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Archive for April, 2009

New cookbook: Baked

I finally took the plunge and bought “Baked: New Frontiers in Baking.” It’s always exciting when a new cookbook arrives, particularly this one because it’s gorgeous and has so many yummy-looking treats. I was intrigued by Baked initially when Deb from Smitten Kitchen mentioned the cookbook repeatedly. I gave my Dad’s wife the cookbook for Christmas and looked through it when we were in Florida in March (they had me at Sweet and Salty Cake).

There was no more holding out after I tasted the delicacies from the Red Hook Baked bakery at a family wedding in Brooklyn last month (incidentally, in doing “research” for this post, I realized that Baked has a location in Charleston now – this is exciting because it’s probably easier for me to get to Charleston than to Red Hook). The chocolate chip cookies and famous brownies (topped with fleur de sel!) were both amazing, but the cupcakes – a basic white cake topped with vanilla buttercream icing – were the star of the show (and decorated beautifully, I might add). The icing was A-mazing with flecks of real vanilla bean and a perfect creamy consistency. Sadly, the recipe for these beauties is not included in the cookbook and the cupcakes can only be special ordered from the store (perhaps one of my readers who knows that my birthday is next month will make a mental note). I look forward to reporting back on the Baked treats that come out of my kitchen!

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I attended my five year (?!) business school reunion in Durham, NC over the weekend.  It was a great weekend – thanks to everyone who traveled from near and far, bringing their beautiful children and their patient spouses, to celebrate old memories and make new ones.  Thanks as well to my former classmates who have been reading The List.  Apparently, a link to my little pet project of a blog was included on our class reunion page on the school’s website.  I have no idea how the link found its way to the class page, but it was great to hear that I have a new reader base.

In honor of Durham, I thought that it would be nice to post one of my favorite recipes from Sara Foster, owner of Foster Market’s in Durham – a charming spot offering prepared foods and sandwiches and specialty grocery items (I could spend an hour in the candy section alone, which features everything from old-time penny candy to fancy chocolate).  Foster’s was the first place that I ate in Durham when I went to look for an apartment before my first year of school (a friend who was getting her PhD at Duke tipped me off), it was the scene of weekly lunches and brunches when I was in school, and it is at the top of my list of places to visit when I am in the area (as it should be on yours) as much for the memories of student life as for the food. 

This recipe is from “Fresh Every Day: More Great Recipes from Foster’s Market” – I have made this cake twice and it turned out perfectly both times.  Enjoy!

Dark Chocolate Soufflé Cake

Ingredients:
8 tbsp (1 stick) unsalted butter, cut into small pieces, plus more for buttering the pan
1/2 cup sugar, plus more for dusting the pan
8 ounces good-quality chocolate, finely chopped
2 tablespoons Kahlua or other coffee-flavored liqueur
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp cinnamon
6 large eggs, separated

Preparation:
Preheat the oven to 350°.  Butter a 9-inch springform pan and dust lightly with sugar.

Melt the butter and chocolate together in a heavy bottomed saucepan over low heat, stirring constantly.  Remove from heat and stir in the Kahlua, vanilla, and cinnamon.  Set aside to cool to room temperature.

In the bowl of a mixer fitted with a whisk attachment, beat the egg yolks and the sugar together on high speed until pale yellow and thick enough to hold a ribbon, about 2 or 3 minutes.  Gently fold a quarter of the beaten eggs into the chocolate mixture.  Pour the chocolate mixture with the added eggs into the bowl with the remaining eggs and fold gently to combine. 

In a clean bowl, beat the egg whites to soft peaks.  Fold a quarter of the egg whites into the chocolate batter to lighten it, then gently fold in the remaining egg whites until incorporated.  Do not over-mix the batter.  It’s fine if you see little traces of the egg whites.

Pour the batter into the prepared pan and smooth the top with a rubber spatula to make it even.  Bake on center rack for 30-35 minutes, until the edges are set but the center is still soft.  The cake will set completely as it cools.  Cool the cake on a wire rack for five minutes.

Run a knife around the edge to loosen the cake.  Open the springform pan to release the sides and transfer the cake onto a serving plate.  Slice and serve immediately.

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John & Amy trekked to the UWS over the weekend for their first Shake Shack experience (they live in Brooklyn, which seems to be the only plausible excuse for never having tried one of the best burgers in the city).  No surprise that they were delighted with Shake Shack – even Amy, who is a vegetarian.  We have Amy to thank for introducing us to the ‘Shroom Burger – crisp-fried portobello filled with melted muenster and cheddar cheese.  The ‘Shroom Burger has me reconsidering vegetarianism (apparently, that is a real word).

I would also like to highlight the excellent service that I encountered when John ordered the Double Stack rather than the ShackBurger (he can’t be the first person to have made this mistake).  In a move that would have made Danny Meyer proud, the gentleman at the counter was all smiles when I told him that John been given the wrong burger.  He patiently explained that John had, in fact, ordered the wrong item and then got me a ShackBurger and told me to keep the Double Stack and give it a try because I might like it (and was he ever right).  The downside of this exchange was that I ate my entire ShackBurger as well as half of John’s Double Stack. I digress….

