tomato salsa: raw, fried, and roasted of each), and prickly-pear agua fresca:



Mole enchiladas (of course!):


Torta ahogada (sourdough bread stuffed with pork confit, beans, and hot sauce, served soaking wet in a bowl):


all delicious! the pig brains did have a bit of a "catfood" quality to them, but I liked them; I'm not sure I would make a habit of eating them (I remember that New Yorker article about the weird ailments among pork workers traced to vaporized pig brains), though.

the ahogada was excellent; I'd definitely order it again (especially because it was only 8 bucks). the mole was decent.

chip shop

the cats (girlfriends) were away (or unavailable for various reasons), so the mice (Bill & I) played--namely, watching DVDs of Rod Serling's cheesy 70s horror series "Night Gallery" and playing Bill's "laser chess" set (not really chess, but a board game called "Khet" that requried you to reflect lasers into your opponent's pharoah to win)


and then going out to the Chip Shop in Park Slope for fish & chips.


Bill got the regular ol' cod for $12, and I paid 75 cents extra for plaice (I couldn't really tell the difference, except that my piece of fish seemed a little bigger). We split an order of mushy peas on the side, and also a dessert of deep-fried Twinkie. delicious!

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Memo to myself

started preserving a jar of Meyer lemons to see how it goes.

I have every reason to think they won't turn out as well as regular lemons, but we shall see.

this post is solely so I can look back at it in a few weeks and check the exact date I started the preserving process.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Roberta's in Bushwick

After we cleaned up from the engagement/graduation party, we paid a visit to Roberta's for a dinner that did not involve us cooking anything. We kind of threw individual ordering to the wind and just picked out a bunch of pizzas and ate what suited us off each other's plates.

I was a little disappointed to discover that a handful of pizzas I had been desiring were no longer listed on the menu--for example, the finocchio (roasted fennel) and Da Kine (pineapple, ham, ricotta, and lots of jalapeños). I didn't want to always order my favorite (the guanciale and egg) and I also didn't want to duplicate anyone else's order, so it took a little fretting for me to decide what to get. However, I do love how Roberta's is always changing up its menu based on the season, and in fact we asked for Da Kine and they were more than happy to make it for us off the menu, so... no problems at all, and I got to try a bunch of new stuff!

Da Kine
, with paper-thin sliced pineapple so it doesn't get wet and soaked with sweetness like most Hawaiian pizzas:


Every restaurant worth its salt has to have a ramps dish nowadays, right? Roberta's has The Hawk, a ramp pizza with breadcrumbs, peperoncino oil, parm reg, and ricotta:

(I have to say, I did like the pizza, but I think by leaving the ramps whole they sacrificed taste for looks. Looks amazing, but I think they should've chopped the ramps or something--it was difficult to snip off a bite without pulling off an entire ramp, and the bulbs were not cooked nearly as much as the charred leaves.)

Kristin got the guanciale and egg, thankfully:


And I ended up with a Lupo, with prosciutto cotto (cooked ham), ricotta, spring garlic, and pesto:


We also had an RPS (roasted red peppers and soppressata) and margherita floating around... The bill came to about $20 each including some beers, and I left full and with leftovers!

Monday, May 18, 2009

engagement/graduation potluck picnic party

Priya and I hosted a potluck picnic on Saturday afternoon to celebrate our engagement and her graduation from Columbia; due to the murky skies, we moved it indoors (the Pencil Factory, a nearby bar, had agreed to let us bring over our food and set up camp there in case of rain). In the end it never rained, but whatever, the party was great (and having it at the bar let people get drinks and use nicer bathrooms, so I think some people were even happier we moved it). Although some key friends had to work or were away that weekend, it still turned out lovely.

We made chicken salad (dressed with olive oil, lemon juice, za'atar, shallots, chopped parsley and ramp leaves... NO MAYO!) and Brina brought NO MAYO egg salad with dill and tahini:



We also made curried quinoa salad with fresh mint, pears, cranberries, and almonds, and an orzo salad with tomatoes, yellow peppers, basil, and fresh mozz balls:



We made tamarind khatte chana (sour chickpeas)... In the lower left corner of the picture below is some ramp butter made/brought by the man behind i8ny (he also made the potato salad in the pic, which is next to an endive/avocado salad):



Priya made brownies with nuts, Sara brought brownies with a layer of something crunchy inside (delicious!), and Rachael sent some peanut-butter brownie things along. Sam and Erum's Mexican fruit salad is there on the upper left, and the big bowl at the bottom of the picture contains Katie's delicious cold sesame noodles, of which I had two helpings.

http://www.waxwingslain.com/food/eng3.jpg

There was actually a lot more food, but people kept coming and bringing things for hours, and I didn't get a picture of it all... I do remember awesome cuminy Moroccan carrots and an oil-cured olive tapenade made by Zeke, and an ass-kicking ginger-lemon bundt cake that Rohlfing whipped up. Forgive me if I forgot to mention anything; I loved it all!

http://www.waxwingslain.com/food/eng6.jpg

More pictures at Priya's Flickr (see link on right sidebar of page)

Sunday, May 17, 2009

brunch at Egg--duck hash et al

For a break from cooking food for our engagement/graduation party, Priya and I had brunch at Egg.

