Monday, September 16, 2013

end of summer sandwich: the classic BLT



A BLT is one of the easiest sandwiches to make and is perfect for lunch or a late breakfast.  The secret to a good one is not a fancy technique, but like most things delicious, quality ingredients.  The key is using fresh tomatoes - heirloom if you have them, however beefsteak of any other good slicing tomato will do nicely.  Do not buy a tomato in a grocery store unless you are positive the thing was picked locally and recently.  Tomatoes shipped from who knows where or hydroponic ones just won't do.  The other key to a successful BLT is mayo.  I have never met a store bought mayo that I've liked and have become a bit obsessed with making it recently.  As someone who did not really excel in chemistry in high school or college, making mayo can make you feel as though you are a master chemist.  Throw in liquid, fat, acid and bam!  You have made an emulsion from liquid.  Amazing.  The bacon, equally important.  My preference is slab cut bacon but not super thick.  Many good butchers will cut it for you at your desired thickness.  Organic hormone free is obviously preferable for many reasons.  If you get the store bought, pre-packaged stuff, Applegate Farms is pretty good.  If you are in North Brooklyn, hit the Meat Hook or Marlow and Daughters for the best bacon around. 

Order of events for the BLT:  make mayo, cook bacon, slice tomatoes, toast bread, assemble.

Making Mayo - so simple.  Thanks to Nathan Panum from brooklynhardcandy.com for finally setting me straight with proportions and the process!

Ingredients: 1 tablespoon dijon mustard, 2 tablespoons lemon juice, 2 egg yolks (no white needed!), 1 cup of neutral oil (grapeseed or sunflower oil preferred).  Do not use 100% olive oil! If you really want to use some olive oil, add only 25% to the neutral oil base.  A food processor makes things easy, though if you want to whisk this by hand, do it up.  Follow the same steps if doing so.

Mayo
1)  add mustard, lemon juice and egg yolks. Blend ingredients together on a slow-medium speed
2)  when the other ingredients have fused, with a slow and steady stream, add all of the oil to the mixture.
3)  if your mayo is too thick, add a tiny bit of cold water.  If it's too thin, try a little more oil.  If that doesn't work, try the whole thing again.
4)  add salt and pepper to taste

Bacon
1)  put bacon in cold skillet (preferably cast iron), turn heat to low-medium. 
2)  cook until slightly brown (or desired crispness), flip, then repeat on the other side.

Assemble etc:
1)  while bacon is cooking, slice the tomatoes in 1/4 to 1/2 inch slices
2)  get lettuce / greens out, (crispy romaine is great, as are mixed greens).  Honestly, I used very tender chard as it was what was in the garden.
3)  when bacon is almost finished, toast the toast.  I used Rudi's Spelt bread for this one.  One up me and bake your own bread!
4)  when bacon has finished cooking, put them on paper towels to drain some grease off.
5)  Spread mayo on both sides of the toast, then add bacon, lettuce, tomato.

6)  You're done.  Best BLT ever.  It's all about the mayo, the freshness off the tomatoes, and the quality of the bacon.  Good bread can only improve it as well as fresh greens.




Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Nettle Toast



Weeds?  Edible?  Yes and yes.  Stinging nettles, enemy of my youth while running and biking through east coast forests, have finally become a friend.  These nettles were growing in upstate New York  in a friends garden but they can be found pretty much anywhere including the side of the road.  I experienced the edible pleasures of this plant during a great meal at Reynards in Brooklyn about a year ago, but had not seen them at any farmers markets last summer so had not the chance to cook with them until this past weekend.  Nettles are an exceptionally dark green plant and are highly nutritious.   They are rich in vitamins A, C, iron, potassium, manganese, and calcium, and can have up to 25% protein.  Do they taste good?  Absolutely.  They are very akin to spinach yet have a slightly nutty flavor.  Easy to make?  Ridiculously.  Only 6 ingredients needed: nettles, shallots (or garlic), Parmesan, olive oil, butter, and bread.





Harvesting the nettles:
Get your gloves on!  This plant means business and will sting you if you're not careful so make sure you use leather (or other impermeable gloves) to clip them.  Like most leafy greens, they are most tender when young and I assume they get pretty fibrous as it gets older.  Now is the perfect time (at least in NY) to harvest.  Any amount you can get will do.  Like spinach, these greens cook down quite a bit so the more the merrier.  I used approximately 3-4 cups loosely packed, uncooked nettles.