Before heading to Shake Shack we enjoyed pomegranate margaritas at our (soon to be former) apartment.  This is my specialty drink courtesy of my sister-in-law, who used to bartend at The Spanish Kitchen in LA.  Here is the recipe:

6 counts of tequila
3 counts of Grand Marnier or another orange-flavored liqueur
3 counts of POM pomegranate juice
3 counts of margarita mix
Add salt to glass and lime as desired

It’s as easy as that.

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The newest darling of the bourgeoning Upper West Side food scene is Salumeria Rosi, which combines a storefront selling Italian delicacies (including a variety of salumi…) with a small restaurant serving up Italian tapas.  NYC has its fair share of Italian tapas spots, but Salumeria Rosi is a wonderful addition to this (overdone?) trend.

We went to Salumeria Rosi with our friends Mike and Caroline.  If you can snag a reservation for four, that’s the way to go because you can sample more dishes (the dishes are small, but four people can reasonably split each dish).

Highlights of the meal included:

  • Lasagna – pork and beef ragu and béchamel sauce
  • Torta di Porri – savory tart of leeks, pancetta and Parmigiano
  • Insalata pontormo – Cesare’s signature salad of soft-scrambled egg, pancetta and market greens
  • Risotto di zucca – risotto with sweet butternut squash
  • Salumi – we tried the Milanese (speckled, lean salame; my favorite), bresaola (air-dried, salted beef) and prosciutto di Parma

Things I would skip next time (and there will be a next time):

  • Cicerchie crostini – wild chickpea puree with dandelion greens (I had high hopes for this dish, but it missed the mark)
  • Rucola e Parmigiano – arugula, lemon and shaved Parmigiano (perfectly good, but why bother when there are so many more exciting options)
  • Costina – spicy Tuscan spare ribs, slow-cooked with tomatoes, rosemary and garlic (good flavor, but difficult to eat and to share)
  • Formaggi – go to Casellula if you want a good cheese plate

A few gripes….we had to wait quite a while (30 minutes?) for our reserved table and the “courses” came out in very rapid succession.  My other frustration is that Salumeria Rosi does not take walk ins – for a casual spot with casual prices, this is a shame.  But those gripes pale in comparison to the quality of our meal, particularly given the extremely reasonable price tag.  We spent $60/person for plenty of food, two glasses of wine (the glasses of wine were well priced and good), dessert (get the ricotta cheesecake!) and coffee. 
 
There are no pictures to remember this delicious meal by as my camera fell off my chair at the outset of the meal and the lens cap got jammed (it’s fixed now!).  Next time…

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I am still alive (thanks for your inquiries…ahem), but work and the apartment purchase have kept me busy. To get the ball rolling again, I want to share my (belated by one month) thoughts on applewood…

apple-thyme

Brooklyn. On a Friday night. What was I thinking? This was the thought running through my head as we trekked to Park Slope to have dinner at applewood with our friends, John and Amy, who are always troopers about coming in to the city to have dinner with us. After stumbling out of the subway following an hour-long trip to peaceful Park Slope, applewood was a welcome sight. We could have been dining in the Berkshires for how far from Manhattan the restaurant feels with its farmhouse chic décor and roaring fireplace.

We started dinner by splitting three appetizers – veal bolognese with gnocchi, pork belly, and scallops with veal testa. There was general agreement that the veal Bolognese was good (although the featherweight hunks of gnocchi were not to my liking). The men agreed that the pork belly was the best appetizer, but I find pork belly too rich. As for the scallops, call me a traditionalist, but I don’t like my mollusks served with head cheese – I gave this unique combination a try only to confirm my skepticism.

Dinner was wreckfish (my man), meyer lemon risotto (Amy), goat (John) and pork tenderloin (me). The fish choices were interesting because applewood serves wild fish only; wreckfish was new to me as was tilefish. My husband was sitting next to me when I typed this post and he recounted that his fish “was good, not amazing.” I think this sentiment summarizes the entire meal. The brussels sprouts and sauce with my pork were amazing, but the pork was overdone on the outside and tender but rather flavorless on the inside. I thought that Amy’s risotto had the most unique and interesting combination of flavors. John was disappointed with his goat; I don’t like goat in the first place so I didn’t bother trying it.

Dessert was a tepid end to the meal – the chocolate soufflé outshone the apple crisp, but I think that I could have reproduced both at home with better results.

I wanted to love applewood, and I did love the atmosphere, the comfortable but competent service (our sweet waiter even asked for the address of my blog after he saw me snapping away on the camera), and my brussels sprouts. Applewood was not worth an hour-long trip, but it was a lovely place to spend a night with friends. In fact, I can’t imagine a more welcoming place to spend a rainy Monday evening.

Pictures after the jump! (more…)

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