We Need a Mariage Frères in NYC

Some Mariage Frères Earl Grey French Blue tea, recently delivered by Mandy.

When one finds something that makes you so indescribably happy, so content, you deserve to stick with it. For me, teatime with a blend from Parisian tea purveyor Mariage Frères is one of those things. In my mind, this store--around since the 19th century--deals pure French. The blends are incredibly fragrant and delicate. Rather than the smack in the face one gets from a morning cup of British-style Darjeeling or English Breakfast (and don't get me wrong--sometimes I need said slap, and it is much appreciated), these teas are contentment and beauty in a cup, and kind of like drinking the countryside. They make a dreary dull day, a long winter, a rough moment much more tolerable. Forget Zoloft. Get me some Roi des Earl Gray. Bergamot heaven.

I received a tin of Earl Grey Imperial from Jimmy a few years back, and though I've been a lover of tea since my study abroad time in London, these little dried, bergamot-infused leaves changed everything.

As I sip my tea (today it was Casablanca, a blend of green tea and mint), I wish I could be magically (or scientifically) transported to the shop in the Marais. The wall of tea canisters behind the counter...so many possibilities...so little sniffing time. It's a must-go for any Paris adventure, especially as the tea there is reasonably priced, and here in NYC it's stupidly expensive (thank you Dean & DePuca and the other evil overpriced food halls...).

What more can I say. Go there. Buy some tea. You'll say, "Thank you VendrediFriday!"


Warm Pimentón Chicken and Arugula Salad

I think I'm addicted to Pimentón. Is there something in it? I've only had it my cupboard for a little over a week, and I've used it in practically every meal I've made. I guess I'll have to do a little research.

Yesterday, after visiting Union Square to watch people dressed as animals run a marathon around the park (and a visit to the Farmers Market, where I purchased some Jerusalem Artichokes--experiment to be posted...), I was talked into visiting the crazy-insane Trader Joe's on 14th Street. About 3 months later I paid for my purchase and headed home...with some wild arugula among other things. What to make for dinner...

Warm Pimentón Chicken and Arugula Salad
(1 serving)

about two or three large handfuls of arugula (or for you Brits, rocket)
1/4 c. shredded cooked chicken
1 tsp. + 1 tbsp. olive oil
1/4 tsp. pimentón
1 tbsp. crumbled goat chesse
salt + pepper to taste

Wash and dry arugula and put in serving bowl or on plate. Heat 1 tsp. olive oil, add chicken and pimentón, and sauté until hot. In the meantime, crumble goat cheese onto arugula. To the chicken add a pinch of salt and remaining olive oil and stir/heat. Drizzle olive oil and chicken over the arugula and toss to coat leaves (they'll wilt a little). Add salt and pepper to taste, and serve.


Pimentón Pasta

Mark Bittman's been talking about pimentón (spanish smoked pepper, kind of like paprika) for ages, and last week I finally bought a tin. Besides...it smelled sooooo wonderful, I couldn't resist. Brought back memories of my favorite Pennsyltucky potato chips (which I can't buy in NYC): Middleswarth BBQ.

I've been playing a bit, and today threw together a pasta dish with some leftovers hanging out in the fridge:

Pimentón Pasta
serves 1

about 1/2 cup dried fusilli pasta (about two small handfuls, use whatever pasta you like)
1/4 cup shredded chicken
1/4 cup diced, cooked portobello mushrooms
1 tbsp. olive oil
1/4 tsp. herbes de Provence (French style, without lavender! Or, substitute dried basil, thyme, rosemary, oregano, marjoram combo to taste)
1/8 tsp. sweet pimentón
1/4 tsp. hot red pepper flakes (or less, to taste)
salt to taste

Cook fusilli in boiling salted water. In the meantime, heat olive oil in a sauté pan. Add chicken and pimentón and saute for a minute or two. Add herbes, mushrooms, red pepper, and salt, and sauté until hot. Add cooked, drained pasta and toss to coat. Serve!


Thinking Ahead A Summer Ago

Towards the end of last summer I threw a few things in my freezer, and now, these fresh herbs and fruits in stasis are getting me through this long, bleak winter.

