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Single (and cooking) in the City

Food, life, love, and fun recipes

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pasta

The Best of 2010

New Year, new eats. Aleady off to a amazing start: New Years Day, as we were checking out of the Ace Hotel, as we were polishing off our first breakfast of 2011 at The Breslin, as we licked the last couple crumbs of croissant off our fingers, we decided — ROAD TRIP!! To Rhode Island!

But before I post the photos taken on the trip with Kel and Randal and myself (as the 3rd wheel), I wanted to recap the most memorable dishes I’ve had towards the end of 2010…

Since I am nearly in love with all things uni.. first there was the fattiest, most decadently prepared piece of uni I’ve ever had – uni, resting on a slice of crunchy toast, peeking out from under a warm and melting blanket of glistening lardo.

Uni and Lardo Crostini at Marea

And then there was the roast suckling pig dinner at The Breslin for Kel’s birthday – juicy with crackly skin, we tore that sucker apart.

Everyone knows what a roast pig looks like… this is what a delicious roast pig looks like.

This is what the most beautiful (and delicious) piece of oyster sushi looks like at Sushi Yasuda.

You know a savory dish has to be good in order for me to get that in lieu of the usual sweet breakfast/brunch I prefer. The pasta at Michael White’s new place Osteria Morini is that exception. Gramigna – photo taken when there was actual light in the place!

Something I can eat over and over again… if I could get a table at ABC Kitchen at a decent hour! Crab on toast.

Did you think I’d forget dessert? The best one – a pear cake studded with chocolate chips at Al Di La in Park Slope. It’s a good thing that this restaurant is all the way in Brooklyn and up a steep hill that used to have me breaking out a sweat in the dead of winter.

And homemade – a tiramisu cupcake that was just as amazing on day 4 in the fridge as it was hot out of the oven. I’d make this more often, but baking up more than a dozen at a time, when I am hardly in the mood for sharing, is a bad idea.

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Pasta with Uni and Crab; Baked Snails

Mitsuwa is an amazing place, especially for their selection of sashimi grade fish. We saw an eye opening variety of tuna – from a lean ruby red supermodel cut to a pink and delightfully fatty plump chef cut. Of course, we bought some otoro.

Snacking on some otoro and striped jack mackeral.

The rest of our purchases included some snails and uni. The snails we had as an appetizer with some garlic and the uni was used for an attempt at making Michael White’s amazing Uni and Crab Pasta.

We were so ambitious we made our own pasta dough. Good thing I took that class at NY Vintners, using not their recipe, and not their technique for farfalle. (Because we didn’t want farfalle.)

 
A ball of dough, a collection of shapes.

A couple of hours later, we finally ate.

Pasta with uni and crab, baked snails, roasted cauliflower and brussel sprouts.

So it wasn’t the best pasta ever (the leftovers surprisingly tasted MUCH better! Or maybe I was just hungry), and it was nowhere near as good as Michael White’s version at Marea, but it was a fun experiment, made especially more fun with my partner-in-crime, who gets to take all the credit for the baked snails.


Pasta with Uni and Crab (adapted from NY Times)

  • pasta
  • garlic
  • red pepper flakes
  • cherry tomatoes
  • uni and jumbo lump crab meat

Boil the pasta in salted water, drain when done, reserving a bit of water. Sautee the chopped garlic in some olive oil. Add a good amount of red pepper flakes if you like it spicy, then add the cherry tomatoes. When the tomatoes are soft, add the uni and crab meat, sautee quickly to warm, and then add the pasta with a splash of water if it is too dry. Salt, pepper, toss and serve.

Baked Snails in Garlic and Butter/Olive Oil (we made 2 versions)

  • snails
  • garlic, minced
  • softened butter
  • olive oil

The poor snails were extracted from their shells prior to cooking. But for some resistant little buggers, we boiled them for 15 minutes. They come out quite nicely after that. In the end, prior to stuffing with garlic, you want to make sure they’ve been boiled (cooked). Put the snails back in their shells, along with either softened butter/garlic, or olive oil/garlic. Remember to season. Bake in the oven for a couple of minutes.

Comforting Combinations: Wine & Pasta

On an otherwise drab and dreaded Monday, a couple of girlfriends and I had something to look forward to – a wine tasting and pasta making class at New York Vintners.

