Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Joe. Upper West Side, NYC. 5:00 PM, Saturday, August 29th.

This iced Americano? Is full of win.

Meatless Week: An update on that eggplant.

On Sunday, I finally confronted the eggplant I'd bought a whole week before. (Which were still good - yay for long-keeping veggies!) Thanks to my resourceful readers and Facebook friends, I had a ton of ideas for how to tackle the stuff, and decided to do a completely bastardized caponata and mix it with the remaining fresh fettuccine and, of course, to finish things off with a dollop of mascarpone.

I gently sauteed some white onion and a healthy amount of garlic, until the onion was translucent and the garlic golden. Then I added the diced eggplant (about 3/4 inch dice, peels and seeds included) and a touch of tomato paste. Once that had a chance to work, in went some halved cherry tomatoes, a bit of basil and a little sherry vinegar to deglaze the pan. Last, but certainly not least, I added a smattering of capers, which gave the finished dish a wonderful salty nuttiness.

No recipe here; I didn't really track ingredient proportions or timing, but I can tell you this: eggplant is a lot tastier and easier than I remembered. It will definitely be on my shopping list this weekend.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Meatless Week: Making peace with zucchini.

Zucchini gets something of a bad rap for being both rampant and slightly flavorless. Sometime in late summer, zucchini patches all across the country begin yielding unbelievable amounts of the stuff, resulting in a glut of zucchini bread, muffins and the like. Growing up, I was never much of a zucchini fan, mainly because it had a tendency to pop up on crudité trays, a bland traitor masquerading as the far more exciting cucumber.

As an adult, though, I've come around to zucchini and its summer squash compatriots. Its lack of assertive flavor - the very thing that put me off of it so many years ago - makes it the perfect canvas for a myriad of seasonings and preparations. I particularly enjoy it roasted. In a hot oven, zucchini turns sweet just slightly meaty in texture - a great foil for a light vinaigrette and some lightly stinky mascarpone.

The inspiration for these toasts comes from the fabulous whole foods blog Sprouted Kitchen. Sara flavors her zucchini with parsley and mint, and spreads the toast with ricotta - but since I have basil and thyme on hand, along with half a tub of mascarpone, I went in a slightly different direction. I also thought it would be good to dress the warm zucchini in a little lemon juice, the better to get the flavor deep into the fruit. I think it works. How about you?

Roasted Zucchini Toasts
Adapted from Sprouted Kitchen

1 lb. zucchini or summer squash, cut into 1/2 inch dice
Olive oil
2 tbs. finely chopped fresh herbs (I used a mix of thyme and basil)
2 tbs. finely chopped red onion
2 tsp. lemon juice
1/2 tsp. Dijon mustard
2 slices bread
1/4 cup mascarpone cheese
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

Place a rack in the upper third of your oven and preheat it to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.

In a large bowl, toss the zucchini with just enough olive oil to coat it (a teaspoon or so should do it), along with a pinch each of salt and pepper. (Save the bowl; you'll use it again.) Spread the zucchini evenly onto a cookie sheet. Place in the preheated oven and roast for 20-25 minutes, stirring every 10 minutes or so, until the zucchini is well-browned and roasted through.

Place the zucchini back in the large bowl. Using a fork, stir the lemon juice and mustard together in a small bowl, then add to the zucchini. Add 2/3 of the herbs and 2/3 of the onion, along with a bit more salt and pepper. Toss everything to combine evenly. Allow this mixture to sit while you toast your bread.

Toast the bread to your desired doneness. Spread each piece of toast with half of the mascarpone cheese, then top with half the zucchini mixture. Sprinkle with the remaining herbs and onions. Serve immediately.

Makes two pieces of toast.

Change is in the air.

Concord grapes have appeared at the market. Their musky aroma spells one thing, my friends: F-A-L-L H-A-R-V-E-S-T. Yes, indeedy.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Meatless Week: Tomatoes galore.

So, I bought two quarts of tomatoes today. And I already had a pint or so at home. Clearly, I have a tomato problem. Or maybe problem is the wrong word - perhaps, one should say, I have a tomato opportunity. Several tomato opportunities.

I exercised one such opportunity yesterday afternoon, using a prodigious number of said tomatoes, along with a bit of garlic, a fistful of basil and some fresh fettuccine. It's one of my most basic standbys, but it's also one of the tastiest. A raw tomato sauce is kind to in-season vegetables - it doesn't cook away their sweetness or mask their acidity; instead, it lets every flavor in each tomato sing its own little ditty.

