Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Sometimes it’s worth paying a professional

I was walking to work a few days ago and I spotted a gentleman in a black tank top with an interesting upper arm tattoo. He had obviously intended for the tattoo to read “Italian Stallion” over the green, white and red crest of some sort.

Unfortunately, the “t’ in Stallion was crossed a little too high and the script read “Italian Scallion.”

Due to the size of the his biceps, I elected not to snap a photo.

Monday, September 18, 2006

Surly with a side of Bland Oatmeal

New York Magazine just started a food blog. “Grub Street will be updated hourly, covering everything from the cult street vendor, nameless yet venerated, to the latest temple of gastronomy, awash in renown.” Honestly, I’m not sure I can deal with another New York food blog trying to find exquisite food for under $5 or rave (again) about The Little Owl. The market is saturated. Enough already.

Or maybe I’m just grouchy because I’m having trouble with my oatmeal. (Just stop reading right here unless you’re really interested in my oatmeal trials and tribulations.)

Hi Mom.

I’ve never been a big oatmeal eater, but all of a sudden I found myself in the oat/meal aisle of the grocery store. The fact that I knew exactly what to buy and how to make it was a sure sign I’d seen this episode of Good Eats on television a few too many times. You know, the one where he pretends to be Scottish and they make haggis?

The trouble is the topping - it needs a little something to add flavor. I should mention right here and now that I’m not a chunks-o-fruit kinda gal. I don’t eat fruit yogurt, I don’t even like pulp in my OJ. (In fact, I will not drink any beverage that contains pulp. When I was younger I used to strain my juice before drinking it. Perfectly normal.) So fruit is pretty much out. I know this closes off a whole world of nutritious and flavorful blah blah blah. Seriously, I used to strain my juice. I’m not going to start tossing blueberries into my breakfast any time soon. If you like that sort of thing, go ahead. Hell, throw some raisins in there. Just don’t expect me to Mmmm and Ahhh.

I started with the classic brown sugar. Always a crowd pleaser, but lacking punch. Things improved when I started adding a spoonful of plain yogurt and a pinch of salt with the brown sugar – it may sound gross but the contrast of flavors was really quite nice.

Next I tried semi-sweet chocolate chips. Absolutely awful. Really truly dreadful. Bitter, miserable, I had to throw it away. In this case, two rights make a big fat wrong.

Butter wasn’t enough, maple syrup was too much. Should I go salty, sweet, or both? Anyone out there have any suggestions for the perfect oatmeal?

Tuesday, September 12, 2006


I’d love to say I discovered Roll and Dough all by myself, but Gothamist and New York Magazine got there a week or two ahead of me. Nevertheless, in case you haven’t heard, Roll and Dough has arrived in Manhattan! Lucky for me, Roll and Dough, located at the corner of W. 3rd St. and 6th Avenue, is right on my way to work.

Roll and Dough features bings, buns and dumplings (and assorted soups). The bings are grilled, the buns and dumplings are baked or steamed, and all are portable pockets filled with meat, vegetables, or even fruit. Curiously, their menu also features a section labeled “Public Favourite Food,” containing Ameri-Chinese fare like General Tso’s, but on my last visit this section was crossed out in ball point pen.

New York Magazine aptly describes the bing as looking like “a sesame seed bagel that got run over by a taxi.” The crust is thin and chewy, the filling is like that of a dumpling, but moister. So far I’ve tried the Spicy Pork Bing, the Spicy Beef Bing, and the Pork w. Chinese Cabbage Bun. The Spicy Pork Bing was the clear winner. Check it out…

It was like the best dumpling I’ve ever had. For an investment of under $2.00 Roll and Dough is definitely worth a try. If you order $15 worth, they’ll even deliver. You could have a bing party! A bingfest! Bingorama! Bingapalooza ’06!

Friday, September 08, 2006

Leafy Greens

Leafy greens. So good for you..