Blanch those nettles:
The stingers are still very much on the plants, so you'll want to blanch to remove them...
1) Rinse the nettles in cold water
2) Bring a large pot of water to boil
3) Toss the nettles in the pot of boiling water for 2 minutes max.
4) Transfer nettles to an ice water bath briefly (about 30 seconds)
5) Drain immediately
 


Saute those nettles, toast the toast:
1) Chop the nettles, removing the parts of the stem you deem too thick.
2) Saute 2 cloves of garlic on low heat (or l large shallot) in a pan with a healthy dose of butter - 2-3 tablespoons will do.  Add a bit of olive oil to the mix as well.
3) Slice then toast a baguette or other crusty bread.
4) When shallots soften or garlic just begins to brown slightly, throw in the nettles and turn heat to medium-low.
5) Cook nettles until tender and salt & pepper to taste.  Be careful not to overcook!
6) Drizzle toast with olive oil then add the sauteed nettles on top.
7) Add some freshly shaved Parmesan and you are good to go!


 
Bam! Nettle Toast.
What more could you possibly want?  A healthy, perhaps partially foraged lunch or snack that tastes amazing.  You can impress your schmi organic, farmer's market eating, biodynamic referencing friends with this simple dish.  You are the "friend" I just described?  Ok, me too... impress yourself!


Next stop on the nettle train... nettle pesto.  See link below for a how to:
http://www.toasthomecooking.com/2012/04/10/nettle-pesto/

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

SPRING MASHUP!

We're getting a little experimental for our next supper club, Spring Mashup! Whelk (a relative of the conch) will be making a cameo for our first course and will be done tempura style with seaweed aioli.  They are super high in protein, low in fat, and best of all are sustainable!  Check out these weird and delicious little creatures...



If you'd like to join us for this wonderful 5 course food and booze mashup, follow the directions below! 

Hope to see you there!



If you have a Facebook account, sign up here and use "get feastly" when asked for access code.
http://eatfeastly.com/meals/m/spring-mashup-a-night-of-seasonal-small-plates-and/cd87e5d7-ce45-47c9-822e-c58c364aea7b/



For those without Facebook or if you want to sign up independently of FB follow these steps...
1. Click on link: http://eatfeastly.com/accounts/register/
2. Enter Access Code:
getfeastly
3. Click Submit

4. Enter in your name, email, and passwords

5. Open the email sent to your account and click on the link to activate your account

6. Then proceed to the Spring Mashup event to purchase tickets:

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Drink of December: Maple Sazerac

The Sazerac is known by many as the oldest cocktail in the US.  In my humble opinion, the drink has the perfect balance of bitter, sweet, citrus, and earth.  It also packs quite a punch!  I encourage those attempting the recipe to experiment with the amounts of ingredients here.  Add a little more absinthe and less maple syrup or the opposite. Suit the drink to your palate.  Most importantly for this cocktail, keep everything in relative balance.  I typically use Bulleit Rye, but I am happy with Old Overholt (super cheap) if it's not available.  I also like to use St. George's Absinthe, which is one of the best absinthe's I've had.  Since it is more herbacious than other absinthe, some bartenders will tell you not to use it because it imparts too much flavor etc.  I would have to disagree, if anything it makes the cocktail more complex, plus you have a great absinthe around for drinking traditional style... coming up in the next cocktail blog post!
  • Ingredients for 2 sazeracs:
  • 1 - 1 1/2 teaspoons maple syrup
  • 5 ounces rye whiskey
  • 6 to 8 dashes Peychaud's bitters
  • absinthe
  • lemon peel
  • large handful of ice cubes
  •  
  • Need: cocktail mixer, vegetable peeler or sharp knife, stirring spoon (a long spoon will do).
  •  
  • To Make: 
  • 1) Add whiskey, maple syrup, bitters  to cocktail mixer.
  • 2) Shave 2 small (approx 1 inch x 1 inch) slices of peel off of the lemon.
  • 3) Pour approximately 1/4 teaspoon absinthe or less into each cocktail glass.  Roll the absinthe around both glasses until the insides of the glasses are well coated.
  • 4) Add ice to whiskey/syrup/bitters mixture and stir for about 10 - 15 seconds.  
  • Hint: The more time stiring, the less potent the drink.  You don't want it to be watery, a fatal flaw of many Sazerac's I've had.  
  • 5) Strain whiskey mix into absinthe rinsed glasses.  
  • 6) Twist one lemon peel into each glass, rub peel around the rim of the glass, then drop lemon peel into glass.  
  • 7) Enjoy!
  •  
For a little history on the Sazerac:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sazerac