Located on a typical Evacuation-At-Five street near Tribeca, New York Vintners is a very clean, very modern and white space that houses a small (comparatively) but carefully selected assortment of wines. I had run out of work as early as I could (early being work’s end at 7pm on the dot), hopped a cab, and jogged across the street to the door, pleasantly surprised to find myself being greeted cheerfully (instead of expecting to be berated for arriving 20 minutes late). The store had a really nice feature, which is the centerpiece of the room, a white cube on tracks – moveable to allow customization of the space. For this event, the cube was moved towards the front of the room, allowing several tables of seating behind it, where a kitchen was set up.

Spot the white cube?

What made the next 5 minutes of the night even better? Shortly after finding my friends, someone quickly brought over a welcome drink – sparkling wine. From Hungary, no less! (The wine, not the person. I don’t know where he is from.)

The class started off with some notes about white wine, along with 2 different kinds for us to taste. A short break during the wine was a quick lesson on pasta flour and mixing technique. While the chefs got to work on making some dough for us, we had another couple of glasses of wine – this time red. And then the fun began.

We were given sheets of fresh dough and some metal rings for cutting out shapes. Quick like little wine fueled elves, we set to work. Q and I tried to make bowties.. apparently the only shape we learned while sipping and (half) learning.


Making farfalle.

As we were busy making shapes, the chefs finished making the sauce. The shapes were collected and after posing for a couple of pictures, the pasta was done!


A pile of different shapes. Some of them inspired by body parts.

The pasta was that amazing texture you only get from something fresh made. And the sauce? Well… it was no Scarpetta. And to prove my point, we hopped a cab up to mepa to get a real taste of pasta truly amazing.

3 pasta dishes for 3 girls. Spaghetti, agnolotti, and tagliolini. Delicious!

*Thanks to Urban Girl Squad for organizing such an awesome event (and for the amazing pictures, some of which I’ve used on this site), and Alicia for getting us together.

Silly Seven

When you’re single, every night out on the town seems to feel like a chore – dress to impress, arm self with extensive knowledge of useless (but interesting) facts, research and practice pronunciation for fancy European menus, chew slowly (not inhale, as is my usual habit), and laugh (even if his jokes are not funny), always remembering to empty contents of mouth before doing so.

When you’re attached, dining out either becomes the usual fall back plan for an otherwise unplanned evening and thus run close to the line of becoming “just the norm” (dull), or, if you’re luckily dating someone sentimental, a romantic and hopefully thoughtful excuse to celebrate some ridiculously cliched milestone. And the fun part of it all? You get to laugh with your mouth chockful of expensive handmade pasta, and your dining companion will love you for it.

Friday night was the end of a 2nd week of work at the new place, and disappointingly, I still hadn’t received my first paycheck. Having already spent the entire week moaning and groaning about the newbie shitwork I’m expected to do, my Debbie Downer behavior was probably negatively affecting everyone, including myself, and in no mood to cook with the contents of an empty pantry (I am no magician), I decided to employ my Sexual Bewitchery and Feminine Wiles, which merely involved mentioning a certain fiddlehead fern pasta at a certain restaurant of Michael White’s, and was able to finagle myself a date at Alto.

Without a reservation, we arrived at the restaurant around 8pm, and resigned ourselves to the bar (fully booked until 9pm) to contemplate our next plan of action. Luckily, a cancellation around 8:30 brought the hostess over to seat us at a table not less than 10 feet away from THE Michael White, who seemed to be in the middle of some feasting (as opposed to a dinner) meeting.

Now normally I’d never allow myself to even consider ordering a 4-course priced at (what I consider a hefty) $84 when 1 bowl of pasta is enough to satisfy, but given the prices of each dish, and all the enticing varieties offered, I slyly mentioned that the number of months since our first date had reached 7 (2 days shy, actually) – a lucky number suitable for silly celebrations – and a better deal would be had if we decided to go for the prix fixe. And thus, we had one of our first really special dinner dates in a long time – scallops, beef tartare, fiddlehead fern pasta with pesto and pea puree, egg ravioli with sweetbreads (an egg whose yolk runs out when the ravioli is pierced! how amazing is that?), lobster, and sirloin. As is to be expected from Michael White, the food was no less than amazing, and on the actual day of the silly 7th, we made our own version of the fiddlehead fern pasta.

Pesto Gemelli with Fiddlehead Ferns and Peas, and Roasted Potatoes

Pesto Gemelli

  • gemelli (2 cups)
  • fiddlehead ferns
  • minced garlic, 1 clove
  • peas

Blanche the fiddlehead ferns and set aside. Boil the pasta in salted water until al dente, 9 minutes. Meanwhile, heat up a pan with some olive oil, and toss in the garlic and fiddlehead ferns. After the pasta is done, reserve some pasta water, drain, and toss into the pan. Add the peas and several tablespoons of pesto, to taste. Salt and pepper if necessary, and use the pasta water if the contents of the pan should get too dry.