I was in the mood for a country-ham biscuit, but they had a temporary special that sounded great, so I had to try it: crispy duck hash and poached eggs.

Shredded duck confit mixed with potatoes, fried until very crispy... It was delicious, very fatty-tasting without any of the chewy blobs of fat you sometimes get with duck. Just the flavor. The poached eggs looked absolutely amazing, but I'm sorry to report that they were hard inside and didn't ooze all over the hash (the best part of getting hash 'n' eggs!). Oh well.

Priya just got a "side" order of the macaroni and cheese for $7; she wanted a side salad of mixed greens, beets, and pecans to go with it ($6) but they wouldn't give it to her because it was on the "after 6 pm" part of the menu. They did agree to give her a side salad of mixed greens and beets for $5--not sure why the addition of pecans could only happen after dusk.

The mac and cheese was good but very different from the last time we got it... This time it was not runny at all, and it had a lot of dry bread crumbs on top. Are they experimenting with various recipes?

Hua Ji pork chop shop: black pepper chicken leg and Thai style rice noodle

I seem to have fallen a little bit out of my making-lunch-every-day rhythm that was sustaining me through most of the year... Oh well, I did use that time to make some headway in my quest to get through Hua Ji's whole menu.

The black pepper chicken leg over rice was more than just a drumstick--it also included the thigh, a sizeable piece of meat and was well worth the $4.50. The "black pepper" part is a dark peppery sauce they pour over the rice and preserved vegetable before they drop the leg on top. It was good, but the flavor of the leg (same marinade as the pork chop, I think?) is good enough alone that I think I'd get it without next time. They were out of the Hong Kong style shark fin soup, unfortunately.


The Thai style rice noodle was fine, but nothing special--the usual suspects of vegetables, ham, etc. stir-fried in a wok and then served up.

Saturday, May 9, 2009

PACE food swap: Wooh's sardines

Big Portuguese sardines, in a simple marinade, with avocado, chives, and onion on a big crusty loaf.

Prado gamely tried to enjoy it, but in the end, Wooh and I divided his share.



Delicious. Two years ago, I thought sardines were weird and gross; I was introduced to them by my friend Gabe, who cracked a can and started eating them on crackers as a snack during an ATTF94 game. I guess I always associated them with either old Polish guys eating them for lunch at the factory, or else maybe cats in cartoons. As I got older and more of my food hang-ups fell away, I started to enjoy them. Lucky I did!


Thursday, May 7, 2009

Tindora

While in Jackson Heights for the Indian buffet on Saturday, I saw a vegetable at Patel Bros. that I'd never seen before, and so I bought a sackful to try.

Tindora only appears briefly in my Julie Sahni Indian cookbooks, in a survey of Indian vegetables at the very beginning of the book. It promises that recipes will follow, and to check the index, but no such recipes are evident. As such, I kind of had to wing it when I made tindora last night.


Tindora look like small cucumbers, but they can't really be eaten raw--the white spongy inside would be gross. Some Internet research informed me that they were spoiled--and possibly poisonous, causing "brain fever" (um, sure)--when they were red inside, and upon cutting them open, I did find several red tindora (bottom of the photo) and threw them away. Frustratingly, they felt and smelled and looked exactly like the good ones on the outside, so I have no idea how people select nonspoiled ones.

No big deal--I only had a few spoiled pods. I cut the remaining pods into quarters (I did some like pickle spears and some into four flat slices, to see which fried up better) and fumbled through a basic Indian-ish method of cooking them. I brown-fried some thin-sliced onions in oil, then added some finely chopped garlic/ginger/chiles; after a few minutes of cooking that, I added some turmeric and coriander, stirred, and added the tindora. Near the end, I added some salt and chopped cilantro. I purposely left the tindora a little crunchy, as per some advice I read online, but I could easily have made them mushy by adding a little water and cooking it off.


They were really good! Not a distinctive flavor, but something fresh and vegetabley, like squash in a way. I'd love to make them again as a side at some point. (P.S.: Although it was more effort, slicing them into four flat, thin slices was better than the quartered spears).

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Fiddleheads & ramps

I had a handful of ramps left over from the pickling that I wanted to use up, and I also had a big bag of fiddleheads I wanted to eat before they blackened. Unfortunately, it was Saturday night, and I didn't want to spend hours cooking; Priya was also bogged down by work on the last paper of her grad school. So I knocked together something quick for myself that turned out delicious.