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Scotch Bonnets



Hi friends,

A rooftop farm called Eagle St. Rooftop Farm here in Greenpoint, BK had some great end of season scotch bonnet peppers.  They have been making hot sauce with the peppers they grow all season. Emily, one of the farmers at Eagle St., was nice enough to donate some peppers for our fundraiser on November 12th and gave me some guidance to making my own hot sauce for the first time.

Here is a link to the Rooftop Farms super basic, super delicious hot sauce.

http://valeryrizzo.blogspot.com/2012/11/hot-sauce-and-pepper-salt-with-eagle.html?showComment=1352314702203#c5309829879514683463

If you want to try my versions of this sauce, one with roasted scotch bonnet peppers, smoked salt, and a dose of freshly ground chipotle peppers, come to our supper club fundraiser event on Monday, November 12th!

http://rooftopsupperclubrockawaysfundraiser.eventbrite.com/#

Also check out Eagle St. Rooftop Farm... They sell their hot sauces at various places in the city, so look em' up.
http://rooftopfarms.org/hot-sauce/

Monday, October 15, 2012

green tomato, red tomato, eggs, potatoes, basil aioli.


I know, another poached egg recipe!  This one is time sensitive though.  I promise the next recipe will have nothing to do with poached eggs.  We are at the tail end of the tomato season in the northeast, but the farmer's market and my roof garden, are still producing tomatoes here and there.  This dish then, is a fond farewell to the tomato.   

Ingredients for 2 servings:
1 large green tomato
1 large (or 2 medium) red tomato
1 medium shallot
1/2 cup basil (packed)
4 farm fresh eggs
3 egg whites
2 cups worth of cubed potatoes (approx) - french fingerlings preferred.
4-5 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/3 cup spelt flour (other flour will do - just not all purpose!)
1 cup grape seed oil (canola will do)
1 teaspoon dijon mustard
2-3 teaspoons smoked paprika
salt

Note:  I usually try to multitask with the preparation to make sure as much is completed at the same time as possible, however, prep in whatever order makes the most sense to you.

Tomato Sauce
1) Melt 2 tablespoons butter in medium sized sauce pan.
2) Finely chop shallots and add to pan. 
3) Roughly chop red tomato and add to pan after shallots have softened.
3) Add 2-3 tablespoons of smoked paprika to the mix and stir.
4) Simmer on low to low-medium heat until most of the water from the tomatoes has cooked out
5) salt to taste

Lightly Fried Green Tomatoes
1) Slice green tomato in 1/4 - 1/2 inch slices.  Make 4 slices.
2) Heat a large skillet on medium heat.  Add 1 tablespoon olive oil and1 tablespoon butter.
3) Place 2 egg whites on a plate and coat the tomato.
4) Sprinkle the spelt flour on a plate.  Dip the egg-coated tomato in the spelt flour.  Shake off the excess and put into pan.  Repeat.  If all 4 tomato slices don't fit in the pan, do 2 rounds.
5) When tomatoes are golden brown, flip them and brown the other side.

Crispy Potatoes
1) Bring water to boil in medium sauce pan.  Use enough water to cover the potatoes well. 
2) Cut the potatoes in 1/2 to 3/4 inch cubes.  Ideally, you are making bite sized cubes.  They don't have to be perfect!
3) Add potatoes to boiling water.  Take them out when they begin to soften.
4) Melt 1-2 tablespoons butter in a large cast iron or non stick pan.  Add potatoes and a couple pinches salt.  Allow potatoes to brown a little, then stir or flip them and brown the other sides.  They should be at least slightly crispy. 

Basil Aioli
1) Using a food processor or vitamix, add one egg white, a couple dashes cayenne, 1 teaspoon dijon, basil, and pinch of salt.
2) Blend ingredients on the lowest speed possible.
3) Slowly add the grape seed oil while the blender is operating.

