Thursday, February 03, 2011

Eating Alone with Friends

On the all-too-rare occasions that I have an evening in on my own, I usually turn to my three bestest friends for company: bread, cheese, and wine.  However, given the frigid weather of late--and the endlessly broken and repaired and rerepaired boiler in my building--I decided that something hot was indicated.

I'd made pasta with eggs before, but the eggs were always accompanied by bacon, teaming up for a deliciously artery-shattering carbonara.  Since I was going to be solely responsible for the dishes resulting from this particular dinner, I decided to simplify, dropping the bacon and--more important--the pan that would wind up greasily in the sink.  Yes, there's a pan involved here, but frying bacon is a whole other kettle products. 

The principle if not unlike a carbonara, except that the egg is lightly fried in seasoned oil before being tossed with the pasta and cheese.  It turned out to be a lovely little meal: warm, rich, creamy, and, accompanied by a glass or two of wine, thoroughly satisfying. And, it occurs to me, it's a meal with the friends mentioned above,  just in winter guises.

olive oil
 red pepper flakes
a clove or two of garlic, chopped
1 egg
tons of grated cheese
salt, pepper

Cook a single serving of pasta.  I particularly like linguini fini.

Heat a splash of olive oil over medium heat.  Add red pepper flakes and garlic, stirring occasionally, until garlic softens.  Break egg into pan (or into a bowl, then into the pan--much easier).  Cook until white is almost set.  Pour entire contents of pan over pasta. Toss with a great deal of  Parm or Romano. Salt and pepper to taste.  It suddenly occurs to me that a handful of chopped parsley mightn't be bad here, either.

Wednesday, February 02, 2011

My Sole Rejoices

Back from sickness, back from Pittsburgh, in case you were wondering.
  Today, I'd like to address my inability with fish, and how I've gotten around it.  Not shellfish, mind:  Set me loose on oysters, mussels, lobster, you name it, and I will create dish fit for Neptune himself.  Flatfish, however are my piscine bete noir.  I undercook and overcook and can't turn a filet without it falling to bits--even while using a special fish spatula.

All of which somehow brings me back to my Catholic school girlhood, and the days of fish on Fridays.  Until my mother discovered that she could buy shrimp already cooked and chilled, we had lemon sole every week.   It amazes me now that it seems to have occurred to no one at all that it wasn't that fish was compulsory on Friday but that meat was on as 24-hour proscribed list.  Seriously, it would have been nice to have a grilled cheese sandwich stand in for that sole once in a while.

Mom, no great fan of cooking in general, did have a simple method of preparing that relentless lemon  sole.  She dotted it with butter and popped it in the broiler.  My method is a bit more complicated:  melt the butter, add some spices, dip the fish in the butter, and pop in the broiler.  (Why did I not remember this sooner?  Tied up with memories of the utterly horrifying St. Agnes Seminary, I expect.)

 I was rather shocked at the results: perfectly done, moist fish, that flaked at the touch of a fork.  Now, if only I could forget Sister Helen Gertrude.

fish filets, cut into reasonably similar-sized pieces (I used cod)
melted butter, seasoned with--at the very least--salt and pepper. (Other options include aleppo pepper, hot    sauce, Old Bay, a squeeze of lemon, and so forth)

Heat the broiler.  Dip fish in seasoned butter.  Broil until done, 5-7 minutes, depending upon thickness.  If you're not sure that the fish is done (I never am), slice into gently and check.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Greek Treats on Essex Street

For better or for worse, but certainly for more expensive, the Essex Street Market on the Lower East Side has undergone some significant changes.  Cilantro and jalapenos are replaced by artisanal cheeses and chocolates.  As long as I can still a get buck bunch of cilantro that rivals my head in size, I’m okay with that.  However, it’s also nice to see newcomers arrive that gently look to the past, not the future.  Such a place is Boubouki, a homey little stall owned by Rona Economou.  Photos of her family decorate the walls of the tiny space. Ms. Economou turns out fresh, flaky spanokopita, baklava, and feta flatbread, featured on a roster that continues to evolve and expand.  Don’t overlook the unassuming Easter cookies, which taste like a cross between a butter cookie and the most insanely good crumb cake ever.
120 Essex Street

Tuesday, January 04, 2011

And a Cheesy New Year to You

There are leftovers and then there are leftovers.  If you haven’t finished up the last of the turkey and stuffing, it’s time for it to go.  If that just reminded you of Thanksgiving leftovers lurking in the back of the fridge, well, you’re my kind of housekeeper. 
In the week between Christmas and New Year’s Day*, we managed to use up just about everything—except some odds and end of cheese that had suffered from being in and out of the refrigerator one too many times. (Yes, I know you’re supposed to cut off the amount you need, but I always think I need all of it, every single time.)  There is a way for those cheese bits to go out in a French blaze of glory: fromage fort.

Fromage fort ("strong cheese") is insanely easy to make, endlessly variable, and has an eau de sophistication that most leftovers don't.  The French like to age their fromage fort, which increases its strength (hence its name).  I don't have that kind of patience.  

Fromage fort (FroFo?) can be eaten straight out of the food processor or, better still, spread on baguette slices and broiled briefly.  I used some blue, some brie, and a bit of Humboldt Fog.  Perhaps a quarter pound of the first two, and half as much fog.  Into the Cuisinart they go, along with a clove or two of garlic (or not).  Start processing the cheese, then enough white wine (1/4 cup or so) to create a smoothish paste with smallish lumps.  (If the spread ever makes it to the fridge, it will thicken a fair bit.)

There, isn't that better than those festive turkey-stuffing balls you were considering?

*I resolve to be a better and more reliable blogger in 2011.  Like you care.

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I'm a ninth-generation Brooklyn native living in Manhattan.