I'm really, really loving the tomatoes this summer--mainly because of the tomato-free summer of 2009--and practically every meal these days is featuring them in one form or another. Walking home the other day, I realized that it was time for a spicy pasta dish, so I headed to Espositio's for some hot Italian sausage. I still had a handful of the large-ish cherry tomatoes from Mandy's CSA share (called black somethings...Black Beauties? Nah...couldn't be...), and a jar full of pesto from my window basil, so I set to work on a simple summer pasta (which would be yummy without the sausage, too).

Cherry Tomato, Hot Sausage, and Pesto Pasta
(amounts below are per serving)
• 1 or 2 links of hot sausage (depending on your hunger level!)
• 1 serving dry pasta (I used cappellini)
• 6 large cherry tomatoes, cut in half
• 1 tablespoon pesto
• salt and freshly-ground pepper, to taste

Remove the sausage from its casing, crumble, and sauté until brown. Meanwhile, boil enough salted water for your pasta, then cook it according to the package's directions. Drain. Add the pasta, tomatoes, and pesto to the cooked sausage and toss. Season with salt and pepper. Serve!


Addicted: Tomato Confit

A while back, when anticipating a glorious end-of-summer tomato harvest, I was having a discussion with Mandy about things to do with tomatoes. She shot me this link to a French recipe for tomates confits, a sublime concoction she said is all over France during tomato season. Since then I've been obsessing about trying it, and finally, late last week, I had the chance.

As I finally had a pile of tomatoes to use--some from upstate and lots from Mandy's generously-shared CSA booty--I took advantage of a cool day to turn on the oven. I basically used the above recipe (don't worry if you don't speak French--a quick Interweb search for "tomato confit" turns up lots of similar ones in English), and made three different batches at the same time: one with plum tomatoes, another with red grape, and a third with Roma. I must admit, too, I was lazy and didn't peel them first, but most of the skins came off easily about two hours in.

Three-plus hours later I had heaven on a cookie sheet. The stuff is rich, sweet, and completely addictive. I can also see why you need in-season tomatoes for this--it really wouldn't work with the supermarket variety you get the rest of the year. I've only had it on bread so far, but I'm sure it'll be great on pasta, meat, or who knows what else. (Heck--I just flashed on plopping a dollop of it onto vanilla ice cream. Weird, I know, but I think it would be yummy!).

This stuff's definitely in my summer repertoire from here on out!


Yes Folks, Tomatoes Are Fruit

Doesn't this look like a bowl of peaches? Amazingly, it's not...it's one of the tomatoes from the garden upstate!!!

I've been having a crazy work week, so haven't had time to update anyone on anything (don't worry folks, it's coming!), but I have had time to eat some of our glorious bounty. I have to say, while they're taking forever to ripen, these babies sure do make up for last year's blight. When I sliced into this tomato last night and took a taste, I decided it was so incredibly perfect--sweet, flavorful, sublime--that all it needed was a little Maldon salt and a tiny bit of olive oil. It was among my favorite meals of the summer...

There's nothing like a really good tomato, and this is why I rarely eat them out of season. Oh tomato gods, why can't we remedy this situation? Longer season, please!!!


A Quick Stop = Must Revisit

La Gran Uruguaya Bakery's yuca bread
A recent search for an easy and quick Jackson Heights dinner nosh led to La Gran Uruguaya Bakery. Never having experienced anything Uruguayan, I was totally starting from square one. This place sure did open up a whole new world of South American style breads and pastries for me!

The cases were chock-full of beautiful things, but I started with the most obvious dinner option: the empanadas, which were fresh, tasty, and well-made. I also tried a mystery dessert that looked like a giant corn macaron filled with dulce de leche and rolled in shaved coconut. A little dry (probably a perfect coffee companion), but definitely yummy and not too sweet. Finally, as I love all things made from this humble root, I picked up a piece of yuca bread for my next day's breakfast. It was delicious (it even tasted a little cheesy) and surprisingly filling.

I want more.

La Gran Uruguaya Bakery is at 85-06 37th Avenue in Jackson Heights, Queens.


Truly Cheap Eats: More Cuisine of Pakistan

Cuisine of Pakistan's Aloo Tiki and Chaplee Kebab
Cuisine of Pakistan has become one of my go-to neighborhood places for a quick, cheap, incredibly yummy meal. I've been defaulting to the Chicken Kebab Rolls I discovered on my first outing there (they're delicious, spicy, the perfect thing to grab for a quick meal, and only $3.50). But on a recent visit, I noticed the delicious-looking Chaplee Kebab patties. Upon asking what they were, the guy gave me a taste. Holy wowsah, it was amazing!!!! Ground chicken infused with lime, herbs, and chilis, it totally (and unbelievably) kicked the Chicken Kebab's ass.

So, when I was starving and exhausted a couple of days ago, I popped in and ordered a Chaplee Kebab ($2) and – while I was branching out – the fascinating-looking Aloo Tiki ($1), a sort of spice-infused potato croquette. Served with a side of yogurt sauce, the Chaplee Kebab was indeed amazing, and the Aloo Tiki was a wonderful combination of comfort food and kick-ass spice. It was, for me, a ton of food, so I ended up eating the leftover half of the Chaplee on a salad the next day, using the remainder of the yogurt sauce as dressing. I was very happy.

Once again, Cuisine of Pakistan upholds its status as a Ninth Avenue standout. It may look dumpy, but it's well worth the visit! A restaurant full of cabbies can't be wrong!

Cuisine of Pakistan is at 478 Ninth Avenue, between 36th and 37th Streets.


