Thursday, June 30, 2011

A post-lecture celebration dinner

I recently had to give a 45 min lecture in front of the entire department of anesthesiology. It took me 6 weeks to prepare and in the days leading up to the talk, I found myself getting pretty nervous. So it was a big relief when I finally gave the talk. I was in the mood to celebrate in a big way, so I bought some ingredients for a celebratory dinner, invited my brother over, and then spent a few hours cooking up a few things I had a major craving for.

Artichokes were at the top of the list. I found a recipe for stuffed artichokes that seemed promising and watched an instructional video by Melissa Clark that made the task of cleaning artichokes seem really easy. Alas, for whatever reason, I found it extremely difficult to clean out the inner leaves. I felt like the artichoke was beating up my little paring knife. So I abandoned the endeavor and went ahead and just steamed the artichokes - 4 whole artichokes so that no one would feel deprived - and decided to make some fresh aioli for dipping. Heavenly - there is nothing better than having a whole artichoke to yourself, leaves and heart, as an excuse to eat loads of garlicky aioli.

I was also craving crab, so I bought a pound of jumbo lump crab from Citarella (the recipe called for a 1/2 pound for 4 people and I had 1 lb for 3 - did I mention that I didn't want anyone to feel deprived?). I found a simple recipe online for spaghetti with olive oil, garlic, cherry tomatoes, basil, and crab.

We drizzled it with our favorite olive oil, Frantoia, and rounded out the meal with a baby arugula salad, a crispy baguette, and a nice white.

We finished off the night with some mouth-watering watermelon juice that Dave whipped up in the blender.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Cooking at Malouf's Mountain

For our sixth anniversary, we went camping at Malouf's Mountain near Beacon, NY. Mabel likes to refer to it as camping-lite. But we'd had to hike in for 30 minutes to reach the campsite (although they carried our bags on an ATV for us).

We got to do some campfire cooking. Unfortunately, we left the cooler on the train. It contained a large ribeye steak from Florence, lox, and quinoa. But they had some steaks on hand at Malouf's.

Mabel made Rice-A-Roni on our new portable stove. And we had a crisis averted.

We were happy campers.

For breakfast we made bacon, fried egg, and cheese sandwiches on our stove and set out for a day long hike. We didn't bring nearly enough water but we made it through.

We ordered salmon for dinner and cooked it over our campfire. I was out of olive oil so we cooked our spinach with some leftover bacon.

Mabel was really excited about the baked potatoes, which were cooked through!

We had smores for dessert.

Before heading out we made another batch of breakfast sandwiches. Mabel suggested poaching the eggs which was a brilliant idea. Much easier than frying eggs, at least with our stove.

We made a stop by Dia Beacon before heading back to the city.

And had dinner at Penang. It was nice to have someone else do the cooking and cleaning.

We caught them during Malaysian restaurant week and got a nice deal on our meal.

Malouf's Mountain
Beacon, NY 12508

127 W 72nd St (btn Columbus and Broadway)
New York, NY 10023

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

DeGustibus with Gabe Thompson

I was lucky enough to score another set of tickets from Larry and Ellen R. This time the featured chef was Gabe Thompson, chef of dell'anima and L'Artusi - both restaurants in NYC. At this session I realized that Salvatore, the host of these events, has to find chefs who are amiable, articulate and brave enough to cook while bantering with a critical New York City crowd (though the crowd today was pretty tame). I suppose that for the sake of their business, chefs have to get good at promoting their restaurant; Chef Gabe had done DeGustibus events before and therefore was at ease and able to volunteer funny vignettes and observations while demo-ing his cooking (and Salvatore would jump in at the right time with questions and would have him explain what he meant by a particular term or have him talk about his favorite source or ingredient or would help extract tips for the home cook).

But no matter how at ease the chef is, I always get the sense that they would still rather be hanging out in their own restaurants than doing these sorts of events. But I guess that's what happens when you become chef - you have to deal with the public. And for Chef Gabe, I think the endeavor was worth it - I definitely think he won a few new fans for his trouble.