It's also ridiculously easy and incredibly satisfying. In fact, it's so good that I'm craving it again, right now, as I write this. Excuse me a moment.

Summer Tomato Pasta

1 lb. fresh pasta, such as fettuccine, or 1/2 lb. dry pasta, such as spaghetti
3 cups cherry or grape tomatoes, halved lengthwise
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1/4 cup basil leaves, finely sliced into a chiffonade
1/4 cup olive oil
Scant teaspoon sherry vinegar
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 tbs. mascarpone cheese (optional)

Cook the pasta according to the package directions. In the meantime, combine the tomatoes, garlic, basil, olive oil and sherry vinegar in a large bowl. Add a generous pinch of salt and some black pepper, and toss the whole lot together. Let it hang out while the pasta finishes.

Add the hot pasta to the bowl, and toss to distribute the tomatoes evenly throughout the pasta. Taste and adjust seasonings (you will probably want more salt and pepper). Divide between two bowls or plates, and top each with a tablespoon of the mascarpone. Serve immediately.

Serves two.

Queenie's Treasury

Reader, I apologize. I have been remiss in my duties. This edition of the Treasury is a day late, and for that I am truly sorry. But I think it's super-fun, extra-glam edition, so hopefully the shininess will make up for the lateness, yes? Let's get to it!

First up, something a bit out of the ordinary for the Treasury: fashion. Hermès has launched an amazing website called J'aime mon carré (In English, that's "I love my scarf.) that showcases a ton of awesome ways to tie your Hermès scarves. Now, that being said, you certainly don't need one of the iconic scarves to use the techniques; any scarf will do, really, assuming it's a decent-sized square. So have fun - I expect to see many of you sporting the Bandeau Sixties, stat.

Next up, a little something to spruce up your purse - or, in my case, my bathroom. See, I'm famous - or, rather, infamous - in my family for never having tissues around. The reason? I think Kleenex boxes are, without exception, hideously ugly. I don't see why I'd invest in them, save when I have a terrible cold. And I've yet to meet a tissue box holder that I like, either. That may have changed, though. I know this gold leather pouch is meant for one's purse, but I don't see why I shouldn't use it at home, do you? Me likey.
Last, an interesting news item. A man from Portland, Oregon was banned from a local sushi restaurant for confronting the staff (gently, but in front of other customers) about their choice to serve Atlantic bluefin tuna, one of the most endangered fish in our waters. Now, I agree - he should have waited and taken his complaint to the owner in private. That said, no one should be eating or serving Atlantic bluefin at this point, and I'm shocked by the number of people I know who don't know/care about this. So, yeah. Eat a different kind of tuna, folks. It ain't that hard. (Need more guidance? Check out this frequently-updated guide to sustainable fish-eating from the Monterey Bay Aquarium.)

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Meatless Week: Giving in.

On Thursday night, I became the embodiment of every parent's worst fear about their child's vegetarianism: I had ice cream and french fries for dinner.

After four days of cooking and eating meticulously sourced, impeccably fresh vegetable-based meals, I couldn't take it any more. I needed relief from the virtue and toil of Meatless Week. And so, when I was walking past Shake Shack and saw that there was a lull (for once, the line was not out the door), I pounced.

Ten minutes later, in possession of a small cup of vanilla custard (with peanut butter sauce) and an order of fries (mayo on the side), I sat myself down in the sunshine to be very, very naughty. Not gonna lie: it was seriously good. I hardly even missed the burger.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Meatless Week: Going green. And pink.

Howdy, folks! As Meatless Week progresses, I'm realizing a couple of things: cooking vegetarian requires a lot of olive oil, produces a lot of dishes, and is generally a lot more work than just roasting a chicken. Now, I knew that would be the case, but I hadn't quite realized that I'd be doing so many dishes each night. Mostly, though, I think it's because I decided to focus on salads and other fresh things - as opposed to making, say, a one-pot veggie meal to see me through.

One of the dirty dish culprits was yesterday's lunch. Alongside the leftover corn chowder from Wednesday night's superlative dinner, I enjoyed one of my more favorite summer salads: roasted beets with green beans, red onion and dill. It is so. Freaking. Good. There's something about the combination of the snappy beans and rich beets - enhanced by a little bit of dill and lemon juice - that just makes me happy.