For the ramps, I figured I'd make a sort of perversion of bucatini all'amatriciana, inspired by the delicious-looking pasta-and-ramps dish over at I8NY. I'd seen a lot of recommendations to saute ramps in bacon fat, but I was worried the bacon would overpower the delicate taste of the ramps...so the milder taste of guanciale seemed a perfect complement. I shaved some pieces of guanciale into a pan and sauted them until they gave up some fat. Then I chopped up the roots of the ramps and added a little chopped garlic and stirred them in the guanciale fat a bit. I threw in a chopped heirloom tomato and splashed in a little bit of white wine. Finally, I folded in the ramp leaves and some pecorino and took the pan off the heat to let the leaves wilt and the cheese melt. Stirred up with some perciatelli (which I can't tell from bucatini), it made a great super-simple entree. The ramp leaves were a welcome addition to the porky taste of the guanciale and the bite of the cheese. Mmm!

For the fiddleheads, I steamed 'em and then dumped a sort of tadka made out of olive oil, garlic, and salt over the whole business. I'd heard from Lena via Priya that fiddleheads could be toxic if improperly cooked, but I've made them several times (and eaten raw dilled, pickled fiddleheads) and never had a problem. Poking around online, I learned that there is indeed an unidentified toxin of some sort that appears to be in raw fiddleheads, so I cooked mine a little more than I would've preferred and didn't think about it again.

brunch at Fada

I'd never been to the French place Fada even though it's like two blocks away from my house, but I tried it for brunch today and it was pretty nice. For $11.95, we got both coffee and juice and a very acceptable croque madame with a perfectly-sunny-side-up egg atop. I thought croque madames should maybe be more fried/grilled, like a grilled cheese sandwich...? This wasn't, but it was still tasty.

Weird service, though. The waitress seemed to not know the procedures. She took away our coffee cups twice when we asked for refills (instead of bringing a pot over); then, later, a completely separate woman came by with a coffeepot and refilled us. She also didn't realize that our giving her $20 bills and asking for change meant we needed 1s, 5s, and 10s, not the 20s back. Still, she was nice and effective.

Hua Ji pork chop shop (ground pork)

Continuing my quest to eat my way through the menu at Hua Ji, the pork chop shop near my school, I went there last week and got marinated ground pork over rice ($4.50) with a side of fried pork dumplings ($2.50 for 8).

The dumplings, first of all, were small and subpar; they reminded me unpleasantly of deep-fried pierogies (which they do all too often at restaurants, because it's easier; I prefer pan-fried pierogi). They tasted fine, but didn't match Prosperity or any of the other nearby dumpling shops (which also have much better deals: 5 huge dumplings for $1).


The marinated ground pork was fantastic, though. It wasn't just ground pork, but also lots of chunks of fat-ribboned pork belly, cubes of tofu, and Chinese vegetables. The pork belly alone would bump its price to $12 on fancypants menus. It had a great flavor, and with the rice, was a very satisfying lunch. Would definitely recommend and order again.

Delhi Heights Indian buffet in Jackson Heights

After several months of trying to make a trip to Jackson Heights for an Indian buffet lunch happen, we finally bit the bullet and made the trek on Saturday. Prowling around for a new (non-Jackson Diner) place, we hit upon Delhi Heights, which we'd seen and wondered about a few months ago when it was brand-new. Despite its Indo-Chinese tendencies (a fact which Priya and her dad groaned about), it seemed like it had a good vegetarian selection and many online reviews saying it was better than Jackson Diner, so we figured we'd try it out.

We arrived around noon, and all the food looked very fresh (the plus of arriving early, I suppose). They took our naan order (options: buttered, or not?) and we dug in.

The buffet was nicely extensive, with chicken makhani, tandoori chicken, goat curry, chana masala, vegetable pakora, dal makhani (they called it "Dal Delhi Heights"), THREE types of cauliflower (including a Chinese-style "chili cauliflower"--the only Chinese dish on the buffet, we were happy to note), chicken biriyani, vegetable paneer, and some warm gulab jamun for dessert.

The food was delicious; I can't complain about any of the dishes I ate. The naan was fresh and tasty, and they gave us a ton right off (and tried to push more onto us later); some places are stingy and roll their eyes if you keep asking for more. I think the buffet lacked some deep greens (most buffets have palak or saag paneer... not this one), but I was extremely happy with our choice. And for $9.95 apiece, it was $2 cheaper than Jackson Diner (granted, Jackson Diner has a dosa station, but still).

