On Christmas Morn’

December 21, 2008

Gingerbread PancakesOur Christmas breakfast tradition included waffles, toasted Panettone with butter, Christmas Stollen, or some combination of the three. Yesterday, with all intentions of making muffins, I came across a recipe I clipped a while ago with Christmas morning in mind. I happened to have all the ingredients–and can’t seem to kick the maple syrup habit–so pancakes it was! Perhaps a new tradition in the making. These cook up super fluffy, so you might just get through a short stack…save the remaining for an afternoon snack.

Gingerbread Pancakes (Bon Appetit)

Makes around 18 pancakes

  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup packed dark brown sugar
  • 1 Tbsp baking powder
  • 1 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1 tsp ground ginger
  • 1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
  • 1/8 tsp ground cloves
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1/2 cup brewed coffee, cold or room temp
  • 4 large eggs
  • 1 stick unsalted butter, melted and cooled
  • 1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
  • Oil for brushing griddle, or cooking spray
  • Pure maple syrup
  1. Whisk together flour, brown sugar, baking powder, baking soda, salt and spices in a bowl. Whisk together water, coffee, eggs, butter, and lemon juice in a large bowl. Add flour mixture and whisk until just combined. Let stand 15 minutes.
  2. Brush or spray a griddle with oil and heat until hot, but not smoking (medium-low heat works well).
  3. Using an ice cream scoop or measuring cup, pour 1/4 cup batter per pancake onto griddle. Cook until bubbles appear on surface and undersides are light brown, 1-2 minutes. Flip cakes and cook 1-2 minutes more.  Transfer to a plate and loosely cover with foil. Repeat with the rest of batter, oiling griddle between batches.
  4. Serve with pure maple syrup

Thai-Curried Squash Soup

December 15, 2008

Sunday evening’s meal involved, once again, a purging of the fridge. This “purging” has become the theme around here since we pinned down a moving date. We are headed to Brooklyn end of January! So icurry_soup_ingredients1n addition to closets and bookshelves, we’re whittling down the contents of the pantry and freezer (Monday night’s Steakhouse theme will feature the bison steaks and chopped spinach defrosting in the fridge).

Back to soup…here’s a shot of the ingredients I had to work with. The squash and apple inspired a simple soup, and curry entered the picture when I discovered we had no onions. This is a mellow Thai curry of onion, chili, lemongrass and turmeric. Fresh garlic and Sriracha sauce (added in later) packed some heat.

Thai-Curried Squash Soup

Serves 2

  • 2 Tbsp olive oil
  • 2 cloves garlic, smashed
  • 2 Tbsp yellow curry paste
  • 1/2 large butternut squash, cubed (about 2 cups)
  • 1 apple, peeled & cubed
  • 2-3 cups chicken broth, as needed
  • 1/2 cup chickpeas
  • 1 tsp Sriracha chili sauce, or to taste
  1. In a 4-qt saucepan, heat the olive oil over low. Add the smashed garlic and let it cook with the oil about 2 min.
  2. Turn the heat up to medium and add the curry paste. Continuously stir until the curry starts to darken, about another 2 minutes.
  3. Add the squash and apple and stir to coat with the curried oil. Add about 2 cups broth, or to cover the cubes. Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer and cook 20 minutes. Give a stir occasionally.
  4. Remove the soup from heat and, using an immersion blender (stick-blender), puree soup. Alternately, allow soup to cool a bit and puree in a blender. Add the chickpeas and chili sauce. Season with salt to taste.

Choice Cocktail for Christmas

December 12, 2008

While Sugar on Snow indulges our inner-child with it’s sticky sweetness, this shaken beauty delivers sweetness while also taking the edge off. As the skilled-bartender trend continues to thrive in the city, I discover that maple syrup is the natural sweetener of choice for mixologists.

The Northwood #2 was created by David Moo, co-owner and head bartender at the Brooklyn bar Quarter, and featured in the November issue of Bon Appetit. It combines fresh-pressed apple cider, maple syrup, and rum.  The perfect Ode to New England, which was actually ripe with rum distilleries in the mid-1700s.


Northwood #2

(Bon Appetit, serves 2)

  • 3 Tbsp gold rum
  • 2 Tbsp brandy
  • 1 1/2 Tbsp apple cider
  • 1 tsp pure maple syrup (preferably Grade B)
  • 3/4 tsp fresh lemon juice
  • Ice cubes
  • 2 thing apple slices

Combine first 5 ingredients in cocktail shaker; fill with ice. Cover and shake vigorously until cold. Strain into 2 coupe glasses. Cut slit in each apple slice and attach to rim of each glass.