This isn't a new recipe; it's basically this pasta without the pasta or the yogurt, and with lemon juice instead of vinegar. I think you should try it.

(And, yes, those really are beets in that photo. They're light pink, though, so they look kinda potato-y. But they're not, I promise.)

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Meatless Week: An oldie and a goodie.

Hello, gentle readers! It's day three of Meatless Week, and so far, I'm doing just fine. No major bacon or beef cravings - though tomorrow, which is sushi day at my office, will be a true test of willpower.

I've managed to keep myself satisfied by eating vegetarian dishes with lots of flavor and a bunch of different textures. For lunch today, that meant poaching some garlic in olive oil and adding some hot pepper. I tossed half with some blanched broccoli and soy sauce (à la Ina), and the other half with orecchiette, halved cherry tomatoes and some fresh basil leaves.

Tonight for dinner, I decided to pair hot with cold. I had two ears of corn and a couple of Yukon golds left in the fridge, and decided that corn chowder would be just the thing for those and for the glug or two of cream left from last week's dinner party shenanigans.

I browsed Epicurious and found what I was looking for: a simple, fast corn chowder recipe from a summer 2008 issue of Gourmet. I played with it a bit - my version is less creamy, a bit saltier, and has black pepper rather than white - but kept the primary, golden notion: making a quick corn stock with the cobs. Genius!

To go alongside, I made one of my all-time favorite salads, which I shamelessly copied from Anella, a teeny restaurant in Greenpoint, Brooklyn. It's a salad of romaine hearts, topped with a creamy, tangy dressing, chopped dill and onion, fresh, buttery croutons and fried capers. It is, in a word, dee-licious. And the recipe? It's just over here. Clickety. (By the way - I didn't have any crème fraiche on hand, so I subbed in a bit of Hellman's mixed with low-fat buttermilk, and it worked like a charm.)

I'm a bit worried about my lack of protein consumption, but am hoping to remedy that tomorrow with an eggy breakfast and some of the same - or possibly beans - at dinner. I think that should do the trick. Clearly, were I planning to become a real-life vegetarian, I'd have to get better at the whole alternative protein sources thing. In the meantime, though...corn chowder!

Summer Corn Chowder
Adapted from Gourmet

2 ears corn, shucked
1 quart cold water
1/2 lb. Yukon gold potatoes, cut into 1/2 inch chunks
1/2 medium onion, chopped
1/2 large carrot, halved lengthwise, then sliced 1/4 inch thick
2 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 red bell pepper, chopped
2 thyme sprigs
1 bay leaf
1/4 cup heavy cream
2 scallions, finely chopped
Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper

Cut corn kernels from each cob, then hold cob upright in a bowl and scrape with the back of a butter knife to extract the "milk."

Bring cobs, water, potatoes, and 1/2 teaspoon salt to a boil in a large pot, covered, then boil, covered, stirring occasionally, until potatoes are tender, about 15 minutes. (Break the cobs in half to fit into the pot, if need be.) Discard cobs.

Meanwhile, cook onion, carrot, garlic and 1/2 teaspoon salt in oil in a large heavy pot over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until onion is pale golden, about 10 minutes.

Add bell pepper, corn and its "milk," thyme, and bay leaves to the onion and carrot mixture. Reduce heat to low and cook, covered, stirring occasionally, 15 minutes. (If there's not enough "milk" to make this sufficiently wet, add a bit of the potato cooking water.)

Stir potatoes with water and cream into the corn mixture and gently boil, uncovered, stirring occasionally, until reduced to about 7 cups, about 30 minutes. Stir in black pepper and salt to taste. Discard bay leaves and thyme sprigs. If serving immediately, add the scallions. If not, wait until you do.

Serves two, generously, or three as an appetizer.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Meatless Week: Obsession sets in.

So, I couldn't even wait a full 48 hours to have the tomato and avocado salad again (I had it tonight for dinner.). Trust me when I say that neither could you. Seriously. Get yourself a ripe avocado, some tart-sweet tomatoes, and slice that red onion as thin as you can. Like, right now.

