Category Archives: Things I Did Not Cook

Where I Am Now

Still cooking, posting over at redhookcsa.com. More posts over here, eventually.

Thanks for reading!

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Deskmates 3: Early Harvest

Every fall, Angel and I await the return of The Grapes. Their name is always capitalized because they’re good enough to merit it. Officially, they’re a variety called Reliance, but that doesn’t quite cover how great they are. They’re not just any juicy red grapes, they’re bursting with the tangy grape-y flavor of Concords, though seedless and not quite as tannic. (I also love Concords, both the seedless and seeded varieties.) We first came across The Grapes at farm stands in upstate New York a few years ago, and ever since, we’ve hunted them down in the city greenmarkets.

One of my new favorite apple varieties is the Spitzenburg, and I’m in good company because apparently it was Thomas Jefferson’s favorite apple. I’m not quite sure where that bit of trivia comes from, unless there’s a piece of vellum somewhere listing Teenbeat-style likes and dislikes of the hunky 3rd president. Anyway, the Spitzenburg is firm and juicy, with light cider and lemon notes. I always choose apples that still have leaves attached. It gives them so much more character, don’t you think? This particular apple was doubly attractive because in addition to its two perky leaves, it also has three dried flower buds. It was the only blossom among its four branchmates to survive into applehood.

It’s a well-known fact that I am partial to purple vegetables. But really, I could take or leave any of the other purple vegetables (potatoes, cauliflower, broccoli, onions, kale) – as long as I could still have their paler siblings, of course. These purple carrots are the ones I really love. It just makes me so happy to slice one open and see its bright orange heart and little orange veins poking through the purple layer. One of my long-held food theories is that colors affect taste (really, if you ate a spinach leaf or a raspberry blindfolded, you’d know what color it was). I think these have a slight bittersweet edge and a hint of fruit flavor. They can keep their color if cooked carefully, but more often than not, they just dye the rest of the food they touch.

The dusky apple in the foreground is an experimental hybrid called NY 428. (Behind it is a Honeycrisp, the indie darling of the apple world). According to its label at the greenmarket, the NY 428 has excellent flavor but does not last long in storage, so it never got a real name. It does indeed have good flavor; it’s fruity, tart, and slightly vinuous. I don’t remember its parentage, but it has some of the qualities of Winesap and Macoun apples. It would make a killer pie, I think, and I’m hoping to test it soon.

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Deskmates 1: Some Summer Fruit

Introducing my new series, Deskmates. These are the foods that keep me going when I’m at work. Most of them are pictured on my desk, hence the name. Also, I end up eating at my desk while trying to respond to emails and edit drafts way more than I’d like to admit. No leisurely lunchbreaks for me!

At least I can enjoy the fruits of the season at my desk. And I usually stop to buy something at the greenmarket on the way from train to office.

Some of them aren’t even close to being local or in season, like this Minneola from Peru. I’m still not entirely certain of my personal plan for eating local, seasonable, and sustainable foods (besides choosing those as often as possible), but I’m allowing myself the occasional citrus indulgence. Until I move to California, that is, and have my own personal lemon grove. I’ll let you know when that happens.

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Ice Cream Party

"it's an eating-too-much-ice-cream party and you're invited"

I’m back on the ice-cream making wagon again. It’s hot, I only want to eat frozen things (and raw vegetables sliced with my new knife), so this makes perfect sense. My only problem is deciding which ice creams and sorbets to make.

I took a short break from my creamy, cold obsession after the monster pictured above took up residence in my stomach. Kimball Farm is just down the road from Ian’s family home and we walked over for dessert one night during our brief visit to Carlisle, Massachusetts. Foolishly, I ordered a small coffee and cookies, which is about three scoops. Ian got the kiddie size chocolate peanut butter and it looked exactly as big as mine. But we were strong, and in the epic battle of man vs. ice cream, we emerged victorious. Yes, I ate all of that, and I didn’t share any with the cute farm animals, even though they were all named after ice cream flavors (by us, at least). The ice cream was great, of course, but the memory of the giant cup’s slow journey into my bloodstream was enough to make me cringe every time I heard the Mr. Softee chimes for two weeks.

I think I’m over it now. This weekend Ian & I were in the mood for a fresh, tart sorbet. He had the great idea to make a blackberry-lemon sorbet, so we churned up a batch. The flavors are great together, but since citrus zest is so powerful, the lemon overwhelmed the berry. I’m going to re-work this recipe and put it up later.

