Mussels, one of my many faves (me cooking!)

26 10 2009

When I see myself on film, I kind of feel the way I do when I hear Frank Sinatra and Bono’s duet of “I’ve Got You Under My Skin:” embarrassed. Unlike white wine and mussels, some things just don’t belong together.

This summer my fabulous filmaking friend Johnny made a cooking video this summer. It was RIDONKULOUSLY fun. You can get a sense of that I think. But yeah, if you want my tips for making mussels. Check me out on da intanetz!

Let me know what you think!

Here’s the recipe:

1 tb. olive oil

1 tb. butter

1 lb. mussels, washed and scrubbed, open or broken ones removed

1 onion, chopped (any kind is OK, shallots work too)

1 bunch of green onions, chives or garlic chives

3 or 4 cloves of garlic, chopped fine

1 cup of your favorite white wine

a handful of parsley (chopped)

1/2 tb. or more red pepper flakes (optional)

2-3 slices of lemon or lime (optional)

Heat up some olive oil in a large pot and add onions and garlic when hot. When they begin to sweat and become transparent (about 3 min in a hot pot). Add green onions. About 1 minute later add the wine and allow it to reduce a bit. If using lemons add them now along with the red pepper flakes. A minute or two later add the mussels and parsley, put the lid on and let cook for 3 minutes. Take lid off and stir. If most of your mussels are open at this point they can just get another minute or so. Otherwise give them another three minutes with the lid on. Serve mussels in bowl with broth and good bread.


New York Giveth and New York Taketh

13 10 2009

OK, long time no ROM blog. This is due, in part, to the fact that beloved Persimmon restaurant has gone down in flames and it’s got me down. Well, not literal flames but shortly after I posted, it became, I suppose, yet another victim of the economy. And if it’s not hipsters running back to their wealthy suburban parents then I’m not laughing. Oh Persimmon. I swear, sometimes New Yorkers know dick about food. Why is it that every Saturday I see a line like 30 deep at Clinton Street Bakery? THEY’RE JUST PANCAKES PEOPLE!  I walked in there once looking for a croissant when I lived on Clinton Street in back in 2001. ‘Oh, it’s a sit-down restaurant,’ I thought to myself, ‘why do they call it a bakery?’ Needless to say there were no croissants. Savages. Man, people love to come to New York to wait on lines & go to the next “it” place.

Look at the lemmings

Look at the lemmings

My point is not to shit on Clinton Street bakery. I’ve never eaten there. My point is some New Yorkers would wait on line to get punched in the face if they read it was the new hot shit in New York Times Magazine (because come ON, they’ve got their finger on the pulse). And then great places like Persimmon close down because no one goes there. On the same token, if Persimmon had been crawling with douche bags, beating each other down with their Louis Vuitton bags to get in, I would never have given it a chance. *SIGH* you can’t win.

On a happy note, my beloved bakery Panya that closed down bringing me close to tears is RE-OPENING! Oh, happy day. It looks like the they’re taking over the entire space that used to belong to Around the Clock.  Maybe that’s what the cryptic sign on the door said (well, cryptic to me since I can’t read Japanese). I should have called Dan Brown to decode it, it would have eased the pain.  Panya was the perfect neighborhood place. A lot of people knew about it, it had reasonable prices, the service was friendly and you didn’t have to wait in line with a bunch of jackasses. I hope that it doesn’t get overrun upon it’s re-opening. Although in the meantime I’ve been lucky that cafe Zaiya is close and I can get my red bean buns there in the meantime. Truth be told their spicy tuna bun is better than the one at Panya.

But seriously though? You can’t trust the system.

