north fork: part 1

September 10th, 2008

I read about this Foodie Tour through Brooklyn Based and couldn’t resist the urge to rent a car and go on an adventure. So last Sunday Aaron, our friend Angela and I hopped in a rental and drove an hour and half outside the city to see some farms.

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All of us being cheese lovers, the first on our list was Catapano Dairy Farm, where they make award-winning goat cheese. We could hardly contain ourselves as we drove up, all eager to learn how the cheese was made. But a little disappointment set in soon after we walked up, apparently the owner wasn’t interested in talking about her operation and walked away as we approached the table to taste the cheeses. But luckily we did have a nice woman to give us all samples of the different cheeses, including chevre, gouda and a blue, and two types of fudge. Yum! They were all quite tasty. We were able to walk around and see the baby goats playing on their jungle gym and also witness the adult goats fighting, including one that looked like a unicorn. So that was exciting. We also saw some lovely chickens, but other than that we left wanting more.

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On a whim we stopped by Sang Lee Farms to kill some time before visiting another stop on our tour. Oh boy, it turned out to be an excellent decision. Sang Lee was established in the 1940′s and soon after started supplying New York City’s Chinatown with quality Asian vegetables. Today they grow over 100 varietes of specialty vegetables, heirloom tomatoes, baby greens, mesclun, herbs, specialty Asian greens and flowers. We walked up to the farm stand and there in front of us were the most beautiful tomatoes I’d ever laid my eyes on. I mean, truly lovely little works of art in the most amazing colors and shapes.

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Then I walked inside and there were lovely greens and other vegetables, along with a few coolers filled with things like fresh pestos and sauces made by owner Karen Lee. I picked up a container of Asian Pesto and as I was perusing the vegetables, Ms. Lee asked if I needed any help. Soon we were deep in conversation about ways to use the pesto and then about these lunch time talks she’s started in her community. You can read more about them in the latest edible east end. To top things off, we got to pick tomatoes from the vine, perhaps popping a few in our mouths every now and then. We were feeling pretty good as we made our way to our next destination.

Tomorrow look forward to two other awesome farms, Shinn Estate Farmhouse and Pipes Cove Oysters.

edible manhattan

September 9th, 2008

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Last weekend was the launch of edible manhattan. I’ve long been a fan of edible brooklyn and quite frankly I wasn’t sure what to expect of the manhattan version. Would it be too fancy or have the same character that the brooklyn has? Oh boy, it does… All of my silly worries were quickly washed away as I flipped through the first issue. With stories about beekeeping in the city and a look into the amazing cookbook store Kitchen Arts & Letters, I already can’t wait for the next issue.

I also picked up Edible East end last weekend while on the Foodie Tour and it too is chock full of interesting info. In fact, it’s helping me fill in a few holes for my upcoming posts on our food adventure, which will be coming soon, I promise.

north fork foodie tour

September 8th, 2008

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I hope you had an excellent weekend. A hurricane was suppose to cause chaos in the city, but luckily it just brought a little rain on Saturday. When we woke up Sunday, the sky was bright blue and the sun was shining. That was extra good news for us because we had planned a day trip to the North Fork of Long Island to participate in the North Fork Foodie Tour. This week I’ll be giving you little peeks into some of the farms we visited and things I learned.

whisky iced tea

September 5th, 2008

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I finally found a way that I can drink whisky without wincing, mix it with a little iced tea. I’ve been really into iced tea this summer, in fact I’ve had way more in this one summer than I have in my whole life. I’d dabbled in Thai iced tea, but I’d never been really interested in it otherwise. Then I tried this minted iced tea at the greenmarket that was sweetened with maple syrup. That’s how I got hooked.

This was my first attempt at making iced tea at home, and I have to say it turned really well, although I didn’t try the maple syrup version. Once I’d taken the tea bags out, I poured my tea in a little tea pot that has a built in infuser and stuck some fresh mint leaves in it, then let it sit in the fridge for a bit. When I was ready for a cool beverage I poured myself a glass added a shot of whisky. The sweetness of the whisky really lends itself to the minted tea.