Photograph by Craig Cutler

When in Rome…or Fairway

December 11, 2008


Of all the tempting food surrounding me at Fairway market, I choose some boxed pasta. It’s cold and dark by 4pm, and there’s something comforting about the thick & chewy hollow noodle, Perciatelli (or Bucatini).  This pasta is basically overgrown elbow macaroni, but straight & long like spaghetti. And when sauce gets caught inside, it makes for fun slurping.

I grabbed some De Cecco Perciatelli and on the box was a recipe for the Roman, pasta all’amatriciana. This dish lends complex flavors from very few ingredients–tang from tomatoes, sweet from onions, richness from pork, and salt from cheese. Cooks up in under 30 minutes as well. Just add a salad of dressed baby greens to round out the meal.

I had all the ingredients at home aside from the pasta and bacon, or the more traditional guanciale (a cured, unsmoked pig jowl). Good thing my friend at the meat counter, Mr. “I’ll do anything for you,” was eager to split open a pack of slab bacon to give me a 1/4 pound-worth. Thanks meat guy! The guanciale, unfortunately, resides in the deli, which I consider the lion’s den (those upper west side ladies will bite your hand off for their white fish salad). I’ll brave it the next time around.

Perciatelli all’amatriciana (De Cecco), 6-8 servings

  • 1# De Cecco Perciatelli (you can use Bucatini or spaghetti)
  • 1/4# bacon, pancetta or guanciale
  • 3 Tbsp De Cecco extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 3/4# tomatoes (I used (2) 14oz cans Muir Glen peeled tomatoes)
  • 1 cup Pecorino cheese (may need less, add to taste)
  • 1/4 chopped onion
  • Salt & pepper, to taste

Cook the diced bacon & chopped onion in a skillet until brown. Dice the tomatoes and add to the skillet with the salt and pepper. Cook over medium heat for 20 minutes. In the meantime, cook the Perciatelli for 11 minutes in boiling, salted water; drain and place in a serving dish (or you can add to the skillet if there’s room to toss). Toss with the sauce and cheese and serve.

Who knew this pasta recipe was embroiled in controversy! Check out the New York Times article: The Meat of the Matter in a Pasta Debate


Menu: Whole roasted Branzino with fennel 3-ways and broccoli rabe

I shopped for the main ingredients:

  • Whole Branzino, cleaned, about 1 1/4#
  • Whole head fennel
  • Bunch broccoli rabe

And found in the fridge/pantry:

  • lemon
  • orange
  • garlic
  • jar of green olives
  • white wine vinegar
  • extra virgin olive oil

My challenge was to cut way down on the waste. I don’t compost, so looking to eat all parts here, if possible! I used the fennel in several capacities. I stuffed the fish cavity with the fronds, and chopped the remaining for the fennel salad. The stalks became a roasting “rack” for the fish. Then, I very thinly sliced the bulb for the salad.

The whole lemon was sliced, stuffed into the fish’s cavity & placed atop. The orange was segmented for the fennel salad and the remaining membrane squeezed for a citrus vinaigrette. Two garlic cloves were sliced and used to stuff the fish’s cavity & saute with the broccoli rabe.

Post-roasting, the fennel “rack” can be diced and tossed with the sauteed broccoli rabe, and the crisped lemon slices can be used as garnish.

To prepare the meal:

  1. Preheat oven to 425. Place a piece of parchment paper on a sheet pan. Rinse and dry the fish.
  2. Pull the fronds off  the fennel and reserve. Cut the stalks from the bulb. Place the largest stalks on the sheet pan in a row, spaced a few inches apart, as in the photo above.
  3. Season the fish skin and cavity with 1 tsp salt and a few cranks of the pepper mill. Rub all over with olive oil. Stuff the cavity with sliced garlic, sliced lemons and fennel fronds. Transfer fish to fennel “rack” on sheet pan.
  4. Roast in oven for about 25 minutes.
  5. While fish cooks, thinly slice the fennel bulb and place in a medium mixing bowl. To this add orange segments, chopped fennel fronds & sliced olives. Squeeze the remaining orange membrane over the bowl, add a splash of vinegar and a few glugs of olive oil. Season with salt & pepper to taste.
  6. When the fish is ready, fillet and serve with fennel salad*.  Add some baby arugula or salad greens to the remaining vinaigrette in the bowl, toss, and serve alongside.

*I had to refresh my fish-filleting skills with a little internet tutorial. Even then, it was learn as you go. The key is to use a dull butter knife to gently scrape  the fish’s skin from backbone forward. Next, maneuver the knife under the fillet & on top of the bones to remove. If the fillet comes off in 2-3 pieces, so be it! Just check for bones. The fun part is then pulling the entire fish skeleton & head off of the roasting pan to reveal the remaining fillet. It is a Heathcliff moment!