Easy Good Food

28 08 2009

A comment got me thinking about why it’s worth bothering to document the construction of mini pizzas. I guess it’s because there’s stuff like this in the world:

This lady’s whole show, “Semi-Homemade” on Food TV is about making easy food. Normally it involves her using a lot of store-bought frosting. This, however, looks like an infected scab. Really? A whole show for this? I mean, I guess it’s easy to open a bunch of cans and slap a loaf together and sure, the ingredients didn’t cost that much but what about what happens to the human body when you consume whatever that thing is? (I’m not even going to open up the “taste” can here) Americans get fat, sick and die because they eat dog shit like this. And many don’t have adequate health care to fall back on when diabetes or morbid obesity catches up with them. Yes, if you take fresh mozzarella to the face three meals a day you too will get fat, however it’s about moderation. Plus it hasn’t been sitting on a shelf for 16 months. I like Michael Pollan’s rule of thumb that if your grandparents would not have recognized it as food, it should not be eaten (he gives “Go-gurt” as an example). What Sandra Lee cooks up is something our grandparents would likely have identified as a blood clot.

I think a lot about how little nutrition and food preparation education I received in New York City public schools and think it’s no wonder that Americans have the health problems that we do. Fresh produce does not have to be pricey. Chinatown is a perfect example: spinach for 50 cents, green onions at three bunches for a dollar. I’d love to see a Food Network TV show about feeding a family with fresh ingredients on a budget but I suppose that does not have the audience draw of Iron Chef. Not to knock Iron Chef because having fun with cooking is cool too. Personally, I”ve recently discovered “Hell’s Kitchen” which I think is like the crack cocaine of cooking shows. But the important thing is that the foundations are there: for example to know what a scallop is before you see Gordon Ramsey call someone a “donkey” for overcooking it.

10 Min Din

31 07 2009

I was leaving the office when the sky decided to throw up on me. Amazingly, I was able to get a cab (sometimes a girl’s gotta live a little) and as the cabbie made his slow way throw the wall of rain I realized that we didn’t have much food at home for dinner. I had him stop at Russo’s, this little Italian food store near my apartment. Don’t be fooled by the ignorant reviewers: I’m sure it beats your suburban strip mall and while it’ll do in a pinch  it ain’t no second coming: it’s pricey! I feel like people give it extra props for being near the tragically overrated Venieros. Plus, while their fresh mozzarella is good, their so-called “fresh” pasta is actually frozen. Having said that, I do like having this place around for things like last-minute ravioli (as tonight) and perhaps some tomato paste in a tube (lasts forever!) which can be hard to find.

Useful but not the second coming of Christ

Useful but not the second coming of Christ

I got some sun-dried tomato & cheese ravioli (’bout 6 bucks) which comes with 12 ravioli but is so rich that it works for three small servings. I got half a pound of fresh moz which was like 3 or 4 bucks and inquired after the sun-dried tomatoes since I was fixin’ to make mini pizzas and realized that while I had flatbread at home I had no tomatoes nor any other veggies to cut through the rich mozzarella. They were $10 a pound. GOOD LORD! But then I figured a little would go a long way. I clocked in at a total of $12 and made my way home not wanting to slave too long in front of a hot stove in my tiny kitchen. I was scheming on tossing the ravioli in some pesto I had at home [pesto recipe: 2 cups basil leaves, 1/2 cup good olive oil, handful walnuts, salt, blended with an immersion blender, add Parmesan cheese when using so it has a longer life in the fridge]. It would have been nice with a salad but sometimes in life, we don’t have veggies and sometimes, during such moments, you find yourself in the middle of a monsoon. Also I was hoping that the pita-like bread I’d bought last week, and the basil from my CSA pickup two weeks ago wasn’t too far gone to use. Lucky me! I mean, the bread sell-by date was far gone but it looked OK, nothing a little toasting couldn’t fix. And I was astounded to see that my basil had held on. Storing Basil: My mom taught me a trick for preserving fresh herbs that really works: clip the bottoms like you would flowers, wrap the stems in a moist paper towel and then put them in bag in the fridge- leave a little room for air, if it’s in a ziplock, leave it open a bit. See photo:

