Plum Season

photo (7)So, guys, it’s plum season. And what better way to celebrate this yearly milestone than with an old-school baked favorite?

Using the sweetest little purple beauties, I made the New York Times’ Original Plum Torte which was published every September from 1982 to 1989. Readers were nothing short of furious when the paper stopped printing the recipe, which was recently re-published on the Times’ cooking page. It’s very easy to make, totally delicious, and you probably already have all the ingredients on hand!

INGREDIENTS

  • ¾ cup sugar
  • ½ cup unsalted butter
  • 1 cup unbleached flour, sifted
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  •   Pinch of salt (optional)
  • 2 eggs
  • 24 halves pitted purple plums
  •   Sugar, lemon juice and cinnamon for topping

PREPARATION

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Cream the sugar and butter in a bowl. Add the flour, baking powder, salt and eggs and beat well.
  3. Spoon the batter into a spring form of 8, 9 or 10 inches. Place the plum halves skin side up on top of the batter. Sprinkle lightly with sugar and lemon juice, depending on the sweetness of the fruit. Sprinkle with (about) 1 teaspoon of cinnamon, depending on how much you like cinnamon.
  4. Bake one hour, approximately. Remove and cool; refrigerate or freeze if desired. Or cool to lukewarm and serve plain or with whipped cream.
  5. To serve a torte that was frozen, defrost and reheat it briefly at 300 degrees.

Naptime Swordfish

photo 1

I spent this weekend at my family home in Cambridge, MA, hanging with the parents, seeing friends, and sprawling out in a house that makes my NYC apartment look bathtub-sized. (Pretty much any house will make my apartment look like a bathtub.)

My father had bought some swordfish, but decided to take an early evening nap before dinner time. Ravenous, I prepared it simply, with some olive oil, sliced lemons, and fresh herbs from the garden:

Popped into the oven at 400 degrees, and cooked for 10-15 minutes, it hit the spot squarely. photo 2

What Season Is This Anyway?

Jack-o-lantern-Amana-Tomato-72dpiIt’s that weird time of the year when the drugstores are (blasphemously) selling cheap candy and pumpkin spiced-everything while heirloom tomatoes are still available at the supermarket. One minute I’m frolicking outside in a dress and the next minute jeans and closed-toe shoes are necessary.

Anyway, for dinner last night I decided to dabble with the four remaining beefsteak [well, three--I used one heirloom] tomatoes at Whole Foods and made them into tomates farcies (stuffed and topped with breadcrumbs.) I paired them with a spinach cake, because what’s better than savory ingredients re-imagined as a baked good? (Why does “baked good” sound so odd?) With the tops of the tomatoes I made a cute lil’ colorful salad dressed with balsamic-parmesan vinaigrette.

Processed with VSCOcam with c1 presetBaked Tomatoes with Sausage Stuffing [from "Tomatoes" a Short Stack Edition by Soa Davies]
[Serves 4]
Ingredients:
4 large beefsteak tomatoes
1 cup diced country or sourdough bread
1/2 cup whole milk
1/2 pound pork sausage, casing removed
2 tablespoons chopped onion
1 teaspoon chopped garlic
1 egg
4 tablespoons chopped flat-leaf parsley
Fine sea salt and freshly cracked black pepper
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 cup bread crumbs [I needed maybe 1/2 of that]
1/4 cup finely grated Parmesan Cheese

Directions:
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Slice 1/2 inch off one end of each of the tomatoes, scoop out the pulp and seeds and reserve for another use. [I saved the tops for the salad!] Place the tomatoes, cut side up, in a baking dish. Place the diced bread in a bowl and cover with the milk.

Heat a skillet over medium heat and add the sausage. Cook the sausage until well browned, breaking it up with a spatula as it cooks. Add the onion and garlic and continue cooking until the vegetables have softened, about 5 minutes. Let the meat mixture cool slightly, then transfer it to the bowl with the bread and the milk. Add the egg, parsley, 1/4 teaspoon of salt and two pinches of cracked black pepper. Stir the ingredients to combine.

Drizzle the olive oil over each of the tomatoes and lightly season with salt and pepper. Fill each tomato with some of the sausage mixture and cover the baking dish with foil. Transfer the dish to the oven and bake for 25 minutes.

While the tomatoes are baking, stir the breadcrumbs and Parmesan together in a small bowl. After the tomatoes have baked for 25 minutes, top each one with some of the bread-crumb mixture and continue to bake for another 10 to 15 minutes or until the topping is golden brown and toasted. [I broiled for about 5-8 minutes]. Transfer to plates and serve.photo 5

David Tanis’ Spinach Cake [from Yummy Supper, original recipe from David Tanis'"Platter of Figs"]

Processed with VSCOcam with g3 presetProcessed with VSCOcam with c1 presetINGREDIENTS
adapted from David Tanis’ Platter of Figs 

  • 2 pound spinach leaves
  • 2 medium leeks, 2 heads green garlic, and/or 2 spring onions [I just used leeks]
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • freshly ground nutmeg [I used pre-ground]
  • salt
  • pepper
  • 6 large eggs
  • 2 cups whole milk
  • Parmesan

Thoroughly clean spinach leaves. Coarsely chop and set aside. Dice leeks, green garlic and/or spring onion.

