In The "What Was I Thinking?" Department...

I bought a ridiculous amount of red leaf at the Greenmarket on Saturday. I kind of glazed over as I marveled at the splendor of these ginormous heads of lettuce, and...I bought three! (They were cheap, to boot. Who can pass that up?) Now my fridge is completely stuffed with leafy things, and I have to eat all of it – in addition to the greens that were already there – before Friday morning.

There are worse challenges... I've already had three meals made from these incredible poufs of nature (haven't made a dent in their enormousness), and it's absolutely fabulous, tasty stuff. Paired with a little chicken sautéed in my new spicy Pimentón or some goat cheese, these salads will make for a happy, happy week!


Amaranth 2: This Time, It's Stir Fry

I'm officially happy summer's upon us: my fridge is full of green things, berries, and generally fresh, yummy things. Continuing my experimentation with the mysterious amaranth, I decided to make a summery stir fry that was vegetable heavy: red amaranth, some garlic greens, Thai basil from my window, and an entire red pepper tossed in with some beef, noodles, chili garlic, and some soy sauce.

Observation 1: The amaranth cooks nicely, but I think I prefer its slight spiciness when raw. It holds up well to heat, though, so is definitely worth sautéing. No wonder people have been doing it for centuries!

Observation 2: Thai basil makes stir fry soooo much better. I have a happy little forest of it in my window this year, and suggest you all grow some, too. It's rich, spicy flavor adds something wonderful, and makes a simple dish so much more complex-tasting!


Mystery Greens: Amaranth

Zipping through Chinatown on Saturday, I was charged with picking up some sort of vegetable for that evening's pizzafest. I wandered, pondering what might go with the night's experiment: Mexican Pizza (it was what you're imagining, and it was yummy). Bok choy and Chinese broccoli didn't really seem quite right, but then I spied this:

I asked the woman what it was, but of course, she didn't speak English. What were these beautiful leaves? The acid trip–inducing partner of Sichuan peppercorns? Poison on parade? So I thought, "What the heck!" and bought some. What goes with experimental pizza better than mystery greens?

After Googling "edible purple green leaves Chinatown," I lucked into this site. Turns out they're red Amaranth greens, which are super-healthy and part of an edible plant family that's fairly prevalent throughout Asia, parts of Africa, and the Middle East. Its green cousin, traditionally known as vleeta, is apparently a favorite in Greece. Why haven't I seen it before?

Raw, they taste like mild watercress, so we decided to use them in a simple salad. Yum. From what I can tell, these leaves are used in various dishes ranging from stir fry to soup, so I'll have to play and see what happens.

More often than not, it pays to take the mystery vegetable risk in Chinatown. Glad I took the plunge.


Meet The Serviceberry

The delightful duo who run Beacon's Artisan Wine Shop, Tim and Mei, are the champions of pairing wine with food. We always end up chatting about all things culinary and often end up sharing some of our garden bounty with them (especially the more unusual things we grow). Last week they gave us something new and unusual: serviceberries. I'd never heard of them, but I have to say they're pretty brilliant. They're somehow delicate yet flavorful, and I definitely need to seek out more of them...

Mei had suggested a serviceberry/rhubarb combination, and after doing some Internet research, it seems most people do either that or make some sort of jam. I was loving their raw flavor, though, and since I only have a handful, I decided to make something in which they'd remain fresh:

Rhubarb/Serviceberry Crepes

For the rhubarb compote
• 4 stalks rhubarb, cut into 1/4-inch-wide slices
• 1/4 cup sugar
• 2 tablespoons water
• 1/4 teaspoon ground cardamom
• 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon

Combine everything in a saucepan, cover, and simmer on low until rhubarb begins to fall apart, about 10 minutes. Chill.

Make the crepe of your choice. When it's ready, spread a bit of the rhubarb compote on 1/2 of one side, then sprinkle with serviceberries. Fold and serve.


