Single (and cooking) in the City

Food, life, love, and fun recipes


July 2010

Pan de Coco

Roughly 2 years and 2 months ago, I took one of the least glamorous, but most eye-opening and relaxing vacations ever in my adult life.

From the inception of the idea, generated by a daily lifestyle newsletter, to booking and pre-paying for a $35-dollar-a-night cabana (and that is considered EXPENSIVE!) online (relying on nothing but a couple of pictures and some “visitor comments”) to finally, a flight out to Managua (Nicaragua) followed by yet another flight on a 14-passenger single engine aircraft to Big Corn Island, and a rocky water taxi ride to Little Corn… it was well worth the transfers to get to a piece of almost undisturbed paradise.

On Little Corn Island you won’t find vehicles. Or roads. Or much electricity beyond the 4-block long “town.” And you certainly won’t find very many “tourist-traps” beyond the couple of friendly Australian surfstands. I did manage, however, to find my tourist trap – a little house next to a school that sold the most amazing coconut bread.

If I could manage to find my way to town from the depths of the jungle where I was staying, relying on nothing but landmarks such as a tree that leans a certain way, or a pile of suspicious looking potholes and dirt, I would be able to buy, from what I remember to be pennies, a loaf of coconut bread which I would then snack on the entire day as I relaxed on a hammock by the beach. And if I had forgotten to alert my hosts in advance that I would be dining with them? No worries, I’ll make whatever’s left of that loaf last the whole evening… and look forward to buying more in the morning when my stomach starts to grumble.

The couple of weeks after I’d left paradise, I raved about this amazing bread. But after months away, I soon forgot about the taste, until I tried the pan de coco at La Playa, a new restaurant situated on a cursed corner of 5th avenue in Park Slope. It was bland and unmemorable, and unsurprisingly, the place was shuttered not even a year into their lease.

I could say that the taste of that amazing bread used to plague my dreams, but as any sane human being would do, I used my survival skills to forget about it and move on. Write it off as something I will probably never have again. And perhaps feel a little thankful that I wouldn’t be able to find yet another evil carb loaded treat on my part of the hemisphere. But as the stars would have it, destiny is unavoidable. That is, my destiny to have bread prove to become my demise.

I found a recipe for pan de coco on the Whole Foods website.

And so, at about 10pm, I started making my dough. 2 hours later, I snuck a bite of the freshly baked bread, closed my eyes, and saw heaven.

Pan de Coco (recipe from Whole Foods)


Semi Sandra Lee, Semi Homemade

After a job that takes up my 10-7, and following a yoga class from 730-830, sometimes a girl can barely find time to cook a gourmet meal. That’s when I pull a semi-Sandra Lee.

Merely a block away from the packed-like-sardines yoga studio there is an unassuming elevator off the side of a street that takes you up to the 2nd floor (I figured that out when I repeatedly pressed ‘C’ and the elevator didn’t budge. ‘2’ was the only other choice.) The doors open to a vestibule packed with shoppers waiting for their turn on the slow metal carriage. Pass the shoppers and you will find a little supermarket, about 5 aisles big, packed with Asian snacks, foods, and hair dye. In the refrigerated aisle, next to the sushi grade tuna, salmon, and giant octopus tentacle, is where I found my semi-home made dinner – black cod. Marinated in miso. I repeat: Miso Marinated Black Cod.

For almost 1/8th the price of the Nobu signature, I made my own miso black cod… sort of. If you can remove plastic wrap from a tray, you can make this at home. Wipe off excess sauce, sautee in pan for a bit of color, and then bake at 400 degrees for 7 minutes. (My piece was a slim baby.)

Pretzels Bretzels

We skipped dessert at Faustina and decided instead to take a walk down to Alphabet City to visit a little pretzel shop called Sigmund.

Alphabet City is one of those neighborhoods that New Yorkers love to reminisce about. The stories about drugs, crimes, and rampant debauchery all paint a picture of the New York that natives love to use to remind both transplants and the younger generation of how good they’ve got. Alphabet City was the section of town you dared not enter. You’d be hard pressed to find a legitimate cab that would bring you past 1st ave, since the subway system doesn’t exist in those parts, and frankly even now, you can’t easily convince me to want to venture out there without a couple shots of liquid courage first. Not for the fear of what might happen to my life and well being, but for the fear of what might happen to my poor Fancy Shoe clad feet. Alcohol does well to numb the senses… right down to my toes.

So on that Sigmund Saturday, I was armed with my sandals and just pedicured and massaged feet. They were refreshed and ready to take on long grimey New York avenues. We walked past the storefronts (a combination of age old bodegas, new old vintage shops, and cute little specialty shops) to Sigmund’s Pretzelshop, an airy and white painted space with a chalkboard menu and fancy sodas lining a serving counter. For 8 dollars we bought 2 pretzels and a seltzer.

The garlic parsley pretzel was amazing. Served warm, the inside was tender, and the outside was coated in that delicious flavor that only garlic can impart. The cinnamon raisin pretzel was a bit more of a disappointment. Though also toasted, it was hard and chewy, and partly due to my ghetto upbringing, I couldn’t help but compare it to an Auntie Anne’s cinnamon dusted pretzel… and how much I wished I was eating that instead. (I know — Blasphemy!! I’ve just shamed home cooks and bakers everywhere! Damn you, fast food establishments!) All pretzels are served with a dip, and we chose dijon mustard for the savory and nutella for the sweet. I didn’t care much for the dips. Sigmund’s also has a couple of pretzel sandwiches that I would’ve loved to have tried (if we already didn’t have a 1st dinner and a 2nd dinner in the waiting). I was reminded of the sandwiches at Hannah’s Bretzels… and god, how I missed them.

