Excellent News

via NY Food Museum

Great news via the NY Food Museum's Twitter:
10th Annual Pickle Day Sun 10/17/2010 - pkg lot at Broome/Ludlow - NYC Lower East Side. FUN. FREE. FASHIONABLE, sort of. Filling, anyway.

The beautiful Jordi Gailard with a Pickle-on-a-Stick, wedding style.
Last year's Annual Pickle Day was where I had the good fortune to meet the guys from Horman's Best, who just so happened to have supplied all the pickles for our wedding. These guys, aside from being incredibly friendly, make a spicy-sour pickle that will knock your brains loose in your head. That is to say, they're delicious.

You can find Horman's at the DUMBO farmer's market on Sundays, up in the Hamptons on occasion (not my department) and also just outside the West 4th street stop in Manhattan on Carmine street & 6th ave.

See you at Pickle Day? You know I'll be there.

Greatest. Wedding. Marker. Ever.


Conversations with My Husband About Dinner: Cast Iron Skillet Chicken Edition

3:33 PMme: I actually have a bunch of work to do. Whatever, it will make this already crazy fast day even faster. Then it's you, a chicken and our cast iron skillet.
3:34 PM Sean: Indeed.
  Do you need anything else from the store, or is it just the chicken?
  We have broccoli and some tomatoes.
3:35 PM me: Nope, just chicken. I may have already formulated a plan for other things.
 Sean: Awesome!
 me: i.e., cheddar garlic grits and butter-braised cabbage and broccoli.
 Sean: Cause I want more snickerdoodle ice cream, which I might just cash in on.
 me: Yeah.
 Sean: WHOA_OA_OA.
 me: Ha ha ha.
 Sean: Fuck me and call me Sally.
3:36 PM me: Now you're just hamming it up for the blog.

The end.


When Being Called a Jerk is a Really Good Thing

After my Sidekick and I tied the knot, we returned back to Brooklyn for a few-day decompression period before heading back to work. We lovingly titled this time Brooklynmoon.

Our brief but excellent Brooklynmoon was great for lots of reasons, but one of them is that we got to spend a few weekday afternoons doing whatever the hell we wanted. For my Sidekick and I, this meant mostly eating and drinking. On the list was a long awaited visit to the Brooklyn Farmacy & Soda Fountain on Henry Street.

Little known fact: My Sidekick is CRAZY for egg creams. CRAZY. And Brooklyn Farmacy's egg cream, with U-Bet syrup and clocking in at $2.50 made him VERY happy.

For those of us less inclined to drink fizzy milk, I can attest to their cherry lime rickey being very delicious. The cherry syrup has to be made with sour cherries as it is tart, juicy and smacks of homemade-ness. The Sidekick and I split a slice of plum and nectarine pie, too.

We were prepared to get the check and call it a day, until our soda jerk chatted us up. "Did you see the daily special? It's grape soda." I don't know how to spell the noise of the turntable needle getting knocked off the record, but if I did, that's what I'd use here. I LOVE grape soda. Needless to say, we split one of those too.

The co-owner came by to chat with us for a bit. We mentioned to her that we'd poked our heads into the space while her brother (the other owner) was still renovating and wasn't really sure what to do with it. The space was mostly abandoned by its previous owner, leaving a kind of time-capsule to old-timey pharmacies behind. She told us the amazing story of opening, chronicled (totally by happenstance) by a Discovery Channel show called Construction Intervention. Turns out the building had some serious structural issues and that it was kind of a miracle they'd been able to open at all.

We ended our trip to the Farmacy by loading up on sundries. Coffee, pickled fiddleheads and a bottle of Brooklyn-made ginger syrup that my Sidekick has been looking everywhere for.

Welcome to the neighborhood, Farmacy. We know it wasn't easy, and we're really glad to have you.