Tug Treat

Saturday's rare treat? A tugboat ride! My friend Zoe signed us up for a free outing on the Tugboat Pegasus, but when the 100+ year-old boat developed some engine troubles, the Tugboat Cornell zoomed to the day's rescue. Built in 1949, she started life pushing Lehigh Valley Railroad rail car barges across the Hudson. Today, the Cornell is an educational vessel, teaching and offering programs for public and private organizations.

The wheel house, looking towards the harbor.

Between numerous tourist vessels and the Red Bull Air Race, the harbor was a mess, so the Cornell's crew took us on a leisurely ride up the Hudson, to the mid-50s and back.

The retired NYC fireboat, the John J. Harvey

The Harvey's beautiful ironwork.

The Harvey's ironwork in use, putting on a show for its guests (who, we noticed, were completely soaked as they disembarked. Glad we chose the tug ride...).



On a walk yesterday, I noticed Artepasta (on Greenwich Avenue for about 17 years) has closed. I never managed to eat there, but now that I've discovered its super-secret hidden name (Arterasta), I kinda wish I had...


Taking On Tostadas

While I started this week with the best intentions (salads! fruit! veggies!), cravings took precedence. Sometimes, you just have to listen to your body, and try to figure out the best way to deal...

I'd picked up a red cabbage and tomato thinking I'd add some things I already had to create a crunchy summer salad. But as dinner approached, I realized I needed some beef. I just had to have it. And in order to avoid eating some kind of disastrous meal (like a bacon cheeseburger), I went for a walk to Esposito's and put the thinking cap on. I ended up picking up some ground beef and tostadas.

Trying not to make it completely unhealthy, I ended up with the following, and I hafta say...it was pretty awesome! I can't wait for the leftovers!

Young Garlic/Red Cabbage/Beef Tostadas
Note: I was making this for one, so you'll want to adjust amounts accordingly. I have a lot of leftover beef, so I think 1 pound of meat and a whole head of cabbage could make at least 8–10 tostadas.

• 1 bulb young garlic, roughly chopped
• 1 pound ground beef
• 1 vine-ripened tomato, chopped
• 1 tablespoon ground cumin
• 1 teaspoon dried oregano
• 1 chili hot pepper, finely minced (+ more hot sauce to taste)
• 1/4 teaspoon salt
• 1/4 of a 2-pound head of red cabbage, sliced (for the entire head, I'd add an additional head of young garlic).
• 1 package pre-cooked tostadas
• a few Thai basil leaves for garnishing (cilantro would obviously be ideal, but I'm growing Thai basil in my window...)

Sauté 3/4 of the garlic with the ground beef and spices until the meat's cooked (I was using lean meat, so I didn't have to drain it). Stir in the tomato, then remove from the pan and set aside. Return the pan to the heat and sauté the remaining garlic for about 1 minute. Add the red cabbage and cook until it begins to glisten become tender, about 2 minutes, and remove from heat.

For each tostada, add a generous pile of cabbage, a few spoonfuls of beef, and a little more cabbage. Garnish with the basil.


Young Garlic Leaves, Take Two

As I concocted a quick stir fry the other night (I realized I had to use up the remainder of my red rice before it spoiled), I decided to experiment yet again with the young garlic leaves still hanging out in my fridge. Whaddya know...if you cook them for a while, they're actually edible! Kind of leek-greeny and nice.

To make them tender, I tossed a small handful into the sauté pan first thing with some chili paste and about a 1/4 cup frozen shredded chicken (I always keep single servings in the freezer just in case...). I added about 1/4 cup water, covered, and steamed everything for about 5 minutes, checking/tossing everything fairly. After the leaves became seemingly tender, I added 1/2 cup green beans, a dash of soy sauce, and more chili garlic sauce (of course), and cooked until the beans were bright green and just tender.

Now that I know they work, I think I'll play with them a bit more liberally. Hmmm....