We started off with crudo - fluke with bits of chopped pineapple - a tribute to his old days at Le Bernadin and a refreshing way to start the meal.

Then we had this delicious roasted cherry tomato soup with caramelized onion pecorino crostini. The fact that this was made of not just tomatoes, but cherry tomatoes, and not just any cherry tomaotes, but roasted cherry tomatoes, lended a whole new dimension to the dish. It reminded me of the roasted cherry tomatoes that Dave makes in a sheet pan and that we pile onto baguette slices - one of those dishes that we count as a little luxury; it was those cherry tomatoes transmogrified to soup form - a little tangier and sweeter than the average tomato soup. The crostini, being a generous size, was fun to eat.

Although the soup was a close second, my favorite dish of the night was the roasted asparagus with parmesan sformato and preserved lemon. Okay, so the parmesan sformato was basically a parmesan *cloud* made from milk boiled with parmesan and parmesan rinds for the flavor and then combined with eggs. It was this magically light concoction that went insanely well with the asparagus.

We then had ricotta crespelle with lamb ragu, which ties for second with the soup. They make their own ricotta (sounds pretty easy - good quality milk, add lemon juice, gather the solids and let them drain - voila, ricotta!) and it provides the filling to a folded-over crepe, which is then topped with the lamb ragu - extremely delicious. Oh yes - I don't have a picture because I forgot to take one before I gobbled up the dish.

We finished with a porcini-dust-rubbed chicken with roasted mushrooms and scallions. For dessert, we had a nice rustic strawberry tiramisu, demonstrated by the chef's wife.

And finally, the wines - I really enjoyed the wines - both called centine (the sommelier's jingle was, "Centine, rhymes with 'everyday', because it is wine for everyday"). To my chagrin, the white, which I thought was very clean and crisp, is partially fermented in oak barrels. So much for my theory that I don't like oak. Although going back to the drawing board just means I should go to more tastings!

Monday, June 6, 2011

3 Flights into Campania

Larry and Ellen R. had extra tickets to a DeGustibus event, so Dave, Caroline, Stuart, and I spent an afternoon tasting wines from the Campania region of Italy. It was pretty darn amazing.

First, Anthony Giglio, our tour guide for the afternoon, turned out to be an energetic, knowledgeable and extremely entertaining sommelier; he taught us to "see, swirl, sniff, and savor" our wines. He happened to choose whites that were completely devoid of oak, which was good not only because I think I prefer non-oaky whites, but also because it took out one extra variable in the tasting experience.

Second, the sheer variety of wines to be experienced was mind-boggling. We had three "flights" - a term that I rapidly came to appreciate meant three stages of wine tastings with multiple wines per stage. There is nothing like learning to taste when you have 17 different wines to compare to one another. We had 6 whites, then another 5 whites, then 6 reds to finish off.

Here is Stuart in action.

Dave and I really liked the 2009 Vinosia Malvasia Salento and the 2009 Terredora Falanghina whites. The reds? By the time we got to them, they all tasted great. Yes, it was an option to "see, swirl, sniff, and spit," but what would the fun be in that?

The food was good - very simple; the chef, Barbara Lynch, was a fun and accomplished character herself (she heads a number of restaurants including No. 9 Park in Boston) although she seemed to be having a bad day (she lost her cell phone that morning; the intended dessert fell, which was broadcast to the entire crowd by the moderator and for which she had to scramble to make another dish; and she didn't like that fact that she had to do a pasta making demo in front of Giglio's family, who were all in attendance). We had a grilled caciocavallo cheese (sturdy enough to stand up to grilling) with spiced eggplant and pesto:

We also had some hand-cut pasta with slow roasted cherry tomatoes and olive. Simple and delicious.

There was some extra bread on hand to soak up the wine and then we headed out for Korean barbecue afterwards. I would say that an excellent time was had by all.

Pictures courtesy of Caroline!