Cheers to it already being Friday! I have a fun event lined up this weekend that I can’t wait to share with you.

whisky iced tea

4 cups water
6 tea bags of black tea
1/2 cup sugar
4-5 fresh mint leaves
whisky

1
Bring water to a boil in small saucepan.
2
Add tea bags and sugar. Let simmer for 5 minutes.
3
Remove tea bags and pour into pitcher or tea pot.
4
If your tea pot has an infuser, stuff the mint leaves in it. Otherwise use a loose tea infuser and let it hang out in the pitcher. Let it cool in the refrigerator for a few hours.
5
Pour yourself a glass, add a shot of whisky and relax.

corn

September 4th, 2008

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The Times had a nice article about corn yesterday. In it, they include this recipe for Brown Butter Cornbread with Farmer Cheese and Thyme. Needless to say I’ll be picking up some corn this weekend.

photo by Andrew Scrivani for The New York Times

mint pudding

September 4th, 2008

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Mint’s been on my mind lately. There’s something about the fresh kick that you get from mint leaves that has me dreaming about ways to use it. Last year I made some fresh mint ice cream that was really, really good and I’ve been thinking about it ever since. The thing is, making ice cream takes so much time and effort and sometimes that just seems a little exhausting. Then I thought of a genius idea that would take less time and give me similar satisfaction. Mint pudding!

I pulled out some fresh mint, ground it with some sugar in my mortar and pestle and I was on my way to some tasty pudding. I also added a few sprigs of mint into my milk mixture so it would further infuse into the flavor. In less than a half hour, I had the lovely scent of mint wafting through my kitchen and homemade pudding at my fingertips. I ran the mixture through a fine sieve and put it in the fridge to chill. A bit later I tried it out and to my satisfaction, my little idea turned out great. The pudding was creamy and minty with hints of vanilla, although I wish it would have been just a tad silkier. But when I told Aaron that, he said the texture let you know it was homemade. He knows how to make me feel better.

mint pudding

1/3 cup sugar
1/3 cup vanilla sugar*
4 sprigs of mint
1/4 cup cornstarch
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 1/2 cups milk
4 large egg yolks
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into pieces
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

*vanilla sugar is not necessary, it just adds a little more flavor. if you don’t have it just use regular sugar.

1
Place a fine-mesh sieve over a medium bowl; set aside.
2
Mix 1/3 sugar and 2 sprigs of mint in your mortar and pestle and grind until mint is finely incorporated.
3
In a medium saucepan, off heat, whisk together sugars, cornstarch, and salt. Very gradually (a few tablespoons at a time) whisk in milk, taking care to dissolve cornstarch. Whisk in egg yolks.

4
Whisking constantly, cook over medium heat until the first large bubble forms and sputters, about 10-15 minutes.
5
Reduce heat to low; still whisking, cook 1 minute. Remove from heat; immediately pour through sieve into bowl.
6
Stir butter and vanilla into hot pudding.

7
Place plastic wrap directly on surface of pudding (to prevent skin from forming); chill at least 3 hours and up to 3 days. Before serving, whisk pudding until smooth.

boston travel guide, 2008

September 3rd, 2008

We had such a great time in boston this past weekend. It’s always a different experience when you visit a city where you know a local and lucky for us our locals know us well. Unfortunately I wasn’t with it enough to photograph each place we went, but I think you’ll get a good view of some really great places in the Boston area.

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The first few stops are in Somerville, which is about a 15 minute walk from Cambridge. We started Sunday morning at a delightful coffee shop named Bloc 11. The coffee was really top notch and gave me the kick I needed to get my day going. Along with coffee, they serve a ton of different teas and their pastry area was filled with awesome looking baked goods. The space was really interesting as well. The building was once a bank, so it’s quite an ample space filled with different rooms to sit in, including the vault.