chillin in my kitchen

chillin in my kitchen

So I got my water boiling and my oven preheating at 450 and got to work. Realizing this dinner was going to be vegetarian, and knowing that hubby feels a vegetarian dinner is an exotic form of torture, I defrosted some pork belly we had in the freezer (uncured bacon essentially) figuring I’d get creative with it. So I threw it in a pan & let it get crispy. In the meantime I put together the mini pizzas. It’s probably important to note that the bread I used was Greek flatbread-  basically pita without the pocket [mini pizza recipe: pocketless flatbread,  thick slices of fresh mozzarella, sundried tomatoes in oil (nice, fresh tomatos (cherry!) work even better), red pepper flakes, salt, handful fresh basil torn by hand, olive oil, put four slices of cheese per flatbread and four tomatoes per pita, a sprinkle of salt, a sprinkle of red pepper, cook at 450 for 10 min, sprinkle torn basil when removing hot pizza from oven. ] I don’t like regular pita for pizza. Not only is it too thick, they’re something about that supermarket pita flavor that just doesn’t work for pizza.
While the pizza was cooking, I dropped the ravioli in boiling salted water. Meanwhile, I put a tablespoon of pesto into a non-stick pan and when the ravioli floated to the top (it’s done) I used a slotted spoon to remove them & tossed them around in the pan, I added a handful of grated mozzarella and about four or so tablespoons of the water I cooked the pasta in & gently swirled it all around, careful not to tear the raviolis. It should not be soupy or too oily just saucy (like yours true!). And with that, my dinner was done. For hub’s piggy version, I poured the oil off of the pan with the crispy pork belly & added a heaping tablespoon of pesto. I did the same thing as I did for my ravioli, tossing the pesto, ravioli, some cheese, pasta water and pork belly together.
The ravioli con puerco was a little rich for my taste though hubz seemed to dig it. I’d recommend it for those who really dig on the pig & the cheese. The pizza came out good too! The pocketless pita made a nice & crispy crust with no indication that it was on it’s way out only minutes before and the basil added a nice freshness to the cheesy fiesta. Basil goes on really nice at the end where the cheese will cook it a tad but it’s still full of flavor.
Some of us are still figuring out our camera

Some of us are still figuring out our camera

The oven preheat & water boiling time may have added on a few minutes (as did the sink full of dishes I had to wash before I began) but this was a truly quick, not so messy & lotta tasty dinner. Sometimes you don’t need to be fancy to eat fancy.

Persimmon- Beyond Korean Barbecue

27 07 2009

In this city with so many places to eat, there is so much mediocre & overrated food. In fact, one of the reasons I started this blog is so that I would have my very own place to rant about the silly “it” places that lemmings wait on line for their turn to walk off the cliff of overpriced grub and indifferent service. However, there’s much more to be said for positivity and it’s great to come across a fantastic place, like Persimmon, that is as of yet, relatively undiscovered. Although the website bills it as “Neo-Korean Cuisine” there is none of that mismatched fusion stuff going on that can be so off-putting (Gyu-Gaku).

An alluring soft light . . .

An alluring soft light . . .

This place has been in my hood for a while but the fact that they only did a prix fixe menu for $37 put me off. Once you factor in alcohol & any extras you’re looking at a pretty penny. And times is rough. Word is bond, I swear to God. However, I noticed that they had recently started serving food ala carte. They feature the standards: bibimbap, K-miso stew (dwenjang jjigae), soft tofu stew (sundubu jjigae) and the like, which are so often not done justice to! When most people think Korean food they think barbecue. Which is awesome! I ain’t mad at no Korean barbecue. It’s just that the everyday food is so well-balanced and different from other cuisines that it’s a real treat. PLUS this place has one of my fave K-dishes on the menu: although it’s worth mentioning that the menu is seasonal and changes bi-weekly. Samgyetang is eaten in really hot months and consists of an entire Cornish hen stuffed with glutinous rice, ginseng and something I’ve heard described variously as a Chinese date and a jujube (guess they’re more than just filling-ripping movie candy!). Also included will be lots of scallions, possibly some chestnuts and  maybe Ginko berries (which contrary to the stank they produce when pulverized on sidewalks are quite tasty). The broth is very plain and it comes with a bowl of salt which you then administer yourself. Usually what people do is take scoop the stuffing out of the bird, take the bird out, pull the meat off & then put the meat back in. Then mix it all together. The rice thickens the soup and it’s a tasty and herbal hodge podge. I sometimes like to leave the chicken in whole & eat a bit at a time. It’s served seething in a stone pot. It looks like this.