Frankies Spuntino's Avocado and Tomato Salad
Adapted from The Frankies Spuntino Kitchen Companion and Cooking Manual

1/2 lb. ripe tomatoes
1/4 small red onion, sliced as thinly as possible
1/4 cup olive oil, plus additional for drizzling
1 tbs. sherry vinegar
Fine sea salt
1 ripe Hass avocado
Freshly ground black pepper

Slice the tomatoes into wedges and place - gently - in a large bowl. Add the onion, 1/4 cup of the olive oil, vinegar and a large pinch of salt. Gently toss the salad with your hands, then set aside while you prep the avocado.

Pit and peel the avocado, and slice the flesh into large chunks or wedges.

Place the tomatoes and onions onto a plate and drizzle with about half the vinaigrette from the bowl. Arrange the avocado on top of the tomatoes and drizzle them with a bit more olive oil. Salt the avocado generously, and top with a few grinds of black pepper. Serve immediately.

Serves one, generously. (Frankies claims this version serves two, but I beg to differ.)

Meatless Week: Desperately seeking eggplant inspiration.

So, I am not normally a big eggplant eater. Don't get me wrong: I don't hate it, and I'll eat it in a heartbeat if it's served to me. But I've only cooked with it a few times, and don't feel 100% comfortable with it.

Which brings me to the question: I was seduced by the cuteness of these little fairy tale eggplants at the market on Saturday, and would love to hear what you think I should do with them. I bought about a pound and a half, I think, based on my memory that eggplant cooks down quite a bit.

Thoughts?

Brian & Caroline's house. Astoria. 9:00 PM, Saturday, August 21st.

Momofuku Milk Bar's malted chocolate cake. It contains toasted marshmallows. YUM.

Mousse tarts, ricotta cheesecake and cream horns from Veniero's. DROOL.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Meatless Week: Monday blues.

Meatless Week is off to a lazy start here chez Queenie. I had a seriously nasty, scary bout of food poisoning over the weekend, and I stayed home today to ensure a complete recovery before returning to work. As a result, I was worried my first day of Meatless Week would be one of dry toast and diet ginger ale, but while I was still absolutely exhausted, my stomach actually felt pretty hardy today.

For lunch, I made Frankie's Spuntino's tomato and avocado salad. (As opposed to their beet and avocado salad, which I've swooned over previously.) I practically licked the plate when I ordered this at the restaurant a few weeks back, and so I was very, very excited to be reminded of it in an NPR podcast over the weekend. I promptly added avocados to my FreshDirect order (Did I mention that I am in love with my iPhone?) and got ready for the excitement.

Now, I was bleary and sleepy when I ate, so I don't have a photo to accompany my accolades, but you know what I do have? A second avocado. So I think I can promise you that this salad will be making a second appearance later this week. In the meantime, avail yourselves of the recipe. You won't be sorry.

Dinner, coming after a further three hours of napping, was a less sleepy effort. I didn't want to do anything too crazy, but I was pretty hungry. The result? A tomato and cucumber salad, alongside a dish of orecchiette with corn. Pasta with corn always strikes me as slightly over-indulgent (carbs upon carbs), which is one of the reasons I love it oh-so-much.

This is the kind of recipe with which you can - and should - play fast and loose. Leave out the pepper, sub in browned butter for the olive oil and sage for the basil, and it's something new and different. Add a bit of soy and ginger and omit the cream, and it's a bit Asian-fusion-y, in that delightfully mid-90s, inauthentic, guiltily delicious way. Whatever you do, make sure the corn is either local, fresh and sweet or - I know, craziness - from the freezer. There's no point making this with insipid, tasteless corn. None whatsoever.

Orecchiette with Corn and Basil

2 ears corn, shucked
1 tbs. olive oil
1 red pepper, diced
4 scallions, thinly sliced
2 cloves garlic (one if the cloves are large), thinly sliced
1/8 cup basil leaves, thinly sliced
1/3 lb. orecchiette pasta, cooked to al dente and drained (reserve 1/4 cup of the cooking water)
1 tbs. heavy cream
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

If there is any bit of the stalk left on the corn, slice it off to create a flat surface. Stand the ear of corn on its flat end and slice down the side, cutting away the kernels. Repeat on all sides of the ear until the cob is stripped of its kernels. Set aside the corn and discard the cobs.