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Our next stop was just down the street. It’s a great little Portuguese restaurant called the Neighborhood Restaurant. When it’s warm out, all dining takes place outdoors under grapevines and brightly colored umbrellas. There’s nothing fancy about the place, but the food is undeniably mouthwatering. To start every meal comes with a choice of fruit or cream of wheat and a super tasty orange juice. Our friends recommended the Portuguese Meat Plate, which consisted of two crab cakes and shrimp cakes, potatoes, eggs with all sorts of goodness mixed in and rice and beans. That was one meal. Aaron chose pumpkin pancakes with cinnamon and walnuts, which also came with a side of sausage, eggs and potatoes. Ok, that’s just a little nauseating to read the amount of food that was given to us. I’m happy to say we didn’t eat it all, but it was so, so good. The kind of good that makes you sad that you have to leave some behind.

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After brunch, we somehow rolled ourselves home and packed up the car to take a little trip outside the city. On the way out, we stopped at the dreamiest little gourmet shop called Formaggio Kitchen. I’m not quite sure how we were still able to think about food after that brunch, but as soon as I stepped inside, it was like the day was a blank slate and I got lost thinking about all the possibilities. First there’s the cheese, which is the key to my heart. They have two big cases of cheese and helpful staff to answer any questions. We somehow walked away with two lovely choices, a spicy blue and a 3 cream cheese. Yum. After the cheese room you walk into a room filled with chocolate and candy, both homemade and from around the world. The last room was like a visit to the farmers market, with a few extras tossed in. There were baskets of fresh fruits and vegetables, fresh flowers, assorted beverages including coffee and beer. I tried to be good inside, I really did, but I still came out with a few bags of goodies.

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Finally, we took a short car ride to a park called World’s End in Hingham, MA. The park is actually a little penninsula where you can see great views of the Boston skyline from across Boston Harbor. We set up a blanket, opened up some violet lemonade and blueberries that we picked up at Formaggio, and just relaxed. Cheese, crackers and beer came a little later after our stomachs had forgiven us for the earlier meal.

I actually can’t think of a way the day would have been any better. Great friends, delicious food, the great outdoors and a little relaxation…  I mean come on. That’s the life.

caramels

September 2nd, 2008

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Three day weekends are so dreamy. We took advantage of the extra day by taking a trip to Boston to visit some of our best friends, Ari and Jillian. They led us to some great food that I’ll be sharing later this week. Before we left, I whipped up my first ever batch of caramels. Oh. Boy. Bad news my friends, bad news. Not because they turned out a disaster, but because they were so dang good it was hard to keep my hands off them. I’ve dabbled in caramel sauce before, sometimes it turns out good, other times it takes a wrong turn and turns into a burnt sugar mess; so I was prepared for whatever came my way. But with a little patience, this recipe turned out perfect.

The recipe calls for fleur de sel, which is a fancy salt that may take a little looking to find. I haven’t done a taste test or anything, but something tells me that the caramels would still be delicious if you substituted sea salt for the other. Beyond that, there are only 5 other ingredients, heavy cream, butter, sugar, corn syrup and water. It always amazes me that something so deliciously good is so simple. As I mentioned before, patience is key to this recipe. You need to be able to stand over the stove top and wait for the syrup mixture to turn golden, then for the cream and syrup to hit the right temperature and finally for the whole thing to harden. So give yourself some time and get ready for a decadent treat.

fleur de sel caramels
via design sponge via gourmet
makes about 40 candies

1 cup heavy cream
5 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into pieces
1 teaspoon fleur de sel
1 1/2 cups sugar
1/4 cup light corn syrup
1/4 cup water

1
Line bottom and sides of an 8-inch square baking pan with parchment paper, then lightly oil parchment.
2
Bring cream, butter, and fleur de sel to a boil in a small saucepan, then remove from heat and set aside.
3
Boil sugar, corn syrup, and water in a 3- to 4-quart heavy saucepan, stirring until sugar is dissolved. Boil, without stirring but gently swirling pan, until mixture is a light golden caramel.
4
Carefully stir in cream mixture (mixture will bubble up) and simmer, stirring frequently, until caramel registers 248°F on thermometer, 10 to 15 minutes.*
5
Pour into baking pan and cool at least 2 hours. Cut into 1-inch pieces, then wrap each piece in a 4-inch square of wax paper, twisting 2 ends to close.

*This actually took me about 25-30 minutes for some reason, so it seems to vary a bit.