More Fun Stuff @ Kam Man

I was recently killing some time at Kam Man Food Products, Inc. (on Canal Street between Mott & Mulberry), and I found a few more gems to share with all of you:

A 2+ pound bag of wasabi powder!

What flavor do you suppose "Chee Goo" actually is?
Vacuum-packed corn on the cob! I'm almost curious enough to try it...


Presto: Pesto!

I had to give the basil in my window a serious haircut, so I decided it was time to make a batch of pesto. Inspired by Nancy's super-garlicky batches she's been making with whatever nuts she has on hand, I went through my cabinet, grabbed my shears and my food processor, and went to work.

For two well-packed cups of basil, I added 3 very large cloves of garlic, 1/4 cup Parmesan, 1/3 cup olive oil, 1/4 cup walnuts, and a generous pinch of salt. I popped everything into the processor, and now I have a nice batch of pesto to take me into the fall.

Now, time to figure out what to do with all of the Thai basil that needs to be harvested. I'm thinking a garlic/chili/basil purée to use for stir fry?


In The "I Wonder If This Is Going To Work" Department: Danger Pickles

I've just started yet another experiment, which I'm titling Danger Pickles. In part, the name comes from my worry that I'm going to poison myself with a pickling experiment... But primarily, it comes from the ingredients in each of the two jars: maxixe with the alien spines still on them (they're not too painful when handling, but we'll see...), two dried Thai chilis, a few sprigs of dill, two lemon slices, and 1 large clove of garlic. I based the brine on a recipe I found for Kosher pickles, but honestly, I really don't know what the heck I'm doing. I guess we'll see what happens in a few days--I leave them out for 3 to 6 days, then taste and refrigerate. This will undoubtedly be a maxixe mystery...


Garden 2010: First Huge Harvest O' The Summer

The best part of the summer is finally upon us: harvest time has started in earnest at Stony Kill! While our tomatoes are still very, very green, we filled bags with tomatillos and maxixe, just scratching the surface of what's on its way. I took photos of the giant bowls filled with the green goodness, but they just didn't do justice. So, a few gratuitous garden shots:

A baby pattypan on its vine.

The pattypan plants in all their glory. They seem to be the happiest things out there!

One of the first ripe cherry tomatoes.

Meanwhile, back at the ranch we played with our food...

Some of our harvest: pattypans and tomatoes.
More harvest: Chili hots, tomatoes, and green peppers.
I pickled some maxixe. We'll see if they turn out!
Nancy made a beautiful salad, adding some avocado and fresh mozzarella to our tasty tomatoes, basil, and nasturtiums!


Good Deals: NYC's Best Thai Might Just Be In Jackson Heights

When most of us think of Jackson Heights, we immediately conjure up visions of Indian delights: wonderful restaurants selling curries, dosai, chaat, and the liked all tucked in between colorful sari and video shops and grocery stores. But even though it is a center of NYC's Indian community, Jackson Heights is much more international than most people think.

And now, I'm going to have a serious problem going to Jackson Heights and not choosing a Thai adventure...

After stopping by the Mexican joint on Roosevelt we were going to go to (apparently it's closed on Sundays?), Lara and I happened upon Arunee Thai Cuisine, a place she'd heard people rave about...and many say it's the best Thai in NYC. We decided it was more than worth a try.

As soon as we walked in...we knew. The smell was divine, and there was even a little essay in the front of the menu about the importance of well-balanced flavors. It was only the two of us, so we shared a green mango salad (which was nice and spicy, featured perfectly-cooked shrimp, and played with the entire palate). For our main dishes, she went for the red curry with mixed seafood (amazing), and I went for the Guay Tieow Kie Mao--spicy noodles with ground meat, tomatoes, chili, and lettuce--(the best version of this I've ever had). Everything had a nice blend of spicy, sweet, sour, funky, tart, and the like. We were both more than pleased.

I think it definitely has a shot at best Thai in NYC (sorry Pam Real Thai! You've been the front-runner for so long, but...). I'm going to have to go back with a large group and try a bunch of the dishes. What a painful experiment that will be...

Arunee Thai Cuisine, 37-68 79th Street (off Roosevelt Avenue), Jackson Heights, Queens.


There's a Farm in NYC?

Yup, there's a farm in NYC. In Queens, in fact. Known today as the Queens County Farm Museum, it's the city's "largest remaining undisturbed tract of farmland." Dating to 1697, much of its 47 acres is still worked--they sell organic produce and raise a few animals (but only the veggies are for consumption--the livestock is for educational purposes). The farmhouse dates to 1772 (with additions in the 19th century), and tours are available every weekend (if Mister Marty's on duty, don't miss it!)

As I was born in Pennsyltucky and spend a lot of time at Stony Kill when I'm upstate, visiting a farm wasn't an especially eye-opening experience, but frankly, the best part was the irony of visiting a working farm...in QUEENS! It's definitely worth a visit, especially if you're raising your kids in the city. Check the website for a calendar of events (we'd missed a Pow Wow the previous weekend) because I think the place is probably super-fun when there's some sort of special gathering.

Only a farm in NYC would have a plethora of pigeons...
Farm, meet City.
Caution! There's wine being produced in Queens!
The kitchen in the 1772 farmhouse (photo by Stéphane!)
Candle mold, spice box, dutch oven.
A spider pan. Horrible name, awesome design (it was used over open flames).
Do you suppose they have the Wii version of these toys?
Our awesome tour guide, Mister Marty, approaches a nineteenth-century "air conditioned" chair. You'd sit in it, tap the pedal, and the fan above would go!