Return to NYC for Two Days of Food Exploration

Having grown up in New York City, I’ve always been comfortable going back there for several days to enjoy the diversity and treasures of the Big Apple. One or two trips a year — just for food, wine, and friends — has been typical for the past 15 years. The pandemic stopped all that, much to my disappointment. Finally, this year I decided to make a short visit. I was able to find a great Airbnb apartment in the Gramercy area, on Park Avenue South. It was a perfect location as a base for the areas I wanted to explore.

Usually, I’d prefer to make the trip for 3 or 4 days, and could enjoy meals with a few close friends. This time I had only two days available (since I wanted to get back home for my grandson’s cello performance in the students’ string ensemble at his music school). Furthermore, my top two dining companions were not available; one was in Italy, and the other was recovering from surgery.

Nonetheless, it was a successful trip. Here are the main highlights:

  • Union Square Greenmarket — excellent farmers’ market
  • Eataly Vino — featuring a huge selection of Italian wines
  • a Negroni at the bar in Gramercy Tavern, one of my favorite haunts
  • an excellent dinner at Via Carota in the Village
  • good lunch at Ci Siamo
  • walked three miles a day

Artisan Products at the Greenmarket

Negroni at Gramercy Tavern

Via Carota

Ci Siamo

Buon Appetito!

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Snow is the Topic, Not Food

In a departure from our usual programming, I thought is would be fun to feature the remarkable snow scenes we have had in the past few weeks. Living in Central Massachusetts for 51 years, we’ve become accustomed to substantial snowstorms in winter. In fact, not that long ago, the annual snowfall in this area used to average about 10 feet. Global warming has whittled that average down quite a bit, but heavy, wet snows have dusted our landscape this month with regularity.

One of those storms — just a week ago — managed to knock out power and internet to more than half of our town for about 24 hours, That means that most of our homes had no heat, water, telephone service (except for those with a wired landline), or internet service. Even cell phones are unusable in some areas (like our house).

Fortunately, one can still take photos (click on each photo in the gallery to see the full picture)…..

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Risotto Wednesday, Lasagna Roll-Ups Thursday

We are blessed with so many ways to make wonderful pasta and rice dishes! Here are just two most recent examples.

Leeks and Scallop Risotto with Saffron

Since I accidentally managed to have two open packages of Carnaroli rice, I decided to make risotto for Wednesday’s dinner. I found an attractive recipe featuring leeks and cream in the book, Risotto, by Judith Barrett and Norma Wasserman. Since I had just been to the fish market that day, I decided to jazz up the dish with a small amount of Martha’s Vineyard bay scallops and some saffron for color and flavor. It worked out very well.

Part of the success (and challenge) was the question of what to use for the broth. We have only a limited amount of vegetable stock in the freezer at the moment, so I ad-libbed by concocting my own broth from various vegetable discards, including the more green portions trimmed from the leeks, tops and fronds from a fennel bulb, celery stalk, and cremini mushrooms. After simmering it all in 8 cups of water for 45 minutes and straining, I was ready to make risotto.

Lasagna Roll-Ups

The next night was my wife’s turn. She cooked a package of lasagna noodles and used them to wrap up sautéed onions, fresh Swiss Chard and Spinach plus Almond Milk Ricotta and Feta cheese. Then she placed the roll-ups in a baking pan, topped them all with Lucini tomato sauce, and layered Provolone cheese to melt over everything. She baked it in a 350 °F. oven for almost an hour. Perfect!

It was awfully hard waiting for the pasta to cool down enough to take a bite without burning my mouth!

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Sourdough Again, with a Slight Adjustment

Now that I seem to have my sourdough starter and dough development technique under control, I decided to try a small variation on my basic Tartine Bread Country Loaf. The normal recipe calls for 900 grams of Bread Flour and 100 grams of freshly-milled Whole Wheat. This time (January 9), I adjusted the flours (weights in grams):

  • Bread Flour – 850
  • Whole Wheat – 100
  • Freshly-milled Rye – 50

It seems like a minor change, but it seemed to enhance the flavor a bit, so I was happy. It made three loaves — 2 boules and 1 batard. The oven was just big enough to do all three together.

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Vegetarian Dinner

We were very much in the mood for vegetables one night, so I explored the refrigerator and came up with an attractive and healthful dinner. No recipes this time, just taking each vegetable and cooking it in a way that highlights its best qualities.