Brooklyn Farmacy & Soda Fountain
513 Henry street
Brooklyn, NY 11231
(718) 522-6260


Conversations with My Husband About Dinner: The 10:32am Edition

10:32 AM me: Okay. I have a confession.
I'm already thinking about dinner.
Sean: HA!
What of it?
10:33 AM me: How do you feel about this (http://www.thewednesdaychef.com/the_wednesday_chef/2010/07/toast-and-a-summer-break.html) with an egg on top and ditalini mac and cheese? It should be clear this means we don't have to buy anything.
10:34 AM Although it also requires turning the oven on, so maybe I'm turning on it.
Sean: Ha ha ha ha!
Nothing to buy?
Not even an avocado?
Or more cheese?
me: We have a half in the fridge, which I feel like might be enough if we're also putting a fried egg on top.
10:35 AM Maybe we need more cheese. You might be right.
Sean: Yeah.
And 12 limes.
me: Oh, I see.
Sean: And I'll be getting a bottle of white rum.
And I will make Falernum.

And, scene.


On How to Like Things

There are very few things in this world that I don't like to eat. I hate rice pudding. I think the combination of strawberry and banana should be stricken from existence forever. If I never tasted or smelled Bailey's Irish Creme again, it would be too soon. I've had to wrack my brain for these.

Mostly, I was born this way. I ate whatever my parents ate and my parents ate VERY well. But, it's also taken a lot of work. When I identify something I don't really like, I do my best to try it a variety of different ways - multiple times - and usually I come around. I can now say that I happily eat cumin (within reason), I now have an occasional craving for a tuna fish sandwich and I can say without reserve that I am fully ready to try sea urchin again.

Which brings me to fiddlehead ferns. I didn't think I liked them. In fact, I really didn't care about them at all. Fiddlehead ferns pop up in our markets and kitchens every early spring, along with the other spring harbingers everyone is always talking about, morels, peas and ramps. If you've never tasted one, it's sort of like a slightly bitter, wild-tasting asparagus. My trouble with them has been that because of their adorable, tightly curled spiral shape, they're almost never cleaned properly, usually undercooked for my taste and I find myself guiltily pushing them around on my plate every spring. Especially since I refuse to like something just because I SHOULD.

I know what you're thinking. "Uh, dude, it's September. We're kind of past fiddlehead season, aren't we?" Yes. We are. Or so I thought.

Yeah. That's what you think it is. A jar of sour pickled fiddlehead ferns, procured from the new and amazing Brooklyn Farmacy, which I can't wait to tell you about later. These guys hail from VoterVale Farm in Avon, Maine and I just don't know how to thank them enough.

I know that I'm so predictable, but it turns out that pickling these suckers is the secret for me. The vinegar bath and processing tenderize them just right and give them a slightly fermented, caper-ish, almost white-wine-like flavor that I absolutely can't get enough of.

The other great thing about them? See all those mustard seeds swimming around in there with them? The shape of the ferns sort of acts like a natural scoop for those guys, trapping them in their inner coils and transporting them directly to your mouth.

In addition to eating them greedily, straight out of the jar, I've also been using them anywhere I'd use capers or olives, like the fiddlehead pesto crudo I drizzled on top of a risotto cake and a sunny-side-up egg last weekend.

Pickled Fiddlehead Pesto Crudo

2 garlic cloves
1/2 cup grated Parmesean
10 - 12 pickled fiddleheads, finely chopped
3 cups packed basil leaves, finely chopped
4 tablespoons olive oil

Grate garlic cloves on a fine micro-plane into a small bowl. Add fiddleheads, basil leaves, salt and pepper. Bash with cocktail muddler until the basil is just bruised and releasing some oil. Stir in the Parmesean and olive oil and let sit while you prepare whatever you will drizzle this over to make more delicious.


And Then Sometimes It's Fall

Well, not really. Not yet anyway, but it kind of feels like it, doesn't it? Now, please don't get me wrong. I'm a summer person. I always want to feel the sun on my skin. I always want berries and tomatoes to be in the market. And I usually want to drink watermelon aguas frescas.

