Paris under pressure

I just returned from a lengthier visit to Paris (thanks to some very generous friends), and oh, what a time! This experience was more of an eye-opener than a vacation, as I timed my visit perfectly to the massive rail transport strike, civil servant strike, student protests, and a few riots in the outskirts of the city. A cloud seems to hang over one of the world's most beautiful cities--one that seems to appear, historically, quite often.

Is it possible for a nation to be bipolar? I'm not as up on French history as British, but France's political pendulum seems to swing pretty wildly for a country that coined the term "joie de vivre." It's a very serious country, and apparently now is a very serious time. It's interesting to realize that the French people's fiery feelings tend to gut the country from time to time, so I hope that the nation is past its "off with their heads!" period ("Off with their heads! No, off with THEIR heads! No, off with THEIR heads!" back and forth and so on), because it feels a bit like it's heading in that direction once again. The French are known for being passionate people, and I hope that, rather than being politically passionate against each other, they can get back to amour...

It's unfortunate that the shadow over the city darkened my vacation as well, but I was able to escape my own life for a while, which was wonderful. Paris is still a wonderful city with many wonderful people and places, and I'm sure she'll survive whatever's headed her way--she always has, albeit not always in such innocent ways.

Coney Island


Godzilla vs. Pooh

The ultimate battle between good and evil has finally happened... Sadly, it looks like Godzilla wins again--Pooh's Hunny Blaster just didn't cut it.


I love the smell of good food, but...

...why did a schawarma vendor have to park his cart behind my building? Now, by mid-mornings on weekdays, the aroma of spiced grilled meat wafts through my window.

It smells good.

It is cruel.


Farewell, Old Friend...

Friday morning, at approximately 8:15am, Maxim, my beloved morning helper, passed away. A gift from dear friends, he lived with me for ten wonderful years, faithfully delivering the nectar of a new day: my cappuccino. Through thick and thin, good days and bad, this old friend greeted me lovingly, reminding me that there are beautiful things in this crazy, often ugly world.

I'll never forget Maxim's last words: "Bzzzt bzzzz zzzz zz bzzzzt," while its little red light flickered, then went out.

Thank you, Maxim. You were a good friend. I'll miss you.


Summer in the City

Summer has officially arrived...or at least my grill pan has. The poor little thing has been hiding for a few years...I haven't been in the mood to use it/smell up my apartment/etc. But with the onset of summer and my craving for fresh, simple fare, it has been resurrected!

Last night I prepared a lovely (if I do say so myself) belated birthday dinner for Jimmy and Dan, and it represented early summer blended with inspiration from my recent trip to the Caribbean. It started with pina coladas featuring the guavaberry liquor I picked up in St. Maarten--and yes, apparently guavaberries are a different thing entirely from guava. On its own, the beverage is a bit medicinal (apparently it was originally used for "medicinal purposes"), but blended into pinapple, coconut cream, and ice, it's lovely (and gives the drink a wonderful fleshy-pink hue). So, if you're ever in the St. Maarten vicinity, pick up a bottle...

I moved on to Tony-inspired salmon ceviche (1 lb salmon, 2 mangoes, red onion, green onion all chopped up and marinated in the juice of about 5 limes and some hot sauce), and a portobello mushroom tofu spread (sauté about 1 cup chopped onion and 2 cups chopped portobello, then blend with about 1 cup of tofu...though next time I'd kick it up with garlic (Jimmy's alergic), and a few other things...

For the main course, I grilled some chicken breasts that I'd rubbed with some Trinidadian curry powder, olive oil, and a little pineapple juice. The curry seems to have lots of cinnamon, cumin, turmeric, bay, and a few other things--very West African, which makes total sense.I sautéed some gorgeous snow peas in olive oil, and served everything with basmati.

And for dessert, Jimmy and Dan brought some pints of vanilla and pistachio ice cream...and Dan and I drizzled a little maple syrup on the vanilla...Yummy!!

Happy Birthday, guys, and Happy Summer, everyone!


e tempo del fig!

I love grilled figs, and an adventure to the Arthur Avenue Market in the Bronx yesterday reminded me just how much... I picked up a box of fresh, perfectly-ripe beauties, along with some cured meats--primarily prosciutto....