Frozen Basil in Olive Oil

I had quite the forest of basil in my window last summer. But sadly, towards the end of the season, some scale decided to descend upon the branches... So, I decided to rescue the leaves and toss the plants before the infestation spread (alas, I've recently discovered that I was too late...).

Clean the basil leaves extra super well and toss them into a blender or processor with about 1/2 cup of olive oil (I added a little more as I puréed, just to get the process going). Pour the puréed basil/olive oil mixture into an ice cube try, then freeze. The next day, pop the basil cubes into a freezer bag, squeeze out the air, and return to the freezer.

I've been using the result all winter long... Like last night: I sautéed some portobello mushrooms and a little smoked sausage in the basil/olive oil, then tossed with pasta, served with Parmesan, a little sea salt, and some crushed red pepper. Wintry, but with a fresh basil summer brightness. Yum.

Slow Oven-Roasted Tomatoes

My friend Suzanna (who has the most beautiful organic vegetable garden and is the Queen of Preserving), shared a fabulous recipe for oven roasting tomatoes. Apparently, the idea is an traditional Italian one using old brick ovens, transferred to the modern oven.

Use in-season summer tomatoes (I had a mixture of lovelies from upstate and heirlooms from the Farmers Market). Cut them to a uniform size (in half or quarters, depending on the size of the tomato) and place them skin-side down on a baking sheet. Drizzle about 1/2 cup olive oil over them (or a little more--enough to generously coat the tomatoes). Use your hands to make sure the tomatoes are coated, then sprinkle a little Maldon Sea Salt on each one. Place them in the oven at 350F for 15 minutes (my oven runs a little hot, so...), then 300F for 1/2 hour, then 250 until they are nice and roasted--starting to get a little dark brown/black around the edges. Pour the tomatoes and oil into a bowl and allow to cool.

My little "thinking ahead to winter" trick: I froze them. I put some in an ice cube tray (which I popped out the next day and put in a plastic freezer bag), and some in larger portions in small plastic containers. I've used them primarily for quick pasta dishes, but you could use them in anything that calls for roasted tomatoes. Better than anything you'd buy in a store!!!


Site O' the Day

This website has completely stopped me in my tracks--so much for accomplishing anything much at the moment... This Is Why You're Fat.com has a stunning collection of some truly scary eats. Though I must admit, I'm thinking of making the bacon chocolate chip cookies...

(via Jezebel)


Best Root Beer Float. Ever. By Accident.

Saturday's VendrediFriday adventure to glamorous Teaneck, NJ included a stop at Bischoff's, a blast-from-the-past ice cream parlor / candy store on Cedar Lane. Although it looks like it was made over with a drop ceiling and some bad wallpaper a few decades ago, it doesn't seem to have changed much since it opened in 1934. It's that old-school kind of place that doesn't really exist anymore--at least on the east coast.

We sat at the counter so we could watch the servers in their bow ties and paper hats make everyone's mid-afternoon treats. I couldn't decide between two childhood favorites. Would I go for a scoop of butter crunch? I LOVED that stuff when I was a kid, as our local dairy's version was kind of crunchy-caramel-booger-like, which oddly appealed to my 5-year-old sensibilities. Or would I go for a root beer float, which my Grandpa Krenz used to make me when we'd arrive for our visits. Then I thought...hmmm, why not break out of the box and combine the two? I ordered.

I watched the sweet old man--who's probably worked there since 1954--make a REAL root beer float. First the squirt of root beer syrup, then a little seltzer from the old-school tap, then a scoop of the butter crunch ice cream, topped up with more seltzer. Stir. He placed it in front of me, and I tasted.

Wow. Buttery goodness. Completely insane. Best. Float. Ever. Sorry grandpa. While nothing will ever replace my memory of Breyer's vanilla and A&W root beer in the Scottie glass sipped through a paper Carnival straw, this new experience is the adult, grown up, 4-star Michelin version.

Coincidentally, Bischoff's is celebrating its 75th anniversary on Wednesday, February 11, 2009, so go for a visit!