Aioli Notes: The more neutral the oil the better.  Every time I've used olive oil to make aioli, it has come out way too bitter.  Also, there may be a better technique to add the basil as this is sort of the lazy way.  If any one has any suggestions, let me know!

Poached Eggs

1) Heat water for poached eggs in large pan with a lid.  The water should be just under a boil and just above a simmer.
2) Add 4 eggs (in lightly oiled poach pods if you have them) to the pot and cover.  Remove when the eggs are no longer translucent and when you have reached your desired texture - runny, over medium, etc.

Note: If you are poaching without a poacher, see the recipe below, it's the best one I've found.
http://smittenkitchen.com/blog/2008/08/how-to-poach-an-egg-smitten-kitchen-style/

Assembly (the best part)
Fried green tomatoes on the bottom, tomato sauce on top of that, and poached egg on top of them both.  Add potatoes on the side of the plate along with a couple dollops of the basil aioli.  Sprinkle the eggs with a little smoked paprika... Enjoy!





Friday, September 28, 2012

Poached eggs, quinoa cakes, smoky tomato sauce, succotash


What do you do when you have leftover quinoa and succotash, and heirloom tomatoes?  Make this dish.  They key to this little endeavor was the smoked salt, and the addition of the succotash to the smoky tomato sauce. The quinoa must be made well in advance - if not the day(s) before - so it can cool. 

Quinoa cakes:
1 cup quinoa
1 3/4 cups chicken stock (Kitchen Basics brand preferred).
1 clove garlic
2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 egg white
1/4 - 1/2 cup spelt, rice, or whole wheat flour.  Do not use all purpose flour! 
1/4 cup white wine

Quinoa
1)  Rinse and drain quinoa in cold water.
2)  Melt 1 tablespoon butter and 1 tablespoon olive oil in pan on low heat, add finely chopped (or pressed) garlic.
3)  When garlic just begins to brown, add quinoa and stir so that butter/oil/garlic mixture gets all over the quinoa.  Stir every 30 seconds or so for about 2-3 minutes.
4)  Turn heat to medium, add wine and stir.
5)  When wine has mostly evaporated, add all of the stock, turn the heat to high.
6)  When stock and quinoa start to boil, turn heat to the lowest setting and cover.
7)  Check quinoa in 15 - 20 minutes.  Add stock or water if it is too al dente for you.

Quinoa Cakes
1)  Take the amount of quinoa you want to make into cakes 1/2 - 3/4 of  cup of cooked quinoa will usually make about 4 cakes.
2)  Add enough spelt flour to coat the quinoa.
3)  Crack an egg white into the quinoa and mix well.  The mixture should stick together well enough to make the cakes.
4)  Using a cast iron or other decent, large non-stick pan, add one tablespoon butter and one tablespoon oil, and turn heat to medium-low 
5)  Add 4 cakes to pan.
6)  Brown on both sides.

Smoky Tomato Sauce w/ succotash or corn
Ingredients:
2 medium heirloom tomatoes -  chopped (other tomatoes are fine)
1 large or two small sized shallots - diced.
2 tablespoons butter, olive oil, or combo of the two
1 tablespoon chopped fresh herb - any of the following will work - basil, rosemary, sage.
A few pinches smoked salt (cherry wood, applewood, and hickory are all great!)
Note: Smoked wood salt isn't the easiest to find, but many gourmet grocers should have some type of smoked salt.

Smoky Tomato Sauce (could not be easier!)
1) Saute shallots in butter or olive oil
2) When shallots begin to soften, add tomatoes, herb, and smoked salt.
3) Allow tomatoes to cook down until there is very little water or residual liquid. 
4) Add succotash or corn and heat.
5) Keep warm or reheat just prior to serving.

Poached Eggs
4 farm fresh eggs

1) Heat water for poached eggs in large pan with a lid.  The water should be just under a boil and just above a simmer.
2) Add eggs (in lightly oiled poach pods if you have them) to the pot and cover.  Remove when the eggs are no longer translucent and when you have reached your desired texture - runny, over medium, etc.

Note: If you are poaching without a poacher, see the recipe below, it's the best one I've found.
http://smittenkitchen.com/blog/2008/08/how-to-poach-an-egg-smitten-kitchen-style/

Assembly:
Slap the smoky tomato / succotash combo over the quinoa cakes and the poached eggs on top of that.  Dust with a little smoked paprika and you have yourself a delicious breakfast!