To grill the figs:
Wash and cut in half lengthwise.
Coat a grill or grill pan with olive oil--just enough so the figs don't stick.
Place figs cut side down on hot grill until there are nice grill marks on the flesh--but don't allow to get too mushy. Flip and grill on the skin side until the flesh is hot and juicy.

I like to wrap them in a little prosciutto... Yummy!!!


Everyone should have an extending joke fork...

...to save the day when cooking hot sausage-zucchini pasta!

After a wonderful trans-atlantic chat with Mandounette this afternoon, I went to Chelsea Market, where I was inspired to pick up the ingredients for one of my favorite dishes. An extension of one of my childhood vegetable favorites (my mom's zucchini sautéed with olive oil, onions and Sicilian capers--the ones packed in salt), I add whatever I'm in the mood for to create a pasta dish--sometimes chicken, sometimes fresh herbs, etc. My Sicilian side is always in the mood for sausage, so today I decided to pick up a pound of hot sausage from Buon Italia (I prefer Espositio's on 9th Ave. and 38th, but they're closed on Sundays, so I went with what I could get, which turned out to be pretty good, too).

It's a relatively easy dish to prepare (and ended up being its usual yummy self), but while I was balancing its various ingredients in spots throughout my teeny kitchen, I managed to dump lots of the zucchini onto the floor between the stove and the wall. Great... Thank God for the bottle of wine I'd picked up and my magically-extending joke fork.

Hot Sausage-Zucchini Pasta

1 lb. hot Italian sausage, removed from casings
1 lb zucchini, sliced
1 medium-sized onion, sliced
3-4 cloves of garlic, minced
1 tbsp. Sicilian capers (the ones packed in salt, not brine)
1 tbsp. pesto
olive oil
1 lb pasta of your choice

Cook the pasta as you prepare the following:

Sauté garlic in olive oil for a few seconds, then add sausage until cooked, breaking it up into chunks as you go. Add the onion, cook for about 1 minute, then add the zucchini, capers, and pesto. Cover, stirring occasionally, until zucchini is almost cooked. Add drained pasta and toss to coat. Serve with freshly-ground black pepper and freshly-grated Parmesan.


Eggy Madness

(Originally posted by Jimmy on VendrediFriday.)
I was starving on Sunday and all geared up to construct a tortilla/cheese lunch thing. But then all my tortillas were moldy. So, in my desperation for cheese and carbs I frantically whipped up 3 eggs with a little cream, then folded in mashed potato leftovers, poured it into an olive-oiled round cake pan, plopped in some cheddar, sea salt and sliced jalapenos. Baked it for 20 minutes at 400(?), then broiled it brown. When I served it I drizzled some fresh (as in pressed this year) new olive oil. It wasn't half bad, and it tasted better the next day.

Raisin Remix

(Originally posted by Jimmy on VendrediFriday.)
So, I am a big fan of the Trader Joe's Thai Lime Peanut snack mix. Great with pre-dinner drinks, the kids love 'em. Or when I am really desperate they are a meal.

I added raisins to the bowl and it made it a million times better. The mix can be really hot and this balanced it out. If you really want to burn your ass, eat a raisin at the same time as one of the red chilies. Whoa!



(Originally posted by Jimmy on VendrediFriday.)
In the past, I have only made egg-based ice creams, from Mariage Freres "Birthday" tea flavoured (smooth and yummy) to salted-butter caramel (overcooked the custard, too sandy). Salted Butter Caramel is my FAVORITE ice cream that they serve at Mariage Freres in Paris, but I screwed it up, i guess i just need to move to Paris.

Anyway, at KK's suggestion I decided to go the eggless gelato route and create a treat to give her flashbacks of her childhood in Sicily that she needs to have with me there coming of age on the beach.

It is day one, and I just made the base, which I will chill tonight then churn tomorrow, then eat the next day on Vendredi Friday-Monday with some fellow Bucksmellians and D.B.

Initial impressions - I am thinking that it might be too sweet. As a solution, I may add some fresh cream to the pot tomorrow. It is certainly vanillaee.

This recipe I used is adapted slightly from a pistachio gelato recipe KK gave me recently...