French Approval: Potage Parmentier & Turkey Terrine

Last night I cooked dinner for Tony and my good friend Ann Marie, who was born in Germany, ran to Paris from the Nazis, then ended up here during the war. More Parisian than anything else, she loved my pseudo French experimentation. As I feel like I passed some sort of test, I thought I'd share... You'll want to experiment with amounts and times, but here's what I did:

Potage Parmentier
(Potato & Leek Soup)

2 tbsp. butter
3 leeks (try to find ones that are mainly white, as that's what you'll use).
4 Idaho potatoes, peeled and chopped
6 cups of chicken stock
1/2 cup whole milk (cream is better, so use cream if you feel like it)
salt & pepper to taste

Slice the white and light green parts of the leek and sauté in the butter until soft and golden. (You can save the green parts and mince finely to use as a garnish, or reserve for stir fry). Add the potato and sauté for a minute or two. Add stock, bring to a boil, then reduce and simmer (covered) for 30 minutes. Remove from heat and purée with immersion blender, in a blender, or with whatever else works for you. Return to low heat, add milk, salt and pepper. Serve.

Turkey Terrine

1 1/2 lb. ground turkey
1 medium onion, minced
1/2 cup bread crumbs
2 eggs
2 tbsp. herbes de Provence
1/4 cup (or more to taste) Dijon mustard
pinch of salt
freshly-ground black pepper

Combine all ingredients in a bowl and transfer to a terrine, loaf pan, or the like. Bake, covered, at 325 until the temperature of the turkey reaches 165 (I overcooked it last night, so start with 30 minutes, check, then longer if necessary).

Serve at room temperature or chilled--the flavor is much more complex when it's not hot.


Potage Experiment No. 1

As I wandered through the vegetable purveyor this morning, I spied bunches of asparagus. They weren't the most perfect specimens, but "Mmmmmmm," I thought, "asparagus...."

So, I concocted this simple potage, which won raves from a friend who stopped by for lunch:

Potato, Parsnip, Onion, & Asparagus Soup

1 tbsp. butter
1 medium onion, chopped
1 large Idaho russet potato, peeled and chopped
1 large parsnip, peeled and chopped
4 cups chicken stock
1 bunch of asparagus (about 1 lb.), washed, trimmed, and cut into about 1-inch pieces
1/2 cup whole milk (cream would be better...but I was trying to be healthy)
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

In a large pot, sauté the onion in the butter until the onion begins to soften. Add the parsnip and potato, sauté for a minute or two, then add the stock, cover, and simmer for 20 minutes (or until the vegetables are tender). Add the asparagus and cook for another 5-10 minutes, depending on the thickness of the stalks (the thicker they are, the longer you'll need to cook them). Purée the soup with an immersion blender, regular blender, or whatever you have that'll work. Stir in milk or cream, then salt and pepper to taste.

Peelers, No More

Sad news today. NYC's most awesome peeler seller, Mr. Joe Ades, passed away on Sunday. I often stopped to watch his presentation, usually in Union Square, and finally, last summer, invested in one of his peelers.

That day, sadly, I thought to myself, "He's getting pretty old...I should buy one of these, or I'll regret it." Then, he picked me as the random onlooker to peel a slice from the carrot--and it was such a smooth shave that I was convinced. I kept watching his wonderful show, as usual, but then a bitter guy yelled about how he'd bought one, and that it was really crappy, and that we shouldn’t been taken in by the scam. I felt so bad for Mr. Ades, since he seemed like a kind gentleman who really enjoyed (and was very good at) hawking his wares. He didn’t deserve the asshole treatment. So, that did it. I reached for my wallet and made my purchase.

I haven’t mastered his method for julienning carrots (about 2:20 into the vid), but I’ve sure peeled some clean potatoes.

Thank you, Mr. Ades, for bringing some eccentric joy to New York’s streets.

(Check out the City Room blog post, with a link to the obit.)

Potato Time

The middle of winter calls for comfort food made from things I can gather from my root cellar (or would, if I didn't live on the seventh floor of an apartment building in Midtown Manhattan). So instead, I head a few blocks north to my purveyor of fine vegetables (a.k.a. cheap produce place) for some potatoes. What to make with them? Ooooh, Potage Parmentier! Mandy showed me how very easy it is to make (her panier from the organic produce co-op nearby was full of root veggies when I visited her in Paris last year, so what else were we to do with them?).

I will play. Recipe to follow.