Garden 2010: Stony Kill Survives For Another Year

While the New York State Legislature continues to be a complete mess, at least the powers that be decided to give Stony Kill a year-long reprieve from threatened closure. So, while it's still in danger, at least there's a chance it'll survive. (Check out the Stony Kill Foundation's snazzy new website for more information.)

We'd moved ahead with planting our community garden plot even though we didn't know whether or not the farm would stay open (apparently, we would have been able to finish out the growing season, but all of the services would have been closed...which would have been a pain. No bathrooms?! What about watering the plants?!). And as of this weekend, we're pretty much planted.

While most of the tomatoes I started in my window croaked (probably my fault, as I planted them kind of oddly thinking I was a novel farmer), the hot peppers, zucchini, cucumbers, maxixe, and marigolds I sprouted are thriving. Nancy picked up some replacement tomato plants, and we also bought some baby red cabbage, collards, lettuce, and basil. Nancy's also sowed some Dragon Beans, and I'm hoping she pokes some of the radish seeds we found into the ground, too. What looks healthiest, though, are the tomatillos Nancy added--wow! Hopefully we'll be making tons of fun soup and salsa verde towards the end of the season!

Lookin' good, so we'll see how it goes!


A (Sorta) Namesake Snack?

KKNY just watched Kaká while having a few Sabritas KKWates peanuts.

(OK, bad joke, but thanks Mom & Dad for the namesake Mexican snack!)

Old New York, Meet New New York

The Frank Gehry–designed Beekman Tower rises above some of Park Row's historic old buildings.


More Manhattan BBQ, This Time @ Wildwood

While I love me some good BBQ, I'm starting to think that the New York City barbecue fad is getting completely out of hand. Granted, grilling is not an option for most New Yorkers, so it's nice to partake of some smokey meat from time to time, but I'm beginning to think this barbecue thing is as overdone as the cupcake craze. I'm even starting to erase some of the places from my memory--I had pulled pork somewhere within the last few weeks, and it was so dry and flavorless I don't even remember where it was. That's a bad sign.

Well, I tried another one the other night--Wildwood Barbecue on Park Avenue South--and while it was no Daisy May or Hill Country (or, for that matter Sam's Bar-B-Cue in Austin...I love me some 'cue in a shack!), it's fine. (And I'm not sure about this name. While Wildwood is a completely acceptable Western-sounding name, this East Coaster immediately thought of the trashy New Jersey seaside resort of the same name.)

I went for my go-to dish to rate a barbecue place: a pulled pork sandwich. While it didn't measure up to the Daisy May version, it was moist, tender, and succulent. The plate's combination is a study in vinegar overkill, though, as the sandwich is served with vinegar potato chips and a side of vinegar-based sauce. But, even though I had to use the chipotle sauce (one of the options on the table) to make sure my head didn't implode from too much sour, I was generally happy with my meal.

I tried a forkful of the mac and cheese, which had a weird consistency (not creamy...more powdery, like the cheese they use doesn't melt well...). And skip the margaritas. Even though they're supposedly made with fresh ingredients, they're sadly watery.

While my first choice for hearty, relaxed fare near Union Square is still Old Town Bar, I suppose I'll put Wildwood in my mental Rolodex as another option.

Today I am having salad for lunch. And dinner.

Wildwood Barbecue, 225 Park Avenue South at 18th Street.


Eisenberg's Lunch Counter Awesomeness

Though the Flatiron Building was there first, Eisenberg's Sandwich Shop has long been a fixture on the block of Fifth Avenue between 22nd and 23rd streets. Serving up lunchtime goodness since 1929, it remains one of the last reminders of one of New York's formerly favorite way to grab a nosh: the lunch counter.

I used to pop in for semi-frequent lunches when I worked (kind of) in the neighborhood. If you don't like crowds, Eisenberg's may not be for you (or go during off-hours), but I love jostling for a spot at the busy counter and watching the guys make and serve up sandwiches, lime rickeys, and other old-school fare--much of which probably hasn't changed all that much since the place opened. (They do have empanadas on the menu now--one with pastrami! I'll have to try one sometime soon.) I'm a fan of the reasonably-priced and not overly-gigantic pastrami sandwiches, and the tuna melts are apparently pretty great as well.