Warm the olive oil in a medium skillet set over medium-high heat. Once the oil is hot (slightly shimmering, but not smoking), add the red pepper, scallions and garlic to the pan. Cook for a few minutes, until the scallions are very soft and the garlic lightly golden.

Add the corn kernels to the pan and mix with the aromatics. Salt and pepper this mixture fairly generously, and saute for two or three minutes, until the corn is just softening. Add about half the basil and half the reserved cooking water to the pan and continue to cook until the liquid in the pan is reduced to a syrupy coating.

Add the cooked pasta to the pan, along with a tad more of the cooking water, and cook the pasta and sauce together for a minute or two. Turn off the heat and add the remaining basil and the cream to the pan. Stir to combine. Taste, adjust seasonings (I find that adding the cream means adding a bit more salt and pepper), and serve immediately.

Serves two.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Queenie's Treasury

It's Saturday! Are you as excited about that as I am? It's been a productive morning so far - I got to sleep super-early last night and was up at 7 to enjoy some coffee and a quiet Greenmarket run. Not sure yet what the afternoon will bring, but, for now, here are some goodies to keep you busy!First up, some seriously beautiful books. I'm not sure if it's an irresistible response to the advent of the eReader, but Penguin has released stunning versions of classics over the last year. First there were the cloth-bound volumes, and now these magnificently Art Deco, gilded editions of F. Scott Fitzgerald. All of these were designed by inimitably talented Coralie Bickford-Smith.

Next up, a look at the latest plan to revitalize La Marqueta, East Harlem's storied five-block market. The latest plan, proposed by a private developer, is to expand the market to stretch a full 20 blocks - that's a mile - under the elevated Park Avenue train tracks. I have to admit, as someone who lives only about 20 blocks south of the market, the idea of being able to shop in a space rivaling London's Borough Market is very, very exciting. Even more so because the market would occupy an area that's traditionally been overlooked by projects like this in the past. Fingers crossed.

Finally, some cute little animals! I'm not usually one to fall for such things, but I absolutely love the photographs created by Sharon Montrose of The Animal Print Shop. When I see animals, I typically think "kid's room," but I can see these working in just about any space. They have a modern quality to them that really, really appeals to me. I just like 'em!

Friday, August 20, 2010

Seven days, no meat. Really.

I am about to embark upon an exciting challenge, my lovelies. Beginning Monday, I'll be going meat-free for seven days. Not to worry - I have no intention of turning vegetarian on you (though I have a lot of respect for those who can survive without bacon). No, it's nothing quite so drastic.

I'm participating in my friend Lorna Yee's second Meat-Free Week challenge. (Check out the results of her last Meat-Free Week over here!) After all, abstaining from meat - even only occasionally - is a good thing for your heart, the environment and, frankly, your roster of recipes. It's a challenge of will (I predict bacon smell-induced whimpers sometime around Day Four), but mostly an exciting chance to think a little differently about how and what I eat, and an opportunity to get my protein elsewhere. Nuts, eggs and beans, anyone?

I hope at least a couple of you will join me (and Lorna, and the other Meat-Free gauntlet picker-uppers) on this journey. I think it will be a good time, especially given the incredible bounty of the Greenmarket these days. Between corn, fairy tale eggplant, tomatoes, cucumbers, greens, eggs, potatoes, beets, green beans and peaches, who needs meat? Not me.

Hopefully. (After all, I can still eat dessert.)

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Hipsteriffic.

Last Saturday was a ridiculously beautiful summer day. Low humidity, glorious sunshine, and relatively few obligations led me to pay a visit to the Hester Street Fair after a visit to the lovely Holly at Fringe Salon. The Fair occupies a piece of land originally used as a pushcart market site by Lower East Siders in the early 20th century. It's a shady little have at the corner of Essex and Hester, marked by an iron arcade straddling the entrance.

These days, the Fair is home to a number of different sellers, primarily of food, jewelry and vintage goods. There's also - mercifully - a misting tent where you can stand to get cool, and a super-neat used bike seller. The day I visited, the spice vendor was doing a brisk business.

I loved the vintage jewelry seller. Those brooches are just too sparkly and fun for words, but I couldn't choose just one, and so I decided to leave them all behind to be adopted by someone with a better capacity for decision making.

The jewelry booth also had a gorgeous collection of vintage keys on display. I loved how he arranged them on the mirror - it made for an intriguing vignette, I thought.