Inspired, I set out to make bretzel rolls last night, but due to a recent moth infestation, I had to toss out my all purpose and resort to using the whole wheat flour my mom had cleverly suggested I keep in a recycled tin saltine crackers container. (Mothers… they know everything!!)

The bread was tender enough, but the crust wasn’t as crispy as pretzels usually are. And especially with the use of the wheat flour, the taste was drastically different from a normal pretzel. The recipe was easy enough to follow, however, and I hope to be giving it a another shot in the future.

Bretzel Rolls

  • 1 cup + 6 tbsp flour
  • 1-1/2 tsp yeast
  • 1/2 tsp each of salt and sugar
  • 9 tbsp of hot water
  • cornmeal
  • 8 cups of water
  • 1/4 cup of baking soda
  • 2 tbsp of sugar
  • 1 egg white
  • coarse salt

Mix the flour, yeast, salt and sugar together, and slowly add the warm water until dough sticks together. Knead and set aside in a well oiled bowl to rise until doubled in size. Divide into 4, roll each and cut an X into the tops. Pour 8 cups of water into a pot and bring to boil. Add the baking soda and sugar, stir. Set a baking sheet aside, cover with parchment paper and sprinkle some cornmeal on the surface. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.

Take each roll and cook it in the boiling water for 30 seconds on each side. Use a slotted spoon to drain and place on the parchment. Use the egg white as a wash, and sprinkle with coarse salt. Bake in oven for 25 minutes.

Love and Lobsters

What will I make next?

My inspiration from last weekend…

Drum roll, please.

dah-ka-taka-taka-taka-taka dah-ka-taka-taka

Smokin’ lobster salad!!!!!

Anyone know where I can buy some dry ice?

Ok no, not really, not anytime soon, but that was one of the amazing dishes we had during a 12-course wedding feast! Congratulations to Will and Jennie, two of my amazing friends from high school, who finally tied the knot last Saturday at a beautiful outdoor wedding right near Prospect Park.

Amazingly beautiful and happy!

Got drunk, blacked out, and was hungover all in one day. This picture is a major clue to answer the question, “How??”

Woke up the next morning to a wonderful breakfast of leftover wedding cake.
(photo by classmate Matt)

And while I am on the topic of lobster, I had one of the most amazing versions of “lobster susci” yesterday at Faustina, another Scott Conant restaurant in a very architecturally interesting Cooper Square Hotel.

It was the 2nd time I’d been there with the bf, so we knew what to expect – not the biggest portion of foods for the amount of money you’ll be paying, but more likely than not.. everything will taste absolutely fantastic. (When has Scott Conant ever led us astray?) And besides, this was going to be our “snack” before a late dinner at the soft opening of Eddie Huang’s (Baohaus) new restaurant Xiao Ye.

We sat down and ordered from the all-day menu (the only time when its a blessing that such a good restaurant is open in a hotel). A simple snack – stewed eggs with tomatos and yellowtail susci. By the time we were finished with those two plates, dinner service had started so, why not? We ordered raw lobster.

Raw lobster with tomato and basil oil

And it was a good thing we stuck around and ordered it because guess who walked in the door? THE man himself, Scott Conant, flashing his million dollar smile as he entered the room and made it about a 100 degrees warmer. Just about made my day!

Guest Cook

It’s hot in the city and what’ll make it hotter is a man in the kitchen! (Literally and figuratively, of course.)

I should consider myself lucky that on one of the hottest days of the year, I had someone volunteer to make me dinner at my apartment – a barely air conditioned (not by choice), and humid furnace of cat hair and scattered shoes. (Is that not the perfect picture of single life?) If the awfully uncomfortable weather wasn’t enough to put me in a bad mood, a recent collection of photographic evidence of weight gain surely was, and to placate this sweaty mess of what used to resemble a girl, my trooper of a bf came up with a clever substitution for his dinner dish. Move over, heavy cream…

Pasta with Sugar Snap Peas and Serrano Ham

  • sugar snap peas
  • garlic
  • basil leaves
  • serrano ham
  • greek yogurt
  • pasta of choice

He set a pot of salted water to boil as I stood, hovering in the doorway clutching a quickly condensating glass of wine. After a quick consultation on what the correct amount of pasta is (for this weight watching girl), the gemelli goes into the water. While the pasta is cooking, a saute pan is heated up with a miniscule amount of oil (whether or not this was on account of me, I didn’t dare to ask!) and in goes finely minced garlic, a couple of cloves worth, and the sugar snap peas. Being careful to not undercook the peas (there is nothing I dislike the taste of more), he stirs it around for a while, I believe salt was then added (I might have snuck away to surf the web for a bit, after being accused of hovering too much) and then adds a good plop of greek yogurt and the pasta. Then everything is tossed together, with some shredded serrano ham and basil. Delicious!

The man at work. It had to be documented.