I taste good!

I taste good!

I once had a samgyetang in K-town that was so disappointing it was all I could do not to fling the hot chicken across the room. This one I had at Persimmon was the real deal. I’ll leave it at that. Other highlights were the “side dishes” or banchan- the little delicious side dishes you are served whenever you eat K-food. In Korea it’s free and Koreans really resent paying for them when abroad. However, the group I was with accepted the nominal $4 fee ($2 for refills), especially since the quality was so good. The standout was the pickled chamae. Chamae is a Korean mellon which to me tastes like something between a squash and a mellon and is just “a’ight” in my book.
I'm more delicious when I'm pickled!

I'm more delicious when I'm pickled!

However, pickled it really shines since it has just a touch of sweetness that mingles with vinegar for a sweet & sour yet fresh experience. Yum. I’d never had anything like it in Korea. The soft tofu seafood stew was different than in Korea- it was much milder than it’s red hot overseas cousin. It did not floor me but the tofu was definitely made in-house and it is a nice alternative for those that do not do well with spicy food. The smaller dishes on the menu provide a good way to get to know K-cuisine without making huge commitments. The bosam: steamed pork belly which gets wrapped in blanched cabbage wasn’t too shabby, and the japchae- glass noodles stir fried with vegetables and meat were quite good! But the real highlight were the fried stuffed zucchini blossoms which were divine. The waitress explained that they were stuffed with a mixture of scallops & ricotta cheese, I believe, but at this point I was two bekseju bottles in and would have believed her if she told me it was a mixture of angel farts and cotton candy.
Persimmon is tiny & has one large table where you dine communally so if being close strangers ain’t your favorite thing, perhaps it could get awkward. But have yourself some bekseju and you’ll be feeling no pain in no time! Or even makoli which I was surprised to find that they have AND is served in bowls the way it should be! A nice bonus is that your meal will conclude with a little cup of pink, slightly sweet omija tea which is made from, what else, omija berries. It’s a nice way to round out a meal.
If you or someone you is looking to go beyond Korean barbecue, check this place out!

Zucchini Blossoms & Other Recent Obsessions

27 07 2009

I have been slacking on the posts big time. No excuse other than it’s summertime & I’ve been slacking on everything . . . except cooking! I realized that I need to overcome my fear of my new digital camera (THANKS JOHNNY!) and just start snapping. In fact, with the bi-weekly CSA pick-ups I’m so friggin busy washing vegetables  that I have little time for anything else! Although me & Johnny made a cooking video that will soon be posted if I can make a foray into the world of techNOlogy. In any case . . . BEHOLD THE ZUCCHINI BLOSSOM!

I'm beautiful & delicious!

I'm beautiful & delicious!

I bought a box of these at the farmer’s market because they were so beautiful PLUS they had been on the menu at my new fave Korean restaurant (more on that later) listed as “ho bak kkot twi kim:” stuffed & fried zucchini blossoms, but we did not order them b/c some among us were suspicious of Korean food they’d never heard of.  I wasn’t totally sure what to do with these when I brought them home but I had plans to make “daegu jeon” which are Korean-style mini fish cutlets (I used flounder, they came out GREAT!). This involves dipping the fish in flour & egg. I figured, hell, let’s put a couple of the flowers in & fry ’em up that way to test them out. I did nothing but dip them first in flour & then in egg & fry them in canola oil. They came out pretty good! Crispy but with a little softness to them and with a subtle, delicate squash flavor. I was scheming on how I would prepare the rest of them.