Melt butter in a large saute pan over medium heat.

Add leeks, onion, and/ or garlic. Season with salt and pepper. Saute for about five minutes until tender. Grate nutmeg over the top.

Turn up the heat. Add spinach in layers (salt each layer as you go) until you can fit it all in the pan. Cover and steam, stirring once or twice, until spinach has just wilted. This should only take a couple of minutes.

Spread cooked spinach onto a platter to cool.

Preheat oven to 400.

When spinach has cooled, get out your blender and puree spinach, eggs, and milk in batches. (Tanis suggests reserving the extra liquid from the cooked spinach and adding it to the puree. I would recommend pouring out the excess spinach water. When I left it in, I had liquid at the bottom of my cake when it was done cooking.) Add extra salt, pepper and a pinch of cayenne. Puree should be heavily seasoned.

Pour soupy batter into a buttered baking dish. Sprinkle a few tablespoons of grated Parmesan over the top.

Bake uncovered in the oven for 35-45 minutes until firm. When the cake is done, you should be able to insert a knife and it will come out clean.

Processed with VSCOcam with c1 presetAnd then just my little tomato salad:photo 4

[Tomato Jack O'Lantern photo courtesy of Western Gardeners]

 

Top 5 East Village Asian Eats

Since moving back to Manhattan’s East Village, I’ve quickly remembered the foodcentric convenience that I’d grown accustomed to in my earlier years in the neighborhood. Essentially any cuisine, at any time, is available–and often for delivery. Although my heritage is Indian, I tend to prefer the Asian cuisines found farther East, like Malaysian, Vietnamese, Korean, Chinese, Japanese, and Thai. The East Village boasts some of the tastiest (and most affordable) options in this culinary realm, and here are my Top 5 Asian East Village Eats organized by cuisine in no particular order:

Szechuan Chinese: Han Dynastydandan1
I first experienced the spicy glory that is Han Dynasty in Philadelphia, and when they opened a branch in New York, I knew that my Dan Dan noodle consumption was going to quadruple. Initially, the extremely long lines and two hour wait times kept me away, but now I’m there whenever the Chinese craving presents itself. Intoxicating Szechuan peppercorns rule supreme in the concoctions, which can be ordered according to a number system of spiciness.cukes
What to Order: Dan Dan Noodles (get them on the milder side unless imminent death is your thing), Dumplings in Chili Oil, Spicy Crispy Cucumber, Sesame Noodles, Chicken “Double Cooked Style”
90 3rd Ave (between 12th and 13th streets)
[photos courtesy of Han Dynasty]

Northern Thai: Zabb Elee
Zabb Elee

 

 

 

                                  If you’re looking for the usual cloying Pad Thai and wimpy papaya salad offensively popularized by Thai restaurants in the area, you’re at the wrong place. But, if you seek an explosion of sweet-sour-spicy Northern Thai flavors, then Zabb Elee is pretty close to nirvana. Yes, there are pork ears and snake head fish (whatever that is) on the menu, but there are also myriad less esoteric choices which will leave you panting with a burning tongue and a happy (and very full) tummy.

What To Order: Som Tum Thai (non-wimpy Papaya salad), Pad Ped Moo Krob (crispy pork, thai eggplant with a spicy sauce–DON’T MISS THIS!), Kana Moo Krob (Chinese broccoli with crispy pork), many varieties of Larb
75 2nd Avenue (between 4th and 5th streets)
[photo courtesy of the New York Times]

Sushi: Kanoyamakanoyama
The East Village, and New York City in general, abounds with sushi eateries, but as a diner, one is often tasked with choosing between subpar fish (and the possibility of gastrointestinal illness) and a cheque of astronomical proportions. Thus, it is important to locate a somewhat affordable locale where the fish is identifiably fresh and of good quality. In Kanoyama, I have found it. Will the sushi be an otherwordly experience? Nope. But it’s delicious, fresh, and isn’t too bougie to shy away from Western inventions like the “volcano roll.”

What To Order: Your fave raw fish creations and Japanese entrées.
175 2nd Ave (between 11th and 12th streets)
[photo courtesy of Trip Advisor]

Vietnamese: Sao MaiSao Mai - Special Pho
The Asian food I crave the most frequently is Vietnamese–with its fresh, vegetable- heavy dishes, thin luscious noodles, and grilled meat and fish. Pho is restorative and comforting, bun (noodle salad) provides all the major food groups (to my mind, anyway), and who doesn’t love banh mi sandwiches?! After being recently featured on New York Magazine’s Cheap Eats List Sao Mai has gained popularity and is (sadly) no longer my secret spot. The service is, well, brusque to say the least, and not particularly quick, but the food more than makes up for it.