First, we had a small beet salad — sliced beets, beet greens, pistachios, goat cheese, onion confit, plum tomato fillets, white bean purée, and a splash each of olive oil and red wine vinegar.

Next was the big vegetable platter — a real colorful one from Deruta, Italy. It featured steamed asparagus with sautéed shallots, oven-roasted onions, steamed green beans with sautéed sliced almonds, and one Greek dish — zucchini sliced lengthwise and topped with feta cheese, plum tomato slices, and then broiled. It’s a good thing someone invented color photography; this would be nowhere near as exciting in B&W.

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Prosciutto-Wrapped Sole Fillets

We had some uncooked fresh sole fillets from a recent dinner, so I decided to make a simple, quick lunch by wrapping them in prosciutto and sautéing them in a nonstick pan. This time I substituted Swiss Chard for Arugula, with no loss of quality. For a grand total of eight minutes prep and cooking, it was a very high return on investment.

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Buttery Pasta with Lemon and Almonds

A couple of weeks ago, Melissa Clark posted an attractive dish in the New York Times Cooking website, so I gave it a try. We didn’t have Arugula, so I used Spinach instead.

It worked out beautifully, especially with the butter and almonds.

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Gravlax for the New Year

In keeping with our pescatarian theme, we started the new year with an old favorite, Gravlax. This Swedish invention for curing fish is a marvelous invention: tasty, versatile, can be part of almost any meal, and it’s not that hard to make. There is a catch, though; it usually takes 48-72 hours before it’s ready to eat.

We had not made it in a few years, but after having some at a friend’s house recently, my wife was inspired to do it again. As you saw in the previous post, I had purchased two large salmon fillets at New Deal Fish Market, and it was for that express purpose. Most recipes I read are similar, so we have the freedom to select those ingredients we like best. My wife generally followed this recipe from California chef, John Ash, and it worked very well. I also provided another version here for comparison, one from Food & Wine.

Her choice for fresh herbs included dill, parsley, and cilantro. For spirits, she used Armagnac. And she did the turning and pouring off the liquid once or twice a day for three days. When it was ready, she took out one fillet, wiped it down, and sliced it so very thin. With a squirt or two of Meyer Lemon, it was ready to be devoured. Repeat with fillet #2 when ready.

The next morning I took a loaf of my homemade rye bread, sliced it thinly, added some gravlax, topped it all with Santorini capers and lemon, and ate many slices, accompanied by a glass of orange-pomegranate juice with a very dry Prosecco….delicious.

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Year-End Seafood Splurge

Since I am not bound by the timing around Christmas, I chose to do my Seven Fishes extravaganza over a few days at the end of the year. The seafood was purchased during the past week from two key suppliers, Sven Fish and New Deal Fish Market. Here is the receipt from New Deal:

From Sven Fish I had three items: fresh lobster meat (already described for lobster and corn risotto in my previous post) and King Salmon (for dinner at home earlier that week), and Sole fillets for Thursday night’s dinner with our Rabbi Emeritus and his wife.

One other fish item was canned Wild Greek Anchovies from my pantry, used for lunch — toasted sourdough with whipped almond milk ricotta, wild anchovies, and thinly-sliced red onion.

Then, as the year drew to a close, I made the Octopus — Spanish style accompanied by Home Fries:

This was quickly followed by Mussels with Tomato, Saffron and Garlic Toast:

In the meantime my wife took the two large salmon fillets from New Deal Fish Market and made Gravlax, which is still marinating in the refrigerator until tomorrow Noon. I’ll blog about that soon, when we eat some.

For the year’s finale today I worked on the leftovers for breakfast and lunch: mussels and saffron, fortified with Ayocote Morado beans, Ceviche made from small pieces of the King Salmon, and a few slices of delicious Neapolitan salami from Eataly Boston.

Happy Pescatarian New Year!

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How to Peel a Plum Tomato

Often in my cooking, I find it convenient to use 1 or 2 plum tomatoes in a dish I am making. Examples would include adding them to a pasta dish with vegetables or seafood, dicing them into a small salad, or making little tomato fillets to spruce up a sandwich. Usually, taste and texture are enhanced by first peeling the tomatoes before using them in the dish. This makes it much easier to remove seeds and watery pulp, or to cut attractive, conveniently-sized, juicy fillets.

Here is a simple and reliable method to peel them.

Peeling a Plum Tomato
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