I came across a recipe in this book someone gave on cuisine from Rome. It involved stuffing the flowers with fresh mozz & 1/2 an anchovy and breading them in a flour & water batter. I happened to have fresh mozz in the fridge but figured, ‘why not beer batter the suckers?’ since the bubbles actually make for a flakier, lighter batter (you can actually use seltzer too). Here goes the recipe I came up with:

1 cup flour

3/4 cup beer

pinch of salt

16 or so zucchini blossoms

1/4 lb. fresh mozzarella, grated

olive oil

Okie doke. So I sifted the flour through a strainer & added the salt. Then mixed in the beer to form a batter. It was relatively thick. Then, with help from the lovely Rebekah, stuffed the grated cheese into the flowers just up until where the petals separated, and gently twisted the petals together to close off the blossom.  I poured about a 1/2 inch of oil into a hot pan (most recipes recommend more but I don’t think it’s necessary) and tested the heat by sprinkling in a pinch of flour- when the flour sizzles, your ready to fry. Then I gently dipped the blossoms in batter- if any of the flowers were torn, I simply rubbed some batter over the tear to seal it up. It worked quite well. I fried them,  letting them get a little brown then flipped them, gave them a few more minutes and put them on a plate with a paper towel to drain. They required no more than 5 min in the pan. They looked like this when they were done.

This is a random internet picture. Mine looked better!

This is a random internet picture. Mine looked better!

Wow. These knocked us out. I can’t say enough about how tasty they were. It might be tasty to include something salty inside to contrast with the cheese, like in the Roman recipe. I can’t say I’d jump at the chance to add anchovies, but next time I make these I might include half an olive or a caper inside for a little extra “somethin’ something'” if you know what I mean. These would go great with a very cold beer, crisp beer: Sapporo would be good, Pacifico or Sol would work too. A (freezing) cold Budweiser or Bud Light wouldn’t be the worst think you could drink with these either (but I wouldn’t recmommend tapping the Rockies). I might consider stuffing these with a tiny bit of jalapeno for kick, in fact simply using pepper jack instead of mozz could take the recipe in a whole different direction. They can also be stuffed with ricotta or goat cheese. So much room for creativity with these pretty little flowers.

These bad boys will only be in season for a few more weeks so if you see these in your farmer’s market, snap ’em up while you can!

BOTM of the Barrel

7 05 2009

I was initially going to ignore the NY Times article about the ROM wannabe club complete with their own acronym. But seeing as it’s been on the “most emailed” list online since it was published two days ago I figure I’ll acknowledge it. So, in a nutshell, these dudes have created a club called “Burger of the Month” (BOTM) and get together once a month to sample burgers around the city. Their system is almost the same as ROM’s in that each month a different member chooses the venue and if it sucks, that member takes some heat. I’d like to take this opportunity to point out how much better ROM is as an acronym (or BOM if things go as planned and we have an outdoor barbeque this month) to BOTM. In my book, it’s much cooler to be mistaken for a club that pays tribute to gypsies rather than a rear end or gay personal ad (not that there’s anything wrong with personal ads, gay or otherwise). I like that the BOTM boys (haa!) introduced a rating system, something we have not thought to do, but could be interesting. Props to the dudes for reasonably good taste! Back Forty is their #10 pick. I have shared my love hate relationship with this restaurant before, but they do make one of the few burgers that I find tasty (I just don’t go for burgers in general).

I'd like to point out that each "extra" such as cheese, bacon, and fries costs extra, which I find kinda lame. Just serve it "deluxe" people. Jeez.

Back Forty's Burger: I'd like to point out that each "extra" such as cheese, bacon, and fries costs extra, which is so bush league. Get some class & serve it "deluxe!"

There are photos associated with the article although it’s worth mentioning that the #4 burger on their list from Primehouse looks like a cross between a scab and a bloodclot.  Gore aside, kudos to these dudes for getting it together. As we we ROMers know, the task of getting busy people together once a month can be herculean at times. So I suppose I’ll hang my hater hat up for a moment in order to give these dudes a dash of love. Although reactionary wannabe badass quotes such as this one try my patience:

“Vegetables are to be eaten by rabbits and liberals,” wrote Mr. Weiss, a lawyer who lives on the Upper West Side, “and the only form they should take is the fourth ingredient in a condiment.”

“Crow is to be eaten by wolves and the conservatives who wrecked our economy,” writes Maya, a baller who lives in the East Village, “and the only form they should take is the nouveau poor fleeing the city in the wake of the financial crisis.” But I digress . . . hatery aside, it’s nice to come across articles such as this one. It’s just fact that ROM could kick these guys’ asses.