My diet consists of whatever I can scrounge out of the fridge in the morning (typically yogurt) and then whatever is being served at family meal at the restaurant (typically pasta with leftover sauce). I am most likely developing scurvy. I clearly do not get my RDA of leafy greens, which apparently we should be eating with every meal so that we can be big and strong and live till 100 and have no free radicals floating about in our systems doing whatever bad things they are wont to do.

Sometimes, though, you don’t want a big old bowl of leafy greens. You don’t even want a side of sautéed spinach. The weather is getting cooler and you want comfort. A big bowl of pasta and cheese, or a duck leg confit. Or just butter, melted on whatever is near at hand. At times like this, you must trick yourself into ingesting the leafy greens while distracted by the cheese, ducks, and butter.

Some, like mustard greens, are face-pinching bitter. I like to balance this bitterness with fat. Mmmm, fat. Fat from the pig or the duck or the rich creamy cheese. Some, like kale, are just so, so leafy. This leafiness can also be successfully offset by fat, which coats the leaves with tastiness. Here’s how (I made these recipes up, so please forgive any kooky errors)…

The easy way:

Tear some kale into bite size pieces and sauté it until it is much smaller in size and not so damn leafy and unwieldy looking. Maybe 10 minutes. Cook some pasta. Bring some gorgonzola cheese and some heavy cream to a boil and reduce slightly, pour over cooked pasta (return to pasta pan and do this over low heat), add the kale, salt and pepper, toss and eat.

The slightly more complicated way:

Pasta with Duck Legs and Mustard Greens

The key to this pasta is that the duck flavors are incorporated three different ways; from the actual duck legs, by cooking the greens in duck fat, and by making the sauce from the fond in the duck pan.

2 duck legs, fat scored
1 large bunch mustard greens
½ lb pasta (I used gemilli)
1 large shallot, minced
½ - 1 cup veal stock (chicken or veg would work too)
1 T butter
olive oil
salt and pepper

Preheat your oven to 375. Season the duck legs and place them skin side down in an ovenproof pan coated with a little oil. Render the fat on the stovetop (medium high) until the skin is brown and crispy. Drain the fat into a bowl (reserve!) and flip the duck legs skin side up (still in the pan) and put them in the oven for 7 – 15 minutes or until they reached desired degree of doneness. Remove from pan and set aside. Do not wash pan.

Wash and trim tough stems from mustard greens, cut into strips approximately 1” wide. Place the reserved duck fat in a skillet and sauté the greens until partially wilted, seasoning with salt and pepper. Set aside, in pan, for finishing with pasta.

Start pasta water. Add shallots to duck pan, sauté until golden, deglaze with wine (optional), and add stock. Simmer stock in duck pan, stirring up brown bits, until reduced by half. While the stock is simmering, cook pasta and bone duck legs, slicing meat and skin into thin strips. Do not discard the tasty crispy skin – this is the best part!
Drain the pasta (reserving a little water to thin sauce if needed) and combine it with the stock, the duck, and the greens over low heat. Stir to coat the pasta, add butter, season with salt and pepper.

In other news, I bought some new tea and was looking at the tea bag tag. It was partially obscured and I misread it to say “reveal yourself” (it was “reward yourself”). Imagine tea drinkers worldwide suddenly flashing open their trenchcoats. Surprise!

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

The Ups and Downs of Tomato Season

I am a tomato snob. I grew up in New Jersey, it is my birthright. There’s nothing worse than those mealy red orbs you find in the grocery store in December, posing as tomatoes. Every year I look forward to the real thing and mourn the end of tomato season. At least I used to.

This season, my feelings are confused; I’m in a muddle. I find myself despising beautiful red, yellow and green heirloom tomatoes, hoping they fall off the shelf and are crushed on the floor. At the restaurant, I make about 30 heirloom tomato salads a night. 45 if we serve it with buffalo mozzarella. They are slow, fussy, difficult to assemble, and break my rhythm. I find myself yearning for then end of tomato season, which is causing some kind of short circuit in the tomato-loving portion of my brain. A house divided against itself cannot stand.