Memorandum had a variety of cool, Hollister Hovey-ish vintage items on offer, like this portrait...

...and this taxidermied stag.

And did I mention the bikes? It doesn't get more hipster than taxidermy and bikes.

Monday, August 16, 2010

This buckle goes fast.

This photo was snapped outside my office at approximately 11:00 AM on Thursday.

I think it's safe to say that - at least when it comes to baked goods - I have some damn lucky coworkers. My 12th Floor colleagues routinely enjoy the fruits of my baking experiments, and said experiments have increased exponentially with summer's onslaught of obscenely tempting fruits. I've flirted with peach-plum cake and taken blueberry buckle for a spin, but my heart (and that of the 12th Floor as a whole) belongs to peach browned butter buckle.

That's right. Peaches. And browned butter. That sound you hear? It's me, dying happy.

I first discovered the concept via the ever-awesome Deb of Smitten Kitchen. She made her buckle in a super-picturesque (but not at all commute-friendly) cast-iron skillet, and I was, indeed, smitten. The cake combines two of my favorite things: tangy buttermilk and nutty browned butter. The topping does the same, with its copious amounts of peaches (Deb used nectarines, which would also be delicious.) and - again - browned butter.

However. The first time I brought this in, we thought there was just too much cake. Don't get me wrong - the cake part is truly delicious. But the fruit and the topping? They are the stars. They need a modicum of cake - it imparts dignity and allays the notion that you are simply slurping up peaches, sugar and butter - but they don't need quite so much.

And so, on the second go-round, I halved the amount of cake. The result? A moist, delicious, slumpy buckle. And one that went in record time. A vote of confidence if ever there was one.

Peach Buckle with Browned Butter
Adapted from Smitten Kitchen

For the cake:
1/2 cup unsalted butter, plus additional for greasing pan
3/4 cups flour
1 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
Small pinch of allspice
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 egg
1/3 cup buttermilk
3/4 lb. peaches, pitted and cut into wedges (about 5 peaches)
1 tablespoon lemon juice

For the topping:
Reserved butter from cake (above)
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup flour
1/4 tsp. cinnamon
Pinch of salt

Brown the butter:
Place the butter in a small saucepan or skillet set over medium-low heat. The butter will melt, then get foamy. Eventually, the butter will turn a golden color and then begin to brown. Stir the butter frequently as this happens, scraping up any bits that settle to the bottom. Once the butter is a warm brown color and smells nutty, remove from the heat. Pour into a heat-proof dish and place in the freezer to cool down. (This is a good time to slice your peaches!)

Make the cake:
Once the butter is close to room temperature, remove it from the freezer.

Place a rack in the middle of the oven and pre-heat the oven to 350 degreees Fahrenheit. Butter a 9-inch cake cake, then line the bottom with parchment paper. Butter the paper and set the pan aside.

In a small bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, salt and allspice. In a large bowl, whisk together half of the browned butter and the sugar. Add the egg and whisk to combine well. Using a spatula, stir in the buttermilk, then the dry ingredients. Mix until just combined.

Pour the batter into the prepare cake pan, and use the spatula to smooth it out and around, making sure you have any even layer over the bottom of the pan. Toss the peaches with the lemon juice and arrange the slices in concentric circles on top of the cake batter.

Top & bake the cake:
Stir together the remaining butter with the flour, sugar, cinnamon and salt until the mixture forms large and small crumbs. Sprinkle the topping evenly over the peaches.

Bake the cake for 30-40 minutes, until a tester inserted into the center comes out clean of cake batter (you'll still see some peach juice on the tester). Let the cake cool in the pan on a rack until just warm, or until completely cool. Serve warm or at room temperature. The cake keeps well overnight in its pan, sealed with plastic wrap.

Serves 8.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Queenie's Treasury

Happy weekend, my lovelies! It's a gorgeous day here in New York, and I'm about to head out to the Greenmarket, where I'll be shopping for supplies for a dinner party to be held tonight chez moi! In the meantime, here are some fun tidbits to see you through the day.
I love a good gift basket. The sad thing, though, is that most of the time, they arrive littered with bits and pieces you'd never buy separately, and don't care for when assembled. However. The baskets from Fortnum & Mason, the venerable London department store, are a different breed altogether. Chelsea at Frolic! loves the Picadilly Hamper, with its strawberries and cream, but I'm partial to the robin's egg blue Champagne and Chocolates, myself. Yum.