But in the meantime, all I can think about is what frozen treat I want to make next. Rose and mastic, Sour cherry, Chocolate with a peanut butter swirl, Smoky Spanish Almond,  Rosemary and lime sorbet, fresh blueberry sorbet, espresso granita…  I’m sure there’s a 12-step program for this.

What are some of your favorite flavors?

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Sunrise Mart

Today, just before the torrential downpour, I walked through Soho to Sunrise Mart on Broome Street to stock up on my favorite Japanese foods.  There’s a little Japanese store in Astoria, too, but I had other errands in Soho.  I’ve decided to start making my own sushi rolls for weekday lunches to save time, especially since if I don’t bring lunch, there’s no guarantee I’ll make an effort to eat at work.

I bought:

Nori sheets to make sushi to take to work

Bamboo sushi-rolling mat

Matcha for drinks and desserts

Seaweed salad

A huge pickled daikon, shown above after I sliced it

Wheat-free low-sodium Tamari

A red bean cake I ate in the store’s cafe section

Detox foot pads (not convinced they’ll do anything, but they were there and I’m curious)

Dried anchovies as a snack, and possible lunchbox treat when dressed with chili and sesame oil

Mmm.  But even after all that shopping, I got home and realized I was down to 1/2 cup sushi rice and 1 tablespoon rice vinegar.  I used them to make one asparagus and radish roll, and now I need to re-stock.  Which is fine – I love grocery shopping!

Sunrise Mart

494 Broome Street

New York, NY 10013

212-219-0033

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The Long Goodbye, part 2

Last Saturday, some friends were visiting the city and charged me with making dinner plans . After they’d seen Rent, I met Elena and Kalyn outside the theaer and led them to Florent for dinner. I told them what I knew of the restaurant’s history and it’s foreshortened future on the way downtown. by the time we got to the West Village, Florent was packed and the maitre told us there’d be at least half an hour’s wait. I asked if we needed to put a name on a list, but he said, “No, I’ll remember who you are.” So we stood near the window and chatted, and soon enough he led us to a table. As we walked back, I noticed that all of the framed maps on the wall were marked “for sale on Ebay.” I was a bit conflicted about that, thinking at the same time, “It won’t be the same without the maps,” and “Maybe I should buy one.” (I didn’t win, though I bid on two.)

I finally got to try the boudin noir with apples and sautéed onions. I chose the appetizer size since I wasn’t very hungry, and it was just enough. I cut away the casing and scraped velvety bits of sausage onto the apple slices. This particular boudin was rich and flavorful without verging into fatty or gamy territory. Elena and Kalyn both had cheeseburgers, and proclaimed them delicious. They’re even thinking about making one more visit before Florent closes June 29th.

After dinner, I went to the bathroom, and when I came back Elena presented me with my very own Florent t-shirt. “Because you love this place and it’s closing,” she said. And it was the one I’d been secretly planning to get for myself! I love Florent’s cheeky designs – there’s been a stomach postcard on my wall for a few years now.

So I have about a month left to get back and try the paté and maybe something from the breakfast or daily special menus. I’ll report back.

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The Long Goodbye

Florent will only be around another month. Yes, it’s been all over the news lately, deservedly, because it’s been as much a cultural asset as a culinary one. Ian and I went there last week just to make sure we made it in to say goodbye before they close. We both had the excellent burger (on an english muffin!), and I need to go back at least twice before they close so I can try the boudin noir and pâté, maybe even the mussels. I’ve always thought about ordering those, but I end up with the burger every time. It’s just so satisfying to have a simple meal that’s made with care – familiar and unassuming, but special because of the feeling that goes into it. And that’s how I’d sum up the entire restaurant, if I had to. But I’m glad I don’t have to, because Florent is more than that sum. Everything in it – from the maps on the wall to the chilled beer glasses to the nubby rounds of butter – is done with taste, precision, and a sense of humor.

The staff go out of their way to make diners feel welcome. When Ian and I were there last week, we opted to sit at the counter rather than hold out for a table. The waiter brought us kid’s menus and a cup of crayons to share with the couple next to us. We were delighted – it’s not often a restaurant encourages play.

Since that dinner last week, I’ve been trying to write about Florent, but I can’t seem to do it without sounding sentimental (neither can any of the writers, either). So I’m just going to let it stand, this sentimental post. There’s a mystery about this place, I think, and it can’t be figured out even with repeat visits. But until it’s gone, I’ll keep going back to say goodbye.

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