What To Order: Goi Xoai Song (Mango Salad topped with Soft Shell Crab), Pho Chin Nam (Beef brisket noodle soup), Bun Bo Nuong (Grilled Beef with Vermicelli Noodles)   203 1st Avenue (Between 12th and 13th streets)                                                           [photo courtesy of Serious Eats]

Ramen: Mincaphoto (6)
It may not be the world’s best ramen, but the bubbling rich soup at Minca is absolutely delicious, reasonably priced, and doesn’t involve uppity hostesses and two hour plus-long wait times (read: Ippudo). The broth is made from long-simmered chicken and pork bones, resulting in a souper (see what I did there?) rich flavor and silky texture, all the better to be soaked up by springy noodles and decadent pork charshu– a study in calorific velvet.

What To Order: Minca Sio Ramen (Roast pork and garlic flavor), Spicy Miso Ramen.
563 East 5th Street (between Avenue A and Avenue B)

A friend in town? There go my arteries.

I consider myself extremely lucky to have found friends that are as food-obsessed as I. Particularly females. Nothing better than a girl who can really get down on some food. When one of my closest friends was visiting last weekend, I used it as an opportunity to explore a number of eateries I’d been longing to try.

photo 1Narcissa
Although I’ve been less excited about dining at the super-fancy, why-is-the-hostess-glaring-at-me restaurants that are ever-popular here in New York, Narcissa was a chic upscale place I was really excited to visit. Located in the nearby (well, to me, anyway) East Village Standard Hotel, it wasn’t stuffy, and the ambience felt very low on the douche-ometer. Yes, there was the usual comma’d accompaniments for each dish on the menu, and the promise that each seed and grain (not to mention carnivorous offerings) was organically harvested by a sweet, dungaree’d Ivy Leaguer BUT, it felt genuine and, well, the food was splendid. Processed with VSCOcam with c1 presetThe cocktails, particularly the saucily named “Frisky Cow” (bourbon, aperol, citrus, smoked paprika) were terrific, and I loved my super-savory, multi-textured main course: seared scallops with asparagus, maitake mushrooms, potato purée and–yes I’m bougie–lobster butter.
The carrots Wellington, of which I’d read a lot, was very tasty as well–a super Umami dream.

mmm…Lobster Butter—————————>
Processed with VSCOcam with c1 presetBlack Seed Bagels
Opened by the husband-and-wife team who started the wildly-popular Mile End Delis, this further foray into Jewish cuisine had long been on my list. Lauren and I’d enjoyed the sandwiches from Mile End on a previous trip to NYC and we were both thrilled to go to their new Lower East Side bagel shop. I ordered their signature beet-smoked salmon, on an everything bagel, with horseradish cream cheese, sliced radishes and herbs (and I added cucumber.) While the flavors were good, it just wasn’t a New York bagel, which I should have known–particularly as they are advertised as “Montreal-style.” But, who can blame a New York resident for craving that doughy, toothsome hole-y goodness? Also, the prices were nothing short of crazytown. I’ll stick to their other ventures, methinks. (A couple of days later we got our fill of the classics at the unbeatable Tompkins Square Bagels which fulfilled any lingering bagel cravings.)

La VaraProcessed with VSCOcam with c1 preset
Opened a little over two years ago, this tiny tapas joint in lovely Cobble Hill always appealed to me, and although I largely detest brunch, they do a damn good (and very innovative) brunch! Case in point: freakishly good fried chickpeas to snack on (read: devour in handfuls.) My fried eggs over blood sausage and octopus (with squid ink on top) and my amiga’s fried meat and eggs “cuchifritos.” Not pictured: a Manzanilla sherry-Sprite concoction–que refresco!Processed with VSCOcam with g3 preset Processed with VSCOcam with g3 preset

Big Night–why haven’t you re-watched it?

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I’ve been waiting years, and yes, I mean years, for Big Night to come out on Netflix Instant Queue. This 1996 drama, set in the 1950s, features two Italian brothers, Segundo and Primo  played by Stanley Tucci and Tony Shalhoub (yes, MONK!), trying to make their restaurant succeed in a coastal New Jersey town. The food porn is unbelievably enticing, from Stanley Tucci (a known gourmand and cookbook-author) mincing garlic and preparing a memorable omelette, to Tony Shalhoub unmolding a magnificent “Timpano” (a baked pasta concoction filled with homemade penne, marinara sauce, eggs, and meatballs.) I now want to make this recipe quite badly, and found it in Food52!

big-night

Since my last viewing, probably at age 8, I now noticed the incredible filmography and cast, which includes Alyson Janney, Minnie Driver, Isabella Rosselini, and Marc Anthony (!!! — he features throughout the movie and has barely two lines.)

Big Night skillfully captures the unbridled mirth that only an incredible dinner party can provide.

*photos courtesy of imdb.com, and Times Union Blog respectively