Have you heard of Outstanding in the Field? It's so freaking cool. Basically, it's a traveling outdoor restaurant. The owners started the business in 1999 as a way of promoting local, sustainable food by setting dinners in the fields from whence they spring. I am currently obsessed with the notion of a fabulous City Harvest benefit, with these folks hosting it in the middle of Central Park. Yes indeedy. You heard it here first.

My native state of Connecticut is just over the border from New York City, and I grew up making the 50-minute trip into the city pretty frequently. We Nutmeggers are well-known for our poise, grace, beauty and - perhaps more notably - our love of the tipple. Which is why I was thrilled to see that, out of 80 new train cars being purchased for the Metro-North New Haven line (the one that brings Connecticut folks into Manhattan), seven are slated to become bar cars. Seems only fitting, no?

Friday, August 13, 2010

Serious refreshment.

Summer 2010, thy name is gimlet.

I've been drinking gimlets right and left this summer, and I can't think of a good reason to stop. I make mine with fresh lime juice, simple syrup and Plymouth gin, and they're just about the most refreshing thing I've tasted in a long, long time.

I've been tinkering a bit with my recipe, and have finally settled on a ratio of 4 parts gin, 1 part lime juice and 3/4 part simple syrup. Confusing? Perhaps. But I've given the recipe in ounces, tablespoons and teaspoons, so hopefully it will be a bit easier to size up. (If you size it down, I'll be a bit disappointed in you. Just saying.)

Queenie's Gin Gimlet

4 oz. gin
1 oz. (2 tbs.) lime juice
3/4 oz. (1 tbs. plus 1 1/2 tsp.) simple syrup*

Place 5-6 ice cubes in a cocktail shaker. Place your cocktail glass in the freezer. Add all three ingredients to the shaker and shake well - but not too vigorously - until the outside of the shaker is coated in cold condensation.

Remove the glass from the freezer and strain the cocktail into it. Garnish with a lime wedge, if you so desire.

Serves one. If you want to make a whole bunch, you could totally use a pitcher. Stir vigorously.

*To make simple syrup, combine equal parts granulated sugar and water in a saucepan. Set the pan over medium high heat and cook, stirring, until the sugar is completely dissolved. Stored in the fridge, simple syrup will keep for a couple of months. I make two kinds; one with granulated sugar (for lighter drinks) and one with turbinado sugar (for more robust drinks).

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

High lining it.

My friend Kim came to visit me last weekend, and I was determined to show her a proper New York time of it. And when Saturday dawned gloriously sunny and crisp, I decided that a walk along the High Line would be just the thing - even more so because I'd not yet made it there myself. Naughty, naughty New Yorker!

The High Line, in case you've not heard of it, is a newly-opened park on the west side of Manhattan. It opened in 2009 after years and years of negotiations, delays and debates. The High Line is so called because it's actually built above the city; it's a landscaped stretch of old elevated railroad tracks. The tracks run through what used to be the industrial center of the city, from Penn Station through the Meatpacking District, and have been landscaped in a way that pays tribute to their history. (As of today, the High Line is only finished up to 20th Street, but work on the last 14-block stretch is moving forward!)

The cement blocks that make up the paths recall railroad ties, and the wildflowers and reeds planted along the walkway seem to emerge from cracks in the sidewalk, much as they might in railroad beds left to seed.

One of the coolest things about the High Line is the way it allows for unique vantage points from which to view the city. It's not quite ground-level, nor is it a high-rise, and since it crosses the roadway fairly often, the path provides glimpses into nearby buildings and across vistas that just can't be seen from the ground.

In case you need another reason: see that overpass up there? Right under there, you can buy Butter Lane baked goods as well as popsicles and shaved ice from People's Pops. Yum.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Coffee upon coffee.

Iced coffee with coffee ice cubes is pretty freaking amazing, right? I mean, I make iced coffee at home all the time, but I never take the effort to actually make the coffee ice cubes. But after the fabulous, strong-to-the-last-sip coffee I had yesterday at 88 Orchard, I'm really wondering why not. WHY NOT?

In fact, please excuse me while I go get the French press all ready for an ice cube-bound pot of brew.

9th Street Espresso. 3 PM. Saturday, July 31st.

Need I say more? Yum.
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