Killing time in the neighborhood around 4:30 yesterday, I decided to pop in, take pix of the place, and have a beverage. Here's an admission: I'm always encouraging visitors to try an egg cream, a quintessential New York concoction. But...I've had maybe one during my time in New York, not long after I moved here 15 years ago. So, I figured it was time for another--a chocolate one--and Eisenberg's is one of the best places in the city for them.

Egg creams apparently date back to 19th-century Brooklyn, and--despite their name--contain neither eggs nor cream. A little milk, Fox's U-Bet chocolate syrup, and some seltzer, and you have a pretty spectacular drink. I think now, instead of that once-in-a-blue-moon milkshake treat, I'll be sticking to the much lighter, fizzy, chocolatey egg cream.

Eisenberg's Sandwich Shop has been "...raising New York's cholesterol since 1929" at 174 Fifth Avenue, between 22nd and 23rd streets.

Another Architectural Appreciation

I love the Flatiron Building, and it looked particularly beautiful yesterday...

And for kicks, check out this Biograph footage from 1903, shot from the Madison Square Park angle.


A KKNY PSA: The Story Of Bottled Water

Check out this great 8-minute short about the realities of bottled water. Most Americans have access to great tap water (yay!), so I've long-banished the processed waste-producers in favor of carrying my beat-up stainless steel bottle filled with tasty New York City tap water wherever I go. Watch The Story of Bottled Water, and hopefully you'll kick the habit, too!


Architectural Appreciation

After seeing Fritz Lang's restored/recovered 1927 masterpiece Metropolis a couple of weeks back, I had a magical moment upon exiting the subway at 34th and 7th. I've always appreciated the deco stylings of many Midtown Manhattan buildings, but I realized, they are Metropolis, and I live smack in the middle of it.


Today, as I waited to meet a couple of friends on 34th and 8th, I noticed how perfectly the light was hitting The New Yorker. I just had to share...


Garlic Leaves?

Striving to be less wasteful, I've been researching what parts of plants are edible before I hack off the usual bits and throw the rest away. When I made my young garlic purchase the other day, the guy at the greenmarket asked if I wanted him to cut off the stalks...but thinking they might be useful, I said no. (Besides, it was fun to walk down 9th Avenue with the beautiful green leaves bouncing after me.)

A little research told me that yes, I could use the leaves. So, I thought I'd try a stir fry similar to those I've been doing with leek greens. It sounded like the perfect pairing for my super-special red rice!

I ended up with loads of leaves from the four stalks in my bunch. I tasted one, and it while it was nicely flavored, it was super-woody, so I figured they'd need to cook for a decent amount of time. Along with 1/4 shredded chicken and a teaspoon of chili paste, I threw two handfuls of roughly-chopped leaves into the pan (I was afraid they'd be too garlicky, as they were super-fragrant). After about 5 minutes, they seemed to look tender, so I added some bok choy and a little soy sauce, which I sautéed for about a minute, until the greens wilted.

Well...I'm not so sure about the garlic greens. They added a nice flavor, but some of them stayed really woody, which made for some tough eatin'. I think they either need to be really cooked, younger, or used in a different way. Guess it's time to do more research!


Red Red Rice

Last weekend I had an absolutely fabulous dinner at Ken Smith and Joanna Lee's place, which is always a wonderful treat! Before Ken whipped up some inspired caipirinhas, Joanna cooked us a three-course Hong Kong-style feast of ribs, bacon-wrapped oysters, and greens sautéed with Lee Kum Kee's XO Sauce, which was pretty fabulous stuff (unfortunately, the quality of what we get here isn't so great, so I'll have to wait for a trip to Hong Kong before I add some to my larder). Oh, and I mustn't forget the jello! It was part of the reason I ended up making Finger Jello Experiment 1...

