Tuesday, July 28, 2009

weird dinner

trying to use up stuff I have in my house as I get ready for the move, so I had:

Simon-inspired onion-embedded grass-fed beef burger on brioche with maple-smoked Grafton cheddar and chopped pickled ramps

Claudia Roden-recipe artichoke bottoms and preserved lemon salad with dill

spaghetti squash with garlic and butter


I'm getting tired of my crappy cameraphone pix. maybe I need to take a class on "food photography".

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Motorino

Continuing the delightful summer quest of eating a buttload of good pizza, Priya and I had dinner at Motorino in East Williamsburg.

we chose to sit outside because it was blazing hot indoors (the available table was near the brick oven, too...)--great choice! unfortunately, it meant no pictures because of the darkness.

we got a Caesar salad. it was large and pretty good--it had very spicy mustard mixed into the dressing, which was an original taste; I have mixed a pea-sized bead of Kosciusko or dijon into my Caesar dressing before to help it emulsify, but this was almost wasabi-like. I'm not sure if I would order it again, but I appreciated the unique taste.

we also got two pizzas even though, in retrospect, we could easily have shared one. the pizzas are fairly large--an inch or more bigger than Roberta's--and the crust is excellent, nice and chewy without being doughy, but still pretty crisp.

I got a puglia pizza for $14 (broccolini, sausage, burrata, chopped red chiles, no tomato sauce) and it was lovely, very very creamy with the burrata burst all over it, a little too bitter for Priya (it did taste more broccoli rabe-y than broccolini-y, truthfully). I'd never had burrata on a pizza before and kind of liked it. I preferred Priya's, however: soppresatta ($12) (cooked on, so it's crispy and oily and almost pepperoni-like), mozz di bufala, and tomato sauce.

through a kitchen mix-up, I received my pizza like 10 minutes before Priya, so we were given a free dessert--a huge, tasty piece of tiramisu.

great place, good prices; service was extremely friendly and happy to please, although just a little bit confused. I have no complaints and will definitely be back.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Modern Apizza

stranded in CT for five days watching my parents' ungrateful cat while they're out of the country, I took advantage of my time to eat some food I can't normally get, namely a white clam pizza from Modern Apizza in New Haven.

New Haven pizza is considered the second-best pizza (after New York) in the USA (and hence the world; Italian pizza is good, but falls far below the best of what the US has to offer). The top New Haven pizzerias are Pepe's, Sally's, and Modern; while Modern is a bit less well-known, it's generally thought of as the local favorite out of the three.

I went on a rainy Wednesday night and parked immediately in their lot, there was no line for a table (unlike the hour-plus lines at Pepe's and Sally's), and the apizza was fantastic. Although I kind of wanted a brick-oven cheese-and-tomato-sauce pie, I went with the traditional New Haven standard: a white clam pie with no mozzarella (just grated cheese atop), with lots of littleneck clams, garlic, and lemon. I also had a Caesar salad (which was gigantic) and an Elm City lager (local beer). The whole meal set me back ~$20, and I had half a pizza and half a salad left.


It was, of course, absolutely delicious; it's been many years since I've had real New Haven pizza, and I think I need to make more of an effort to get it more often. Blows away most of the pizza I've had in New York, honestly.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Veloce Pizzeria (& Momofuku's Crack Pie)

buncha teachers + P got together for lunch at Veloce, a new pizza place in the East Village, lured there by the promise of good pizza and a $10 special.

upon arrival, however, we reviewed the special (1 slice + arugula salad + glass of wine) and decided that a single slice would not do (especially since more than one of us were pregnant) and that nobody really wanted wine. So the five of us instead split three pizzas, two margheritas and one arugula, fresh tomato, & fontina pizza.



the pizzas were square, cut into four slices each, and looked and tasted quite good--Priya and I both especially enjoyed the arugula pizza, which surprised me, because the margherita looked so delicious. good sauce, not greasy in the slightest, etc.

unfortunately, the behavior of the waiter--who had seemed so nice--tainted what would otherwise be a "a little expensive but very good" positive review. a couple of us had ordered Cokes to drink, and when I asked him the price, he looked a little annoyed and said, "I don't know, three bucks or something." Later, as we were eating, he came over and pointed to Lauren's glass (which still had more than an inch of soda in it) and said, "A little more?" She said sure, and he whisked away the glass. We discussed if it was free-refills or not, but it seemed pretty clear that it was--he had taken her glass while it was still partially full, and he had asked, "A little more?" not "Another Coke?"

When he came back with her glass full, I said, "Could I get a bit more?" and he nodded and brought it back full.

When the bill came...we had been charged $5.50 each for 2 Cokes ($2.75 per soda). What? I have no problem paying for multiple sodas if I want multiple sodas, except that the waiter clearly made a conscious effort to deceive us--and he didn't appear to have English as a second language or anything that could excuse it. That was really annoying, and we left him a 15% tip (which I felt was a huge punishment, but which probably matched the tips he gets from a lot of people, so I'm not sure our point was made). Scummy, and if it had been a simple misunderstanding I would be fine with it--but it was a purposeful attempt to deceive.