Sorry to get carried away. Back to the season it currently feels like.

It's around this time each year that I usually start craving the cooking techniques of Fall. I want to braise meats and greens. I want to make soups and stews and polentas and risottos. I want to gratin potatoes and roast chickens and begin my annual ritual of swearing to myself that I will actually make latkes this winter. And then sometimes, I get a strange itch and decide I really want to bake.

I made a promise, not just to you guys - dear readers, but also to my Sidekick, that as soon as I could stand to turn the oven back on, I would bake Smitten Kitchen's plum cake.

And that I did.

It didn't turn out quite as beautifully as Smitten Kitchen's drool-inducing images, but you guys, it tasted REALLY good.

I made a few McPickles-esque changes. By that I mean, I used the wrong-sized pan because I do not bake, added extra spices (including cayenne pepper, which my Sidekick will not stop laughing about - "You add pepper to EVERYTHING!") and used regular sugar instead of brown because that's what I had on hand. I can tell you that this recipe is very difficult to screw up and has proportions that I can ALMOST remember by heart. It is buttery, crumbly, comforting, tart from the plums and has been my Sidekick's breakfast every day since.

That said, here are the changes I made that you should ignore: if you have the correct-sized pan, use it. I think this cake will taste best when it has room to spread out and get really sticky. Also, I think using brown sugar will really help to make this even more buttery and caramely. You and I should both just buy some so we have it and don't have to learn these things the hard way. Happy baking!

Dimply Plum Cake
Adapted from Smitten Kitchen, who adapted it, barely, from Baking: From My Home to Yours

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon grated nutmeg
pinch cayenne pepper (I KNOW.)
5 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
3/4 cup (packed) light brown sugar
2 large eggs
1/3 cup olive oil (you can use canola or something with less flavor, if you like)
Grated zest of 1 orange, lemon or lime
1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
8 purple or red plums halved and pitted (I used Italian prune plums since they were at my market, but this is also great with nectarines, blackberries, your imagination is the limit)

Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 350°F. Butter an 8-inch square baking pan, dust the inside with flour, tap out the excess and put the pan on a baking sheet.

Whisk the flour, baking powder, salt, nutmeg, cayenne and cinnamon together.

Working with a mixer, beat the butter at medium speed until it’s soft and creamy, about 3 minutes. Add the sugar and beat for another 3 minutes, then add the eggs, one at a time, and beat for a minute after each egg goes in. Still working on medium speed, beat in the oil, zest and vanilla; the batter will look smooth and creamy, almost satiny. Reduce the mixer speed to low and add the dry ingredients, mixing only until they are incorporated.

Run a spatula around the bowl and under the batter, just to make sure there are no dry spots, then scrape the batter into the pan and smooth the top. Arrange the plums cut side up in the batter–without over-crowding, you want your cake to have room to spread out–jiggling the plums a tad just so they settle comfortably into the batter.

Bake for about 30 to 40 minutes (check early and often), or until the top is just brown and puffed around the plums and a thin knife inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean. Transfer the cake to a rack and cool for 15 minutes during which time the plums juices will seep back into the cake then run a knife around the sides of the pan and unmold the cake. Invert and cool right side up.

Thanks, Smitten!


Triumphant Return of a Married Eater

Hi everyone! So, I'm someone's wife now, which is pretty cool.

Here is something else that is cool. Our wedding cake:

Yeah. It's all cake. ALL of it. This was made by our dear friend, the magnificent Alex Bliss. Who also, as it happens, made me a pretty effing spectacular bridal shower cake as well.

I'm serious, you guys. Having talented friends is one of the best things in the universe. Both of these cakes succeeded in tasting even better than they looked, which is no small feat.

Coming up: a run-down of the rest of the wedding delicacies, including an original cocktail by my Sidekick (ahem, HUSBAND), more pickles than anyone knew what to do with and - as promised - the weather cooled down and I actually baked a cake.

Happy to be back!