Roasted Potatoes

  • a bowl of very patriotic looking tiny potatoes from Whole Foods, halved.
  • 3 sprigs of rosemary
  • 4 cloves of crushed garlic

In a baking pan, pour in some olive oil. Put it in the oven as you preheat it to 500 degrees. When the oil is warm, or the oven is fully heated, take out the pan, empty the potatoes into it, tossing, add salt and pepper, and add the crushed garlic and rosemary. Roast for 30 minutes, checking halfway to toss. Remove the sprigs when done and serve.

Quick Red Wine Sangria

  • leftover container of mixed berries
  • red wine
  • poland spring lemon seltzer

Mix together, adding as much seltzer as you’d like to lighten up the wine. If needed, add agave nectar to sweeten.

A Late Post into My Late Twenties

One of the perks of getting older is being able to use that as an excuse for various indulgences – lobster rolls at Lure, one too many trips to Scarpetta, a weekend vacation in Mexico, the 3rd breakfast pastry I really could’ve done without… and eventually once everyone has satisfied their appetite for celebration, a more humble routine can resume.

Relaxing on the beach in Mexico. SPF 50! And I still turned brown like a rotisserie chicken at Boston Market.

Happy Birthday to Scarpetta! (and myself)

Last Thursday night was spent, the 2nd evening in a week, on dinner at Scarpetta. Also celebrating a major event (their 2 year anniversary!), Scarpetta had released a special menu – a 4 course dinner, plus wine pairings, for $50. (My heart skipped a beat and my eyes wondered if they’d gone blind when I first saw that deal… I could’ve sworn I’d died.) Appropriately, the classics were ordered (polenta, spaghetti with tomato basil, cod — heavenly as always) and some new items were explored (capretto – very sticky; short rib agnolotti – it tastes like a Big Mac in pasta form, never again!). All in all, it was a good combination of enjoying what I’d always loved, and trying something new.

I remember the first time I had the polenta and spaghetti. It was so good I just had to learn how to recreate the dish at home. With healthier ingredients, of course. And so, on some particularly lonely nights, I set up my pasta maker and patiently stirred the polenta, yielding results which I thought was no way of the same caliber as Scott Conant’s, of course, but passable for a non-cook’s studio kitchen.


Spaghetti with Tomato and Basil

  • Pasta (flour, salt, and an egg)
  • plum tomatoes, about 3
  • red pepper flakes
  • grated parmesan
  • basil leaves, chiffonade

Like I said… it was a particularly lonely night, and so I shaped the pasta dough into little balls, and painstakingly rolled each one out into long thick strands. About 2 hours later, and only one serving of pasta made, I was seriously sweating at this point and called it quits. The rest of the dough was rolled using the pasta maker into linguine strands. However, for this kind of sauce, I highly recommend making your own spaghetti the lonely, single girl way. It is really that much better. Chewy!

Heat up some olive oil and saute the chopped up plum tomatoes. Once they are soft, smush them in the pot with a potato masher and add the red pepper flakes. Season with salt and pepper to taste. You can let them cook for a while to thicken the sauce while you boil the pasta. Fresh pasta cooks ridiculously fast, so keep a close eye on it, slightly undercook it, drain it, reserving some liquid.

Add the pasta to the sauce, and toss, adding some pasta liquid if it is too dry. Add the cheese and basil, toss some more, and serve.

Mushroom Polenta

  • baby shittake mushrooms (or whichever mushrooms look pretty at the market, I like the ones with the stems, Super Mario style.)
  • shallots
  • low sodium chicken broth
  • polenta
  • grated parmesan
  • butter
  • skim milk

Cook the polenta in the chicken broth. I can’t remember the exact portions right now, but it should be on the box. Whisk it, a lot! It will clump up easily if you neglect it. Add some skim milk to round out the flavor, along with some grated parmesan. A bit of butter, if you’d like. Or a lot, which most would probably prefer. What you want to go for is creamy. Cook the mushrooms with the shallots, and then add some chicken broth. Let it simmer away and thicken. (This takes forever. I think I waited a good hour. The longer you do it, the better it will taste. You can also add some marsala wine to it to sweeten it up a bit.) Salt to taste, and top the polenta with it.