We walked up to Momofuku Milk Bar and Priya and I (finally) tried the crack pie. It was very similar to a shoofly pie (pecan pie without the pecans) but with a much firmer, less jellylike inside, and with a perfect crust. Worth $5? Mmmaybe. Pretty good, though.




Monday, July 13, 2009

Ted's steamed cheeseburgers

En route to New Hampshire for Lisa's wedding, Jenna & Rob & Priya & I decided to stop for dinner at Ted's Steamed Cheeseburgers in my hometown of Meriden, CT. Jenna and I had grown up eating steamed cheeseburgers at parish festivals, local restaurants, after Little League games, whatever... and Priya had heard of them because Kenny Shopsin, a fan, includes them on his menu at Shopsin's.

Ted's is a tiny, run-down little Meriden joint (although it's looking a little more spruced up now that it is reportedly under new ownership). It has almost no menu items except for steamed cheeseburgers and variations on them (for example, a steamed hot dog with cheese, or "cheese fries," which are just home fries topped with steamed cheese). A big metal steam cabinet sits atop the stove, and shelves of removable metal trays contain either white Vermont cheddar cheese or ground beef. Steamed, the extra liquid is poured off, and a tray of gray, grainy beef and a huge blob of melted white cheese is placed in a poppy-seed roll for eating.



We got a few orders of cheese fries and a bunch of steamed cheeseburgers. I like mine with only light accoutrements: ketchup, maybe onions, MAYBE pickles. Jenna puts vegetables on hers, and Rob went for the bacon (which I usually love on cheeseburgers, but I don't think it's the best on a steamer).



Sometimes people absolutely love their first steamed cheeseburger, but often they won't know quite what to make of it. This is because they are approaching it with the wrong mindset. When I gauge how delicious a burger is, I usually pay special attention to the flavor of the medium-rare beef, how juicy it is, etc. A steamed cheeseburger, on the other hand, is not meant to highlight the beef, which is steamed gray (and then the fat is poured off!). The point of a steamed cheeseburger is the cheese, a monstrous white glob of it, puffy and melty. The grainy beef just adds texture and a flavor under the cheese; in fact, you can get just "steamed cheese" on a roll and be perfectly happy with it. (Priya, asking out of academic curiousity, wondered if you could just get a steamed hamburger, and Jenna and I said NO simultaneously, in horror. I mean, you could order it, but it would suck).

I noticed a few little changes in this visit to Ted's: the buns no longer had poppyseeds, and came from plastic bags instead of paper sacks from a baker; there was no longer a picnic-basket-sized block of white cheddar sitting out (health board? who knows), and the cheese even seemed a little less sharp than usual. Still, it was a delicious experience, and one that exposed two new people to the central Connecticut delicacy of steamed cheeseburgers.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Poha

Priya made poha for breakfast! I'd never had it before, but it's a delicious Indian breakfast made of flattened rice, peas, raisins, chiles, onions, urad daal, black mustard seeds, cilantro, etc... spicy and sweet, quick to make... I love it!

all'amatriciana pizza

I tried an experiment the other night: all'amatriciana pizza.

I fried the fat out of some thin pieces of guanciale, removed the meat, and then sauteed onions, fresh-chopped tomatoes, and a little garlic in the fat until it settled into a sauce. Then I stirred the meat back in and salted it.

I used that as the sauce on a simple pizza with fresh mozzarella cheese on top.

I think it was a fantastic idea that I did not execute well; the fresh mozz and sauce leaked wetness all over and the crust didn't turn out so hot.

But I'm going to try it again, because it was actually really good. I have no idea why I haven't seen this on the menu at other pizzerias.


On the side, we steamed/buttered some brussels sprouts--easy and simple and almost as good as the unhealthy ones we usually do (fried in bacon fat and garlic).

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Lamb vindaloo

I got another leg of lamb from the co-op for around $30 and decided to make a butt-load of lamb vindaloo with it, using Julie Sahni's recipe. I'll post the recipe here; I had to more than triple it for the 5+lb lamb leg I used, so that's why the pictures look like there's so much more than the recipe states.

Get about 1.5lb of meat--pork (Goan style), chicken, or lamb.

This will need to marinate for at least 8 hours.


marinade:
1 tsp cumin
1 tsp mustard
1 medium onion, quartered
4 medium cloves garlic
1 tbsp ginger root, fresh
2 tbsp cider vinegar
2 tbsp light vegetable oil
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp ground clove (note: I go pretty light on the clove, usually adding less than 1/4 tsp, because it can get really overwhelming)

Put everything in the food processor and make it into a paste.


Cut the meat into 3/4 inch chunks (no fat, no skin) and put it into a big bowl or Ziploc bag with the marinade. Let it sit for 8-48 hours (I let this sit in the fridge for more like 60 hours, no problem).


for cooking:
1-inch ball tamarind pulp
1/2 cup mustard oil
1 1/2 cups thinly sliced onions
1 1/2 tsp turmeric
1 1/2 tsp red pepper (note: because I use spicy Hungarian paprika, I go a bit light on the red chilly powder and it still comes out blazingly hot. if you are cooking for wimps, reduce the chilly powder or they will pretend it's good but not eat much!)
1 1/2 tsp paprika

When it's time to cook the food, boil 1 1/4 cups of water. add a 1-inch ball of tamarind pulp, smush it around a little, and let it sit for 15 min or more. Make sure the water's brown and cloudy--smush it around more if you have to--and then strain it into a bowl, using a fork to push and scrape all the tamarind water/pulp through the strainer. Throw away the fiber/mass left in the strainer.