4 cups organic milk
1 cup sugar (maybe use less sugar unless you like it seet....)
3 tbsp. cornstarch
2 vanilla beans

Simmer 3 cups of milk in a saucepan over medium heat, then remove from heat. Combine remaining 1 cup milk, sugar, and cornstarch in a bowl, then stir into hot milk. Return pan to heat and cook, stirring constantly, until mixture thickens slightly, 8–10 minutes. Slice open vanilla beans as if you were dissecting a worm in biology, then scrape out the insides. Add vanilla carcass and guts into the milk while it is cooking.

Set aside to let cool completely, stirring often, then cover and refrigerate overnight (keep the beans in! for vanilla to the max). Dream about the ice cream, but wear underwear to protect sheets.

Strain mixture through a sieve into a bowl. Discard vanilla after you savour their smell one last time. Throw in ice cream maker. Then freeze for a few hours, serve it up.


So...I added a pint of cream. The whole thing turned out very Breyers. Milky and fresh. KK brought her super-local (window sill) organic mint leaves and we sprinkled them on which made it super fresh. great summer ice-milk.


Roast Pork Stir Fry

Thanks to Tony and Tommy for pointing out that you can buy roast pork from a Chinese market. For years I have admired the glistening tea-smoked ducks, roast chickens, and other meats hanging in the windows in Chinatown, but for some reason I never actually bought anything until last fall. Whenever I get roast pork--my absolute favorite--I use it to make an easy stir fry or pop it in a nooodle soup.

I had a little left today, and for Sunday brunch I concocted a wonderful noodle dish from:

about 1/2 cup chunks of roast pork
1 medium-sized head of young bok choy, roughly chopped (about 1 1/2 cups)
1 handful or so rice vermicelli
1 tsp. dark soy sauce
chili paste to taste
1/2 tsp. sichuan peppercorns
1 tbsp. light soy sauce

--In one pot, heat roast pork over a low flame.

--Meanwhile, in another pot, boil enough water for the vermicelli.

--When pork is sizzling and fat has rendered (it shouldn't be very fatty), add chili paste, dark soy sauce, and peppercorns.

--Add vermicelli to water and turn heat off. Noodles should take about 3 minutes to cook.

--Meanwhile, add light soy sauce and bok choy and cover, stirring occasionally, until leaves turn bright green (1 or 2) minutes. Drain noodles and add to pork/choy mixture and toss until thoroughly mixed.


Magic Herbes de Provence/Mustard Poultice

During KK's visit to Mandy & Sté in Paris, we prepared an amazing Sunday meal, the centerpiece of which was a beautiful lamb roast. Mandy dug through her spice cabinet, and into a bowl went about a tablespoon of Herbes de Provence, just enough Dijon mustard to bind the herbs (we used the wasabi-like Amora), and some sea salt and pepper. Rub this stuff all over meat, roast, and you have one fantastico dish!

KK notes: Watch what's in your Herbes de Provence. Every container I've checked out in the US so far includes lavender, which adds a weird flavor that just doesn't seem right. The brand we used in Paris (Albert Menes) contains rosemary, savory, oregano, thyme, and basil.

Paella au Paris

Deliciousness from an outdoor market...


Childhood Games

Wandering around the galleries today, the best show of the day was in the window of a gallery on 10th Avenue. As I strolled by three children were standing in a window, waving at all of the passersby. I happily waved back, and they started jumping up and down and cheering. Ahh...that great old childhood game of getting complete strangers to somehow acknowledge you!

I remember fighting for the seats in the back of the school bus on field trip day. Could we get truckers to honk at us? I'm sure we were terribly annoying (I even have faint memories of signs, which were undoubtedly horrible). But I remember the joy that we received from something so simple.

What an amazing feeling.


Bloody Cold in New York

Just a quick post to note that it's a little cold here. There's not much to say when one's brain is frozen, though it is possible to delude one's self by sitting in the sun in the window in a toasty apartment.

Until the sun goes behind the building across the street...

Winter is here with a vengeance.


Long Hiatus

I've been on hiatus completing a large project...and now I'm back!

And to celebrate my return, let us all ponder--what is "Meditarian" food?