After we ate, we shopped at Patel Bros. (for some reason, they didn't have the Haldiram's brand of dal biji I wanted, and neither did the other big market around the corner) and got some frozen paratha, ghee, vegetables, etc. Unfortunately, they were out of the crates of Alphonso mangos that we'd been planning to buy. We almost bought a box of Haitian mangos instead, hoping it might cool our mango fever, but Priya's mom advised against it, saying we should wait and see if another shipment of Alphonsos would arrive.

We checked out one more buffet place as we left, maybe for next time: Mehfil, a couple of blocks further away. It was only $8.95 and didn't look as shiny-new and fancy as Delhi Heights, but the food looked pretty good, and they had an even larger vegetarian selection--maybe 3/4ths of the whole buffet. Nice! I'd like to try that place next time, perhaps... but I also want to come back to Delhi Heights.

I was so hungry I forgot to take pix. Whoops.

Arturo's pizza

Quick pre-movie (Treeless Mountain) dinner: Arturo's pizza, coal-fired oven.

Broccoli rabe:

Basil:

The broccoli rabe was great, and I wanted to like it more...but everyone agreed that the simple basil was outstanding. It really let the sweet flavor of the tomato sauce stand out.

Egg (for dinner)

On Friday night Priya and I both had a great deal of work to do, but we took a quick break for dinner at Egg (the fantastic Southern brunch place right near my apartment); ever since they expanded their hours/menu to include non-brunch things, we had been wanting to check it out.

We were trepidatious about the wait and price; brunch at Egg could be an hourlong wait or more, and perhaps they would be jacking up their (generally reasonable) brunchtime prices for the dinner market? And we were both drowning in work, enough so that we had had to bow out of other commitments, so did we have time to wait? We didn't have to worry, though--9pm on a Friday night and the place was empty--only three tables full! (The rain might've had something to do with that). Also, the prices seemed pretty reasonable. Nice!

For $12, I got a Brunswick stew, a vaguely spicy stew of pork, chicken, lima beans, corn, and tomatoes served over a big chunk of cornbread. It was great, just what I was looking for, perfectly tender meats falling apart... the only thing that was a bit discomfiting was the realization (as I was finishing) that it was not very different from one of those disgusting-looking KFC Famous Bowl things. Of course the Egg food items were all of a much higher quality, but the idea of some fat American piling everything he wants to eat in a single bowl and drowning it in gravy and shoveling it in...well, that was me, I guess.

Priya's fried chicken sandwich was $9 and also very delicious. I thought it was a bit dry and needed a condiment, but of course that was because Priya had thoughtfully asked for no mayonnaise to accomodate me. I'd have added some avocado, or hummus, or barbecue sauce or sriracha or something else.

We also got a side order of mac and cheese, which looked a littly runny at first but quickly solidified--it had just arrived super-hot. It grew on me after a few bites, enough so that I might order it just as an entree if I wanted a light meal--very sharp cheese, scallions chopped into it, and possibly a bit of spiciness worked in as well.

No pix due to the poor lighting.

Despaña

I got caught up in one of the 10th-grade team's lunch trips and ended up at a Soho restaurant I hadn't been before: the Spanish (Spain-Spanish) deli Despaña.

The sandwiches were a little pricey (around $8-9 each; one, with Iberico ham, was $25!) but were very delicious. I got the Quijote, which was lomo embuchado (dry-cured pork loin) and Manchego cheese with quince marmalade. The deli had a lot of great-looking Spanish foods, but everything was a little bit more than I would like to pay. Absolutely delicious sandwich, though.

PACE food swap: Gurian's clams and linguini


Tomatoes, spinach, garlic, and clams made for a very simple, very satisfying lunch.

Friday, May 1, 2009

Pickled ramps

After dinner out and the movie Treeless Mountain, Priya and I came home and pickled some ramps before we went to bed. I had been ecstatic to find ramps at the Park Slope Food Co-op (finally) earlier in the week, and at $9/lb they weren't expensive (I think they've gone for as much as $20/lb at Whole Foodsy type places). I bought almost the whole bag that was left (about a pound). Since they're only available 4-6 weeks per year, who knows if the Co-op would be getting any more? (For more details about ramps, check the I8NY food blog's writeup here)



To test 'em out the night I bought them, I plucked a few out, cleaned them well, chopped them fine, and mixed them into rice with soy sauce and leftover bulgogi. Excellent, very tender, very mild (not overly pungent, like garlic scapes can be sometimes)...mm!



For pickling, we used David Chang's pickled ramps recipe, with Japanese 7-spice powder and rice vinegar. I cleaned the ramps while Priya boiled up the brine.

It was a pretty easy process, and I wish these things were available year-round...

Food swap again: Prado's pot roast

Prado broke out the ol' slow cooker and made some pot roast for the food swap. Pretty welcome hot lunch, I have to say!


I don't think I'd have added corn or tomatoes to my own pot roast, but they were great, so maybe I should in the future. Maybe this is the Texan in him trumping my Yankee-style pot roast.