Put 1/2 cup of mustard oil in a pan (I like using a Dutch oven; for this huge batch, I used a big Dutch oven AND a big pan). Heat the oil over high heat until it smokes and you can smell pungent mustard, then let it cool back down. (This is to remove the astringent, unpleasant quality of the oil; if you don't have mustard oil, you can use veg oil, and you don't have to heat and cool it first. Note: Mustard oil for sale in America says FOR MASSAGE USE ONLY on it. Ignore it. A billion and a half people in South Asia eat it all the time, and very few of them suffer ill effects, so you are unlikely to.)

When you're all ready to start cooking, lay out the spices next to the stove. Get the marinating meat out. Heat the mustard oil over medium-high heat until it's hot again. Add the onions and fry until they are caramel brown, stirring constantly.


When they look right, dump in the spices and stir for about 15 seconds. Then, add the meat pieces with tongs. DO NOT crowd the pan--if you have a lot of meat, you should've used two pans.


After about 10 minutes of stirring, the meat pieces will be slightly seared and the oil will be separating from the gravy.


Add the tamarind juice, 2 tsp Kosher salt, and the rest of the marinade. Bring it to a boil, partially cover, and lower heat. Cook for about 30 minutes, or until meat pieces are very tender.


I like to add small chunks of potato in the last 15 minutes or so of cooking. You may need to add more salt, so be aware of that before you serve it.

To accompany the vindaloo, I made masoor daal (simple recipe, subbing in preserved lemon for lemon juice in the tadka/chaunk) and Priya made delicious mango lassis, using precious Alphonso mango pulp. We also had a simple cucumber salad and some (poorly cooked) basmati rice.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Garlic scapes pesto

Following a recipe from Simon (his defunct grubnoise foodblog), I used up the rest of my garlic scapes making garlic scapes pesto tonight (yesterday I made garlic scapes/corn chicken soup for poor, sick Priya).




I added a little more basil and oil than Simon recommended, simply because it was a BIT too pungent for me without (the scapes pack a punch!), but in the end the pesto made cheap frozen ravioli into a fit-for-a-king meal.

recipe:

  • 3/4 cup of pine nuts
  • 1 ½ cup of grossly chopped Garlic Scapes, with the flower removed
  • ½ cup of olive oil
  • ½ cup of grossly chopped basil
  • Salt and pepper

Toast the pine nuts in a frying pan for a few minutes over medium heat. Put all the ingredients in a food processor and pulse into oblivion, or rather a paste. Put the in the fridge and use everywhere as in pasta and as condiment for fish or in vegetables like in the little recipe below.

Roberta's fried chicken

Priya and I apartment-hunted all day and then met up with Lauren, Bill, Christa, and Ali (who had been at Bushwick mini golf) for dinner at Roberta's. For the first time, I did not order pizza, but instead tried a new item--fried chicken (with guanciale beans on the side)!


It was EXCELLENT--among the best fried chicken I've had recently, as good as The Redhead's and way better than Walter Foods'. Super-flavorful and salty all the way through, great crispy skin...yum! The beans were also fantastic. Downside: the mayonnaisey coleslaw, which looked like it would have been so good if they'd made it without mayo (notice how I had to push it wayyy to the side on my plate and even then a mayonnaisey trail reached for my beans & chicken). Why so good? Apparently, now Carolyn Banes from the much-missed Pies 'n' Thighs is working at Roberta's now, making the chicken! (I have heard that PnT is FINALLY re-opening at Driggs and South 4th St. very very soon... is she permanently gone from PnT? not sure).

Anyway, I also had a bite of Priya's white-and-green pizza (arugula on a white pizza, essentially) and it fulfilled my pizza craving.


For dessert, we got a couple of strawberry goat-cheesecakes, which were not at all what I was expecting--they were small ramekins topped with a pinkish paste that looked kind of like baby-food strawberries. I was a little skeptical, but the flavor was fantastic--it's rare that a cheesecake actually tastes like cheese, but these did. The rhubarb crumble was a little tart and not quite crispy enough, but still pretty good.


After dinner, we went out back to check out the garden and radio station and saw a beautiful double rainbow arcing over the warehouses of Bushwick.


The only downside was that our waitress (not one of the waitresses we know) was not good--she made a lot of mistakes through sheer indifference, didn't bother correcting them, etc. (For example, Ali asked if it was possible for her to get a substitution for the beans that came with her fried chicken; the waitress said she'd check, finished taking our orders, and disappeared, never to return. Our food arrived and Ali's chicken had no sides at all and the waitress refused to look our way for 15 more minutes). Oh well, Brooklyn customer service.