Sugar on Snow

December 8, 2008

Maple Syrup

In honor of the first snowfall of the season that I did not sleep through, I am sharing a recipe for a New England delicacy I first learned of this weekend. You may recall Laura Ingalls indulging in a wintry mix of boiling-hot maple syrup over snow in Little House in the Big Woods (although I certainly did not remember this and thank my friend LBM for the reference). As a loyal fan of maple sugar candy from childhood trips to Vermont, I was surprised to hear of another maple confection with the consistency of sticky taffy.

With a little research behind me, I can tell you that Sugar on Snow is actually a springtime tradition in northern New England and Canada. Hot syrup (225-245 degrees) is poured over snow at sugar houses during the maple syrup harvest. Better yet, there are sugar on snow parties, where the maple taffy is served with fresh donuts, sour dill pickles and coffee.  The pickles and coffee are said to enhance the maple flavor and cut the sweetness. Some even serve a side of maple syrup for donut-dunking. Um, you had me at donuts. And sugar theme party.

Since there was no accumulating snow last night–and city snow likely harbors all things toxic–I was happy to find recipes suggesting food-processed ice as a substitute. Here’s a simple recipe adapted from massmaple.org:

Heat maple syrup to about 2340 F, a candy thermometer is helpful. As soon as the syrup reaches the proper temperature, pour or drizzle immediately, without stirring, over packed snow or shaved ice. Because it cools so rapidly, the supersaturated solution does not have a chance to crystallize. It will form a chewy, taffy-like sheet over the snow. Twirl it up with a fork and enjoy!

The following video offers a glimpse of sugar-on-snow making at a Canadian sugar camp:

Top Ten Food Gifts

December 3, 2008

Thought I’d recommend some of my favorite local spots for food gifting. Sweets and meats included. Nothing like a Larchmont, NY salami in your stocking!

10. Levain Bakery http://www.levainbakery.com

A fantastic cookie, definitely good enough to gift. The aroma from this basement bakery hits you at the corner of 74th & Amsterdam (head east). I used to frequent a little too often, so relieved my clients moved off this block. But I miss the Chocolate Chip Walnut.

9. Donut Plant http://www.doughnutplant.com

This Lower East Side sugar factory does not have mail-order (yet); however, if your office just forfeited bonuses and could use some holiday cheer, pick up a dozen of these gems. Seasonal flavors include Roasted Chestnut and Peanut Butter-Glazed Cranberry Jelly. So much better than a jelly-of-the-month membership!

8. Brewery Ommegang http://www.ommegang.com

A Belgian brewery in Cooperstown, NY, this one ships their Belgian Sampler within NY. I had a chance to tour and taste here this summer and everything is bottled on site. Recommend the Three Philosophers (quadrupel) and the Ommegeddon (made with wild yeast).

7. Moore Brothers Wine http://www.moorebrothersblogs.com

Matt and I love this wine store. They know their producers personally, are extremely helpful, and pack bottles oh so nicely. Most wines hail from France, Italy and Germany, and they ship to 37 states.

6. John and Kira’s Jubilee Chocolates http://www.johnandkiras.com

I first tasted these chocolates at a Slow Food Harvest event in ’03, and have ordered them as gifts ever since. This husband and wife team uses fresh ingredients grown on small family farms. Flavors include schoolyard mint (from a local school garden), lavender honey, and coffee whiskey. Beautiful packaging to boot.

5. Heritage Foods USA http://www.heritagefoodsusa.com

This company promotes “independent family farms, humane production, genetic diversity and traceability.” So if you’re looking for the ultimate Christmas ham, look no further. They sell anything from pork, turkey and bison to hazelnuts and honey. Many of the farms are concentrated in Kansas and the Great Plains.

4. Rick’s Picks http://www.rickspicksnyc.com

These pickled goods include cucumbers (Kool Gherks), green beans (Mean Beans), beets (Phat Beets) and okra (Smokra), all sporting a fashionably-clean label. Gift ideas include a pregnancy, BBQ, and sampler pack. I enjoyed an out-of-this-world Bloody Mary at The Farm on Adderley, garnished with the spicy mean beans. Also an excellent gift for cocktail connoisseurs.

3. Russ and Daughters http://www.russanddaughters.com

Know a homesick New Yorker? This shop sells smoked and cured fish, caviar, bagels, cream cheese and sweets. Many gift packs to choose from. Would make an amazing New Years Day spread.

2. Murray’s Real Salami http://www.murrayscheese.com/real_salami

This meat showroom recently opened at Grand Central and carries products from “small, traditionally-minded producers in the United States.” You can find cooked meats, cured meats and pates to serve alongside the cheese from #1…

1. Murray’s Cheese http://www.Murrayscheese.com

There’s a reason this shop is #1 on my list. They have a cheese cave, for starters. And quite possibly a different cheese for each day of the year. The website offers gift packs arranged by type of milk, country, or region of the U.S. And a cheese-of-the-month option, great for friends or family who like to entertain.