The highlights of the dinner, though, were a couple of items they'd toted to NYC from the Chinese village where they do some work (and where they were married a few years back).

First, they introduced me to the village's organic red rice, which is probably the best rice I've ever had: subtly nutty, yet incredibly flavorful. Totally healthy, too, without tasting like bird seed like so many other of the crunchy granola–style rices we get in America.

We also enjoyed some young green tea, picked early in the season from the village's recently-planted trees. It began with a beautifully delicate flavor, and as we sat and sipped it became more complex and robust. It was such a rare treat, and I was so thankful they shared it with me!

As a parting gift, they gave me some of the red rice to cook at home, and told me it has to be used within a couple of weeks (full of wonderfully healthy stuff, it has a short shelf life once the sealed packages are opened and exposed to the air). I finally made it for dinner tonight (with a stir fry featuring some of the young garlic I picked up on Wednesday--more on that to come) and once again, it was fabulous! I think when I finally go to visit Ken and Joanna in Hong Kong, I'll have to bring an extra suitcase for red rice, tea, and XO!


Lunchtime Stroll To The Greenmarket

It's a gorgeous day, so I decided to take a lunchtime walk up to the little greenmarket on 57th and 9th. While there were slim pickings and fewer stalls than last year (guess the season's still early?), it was worth it for the young (or green?) garlic. I've played with the stuff before, and I guess it's time to dive in again! More on that later.

Also noticed on my walk:

Balkanika, the new Balkan "Market Place & Wine Bar," is finally open on 9th between 47th and 48th. Thought it kind of looked like Kashkaval, and no wonder--it's the same owner: Pando Andonopulo. Anyway, the shop is cute and the bureks look great. Need to go back for a test drive!

• The baby stuff and yoga store on 49th is closing. Sad to see something not make it, but really, Hell's Kitchen isn't an expensive baby store type of neighborhood. I always wondered what they were thinking...


Finger Jello Experiment 1: Coconut Ginger Spicy Surprise!

When Tony announced a little Memorial Day dinner gathering for his mom and her friend visiting from Brazil, I decided I needed to make something very American for them. A quick poll of friends offered up some great ideas (deviled eggs, Ambrosia salad, little sandwiches featuring cellophane-tasseled toothpicks, ribs, and even McRib sandwiches). But, when jello became a weird theme of the week, I decided to go with Mandy's idea: finger jello.

A picnic staple growing up, I've never actually made it (and I don't think it was on my mom's radar, either). It's such a bizarre concept, and of course, I couldn't just make something easy or regular. And as Tony's not a huge fan of sweets, I thought I'd take a different route...

What I ended up with was, well, truly unique... After getting over the initial shock of them, many people made yummy sounds, and I think a few went for seconds. Others were obviously kind of weirded out by the combination of jello texture and unexpected flavor.

Guess it's worth playing with this idea? Have at it...

Finger Jello Experiment 1
(I basically followed the "Fruit Juice Knox Blox" recipe on a box of Knox unflavored gelatine, but let my wacky brain intervene...)
• 1 1-ounce box (4 envelopes) unflavored gelatine
• 12 ounce bottle of ginger beer
• 1 can coconut milk
• 2 juicy limes
• 1/2 cup water
• 1 teaspoon fruity hot sauce
• 1 tablespoon honey

Heat coconut milk, juice of the two limes, 1/2 cup ginger beer, and 1/2 cup water in a pan until just boiling. Sprinkle gelatin over 1 cup of the ginger beer, and allow to stand for about a minute. Add the hot liquid and stir until gelatin completely dissolves, about 5 minutes. Stir in hot sauce and honey. Pour into a 13x9x2-inch pan. Refrigerate until firm (about 3 hours), then cut into small squares.

BTW, Tony actually thought it could be sweeter, so I think I'd try two tablespoons of honey next time around...