A Fish of a Different Color

Lately I’ve been feeling a little… chunky. Not like sophomore year of college where I literally had to buy a new pair of pants whilst working at the mall because the pair I was wearing was cutting off my circulation, but… chunky. It’s bathing suit season, you know? Time to lay off the extra mayo and pancake appetizers at brunch. Forget I just indulged in all-you-can-eat gnocchi. It never happened.

It is in the spirit of lighter options that I experimented with tuna and planned a weekday lunch for myself that won’t lead to high cholesterol at the young age of twenty-COUGH.

On the menu:
Mediterranean tuna salad
Serves 2

1 can of albacore tuna in water (or 1/2 cup tuna steak, roughly chopped)
2 cups whole wheat pasta, cooked according to directions on box (I used elbow macaroni, but you can use any little chunky pasta)
1 Tbsp olive oil
1/4 cup red pepper, chopped
1/4 cup cherry tomatoes, chopped
1/4 cup fresh mozzarella, chopped into 1/4 inch cubes
2 Tbsp freshly grated parmesan cheese
2 tsp fresh lemon zest
Salt and pepper to taste

PAY CLOSE ATTENTION TO THESE DIRECTIONS THEY ARE VERY VERY COMPLICATED: Toss pasta with olive oil. Add tuna. Add fruit. Add cheese. Add zest. Add salt and pepper. Toss. Eat. Feel healthy. Be happy.

I like this in a bowl with a fork, but you could easily put this on some toasted Italian bread, or melted between two pieces of flat bread with the chunks of mozzarella binding it together. But, as I mentioned, I’m trying to fit into last year’s summer wardrobe and extraneous bread ain’t gonna help me there.

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Lucky Gnocchi Day

The remnants of a pesto/ham and tomato/marinara bowl of love

One of my favorite New York Deals comes in the form of pasta. All you can eat pasta, to be exact. On the 29th of every month, Piola in the East Village offers an all-you-can-eat special in which they walk around serving from giant bowls of their handmade gnocchi with different sauces that include traditional marinara, chicken and broccoli alfredo, four cheese, pesto, and a magical ham-tomato red sauce that I believe also includes unicorn tears and fairy dust. Yes, it’s that good.

Tell the waiter you want the gnocchi special and let the games begin. If you want more pasta, you leave your little card on green. If your pants are about to split, maybe consider turning the card over to red and the pasta man will stay away from your table. I know gnocchi seems like a heavy dish to offer endless bowls of, but there is a little story behind this. From Piola’s website:

“The story begins with a missionary arriving in a small village in Italy on the 29th of an unknown month. He arrived upon a very poor house asking for food. He was welcomed to their house and was offered the only thing they had on the table, ‘Gnocchi’. The missionary was very thankful for their warm reception and wonderful food. Soon after the missionary left the house, the poor family found some gold coins right under their Gnocchi plate… 
Since then the ‘Lucky Gnocchi Legend’ has gained recognition all over the world. Families gather together every 29th of the month and enjoy Gnocchi in order to have luck and prosperity in their lives. PIOLA has adopted this beautiful legend, ‘Lucky Gnocchi Day’.”

Piola also offers a plethora of other deals, and the food is incredible. Let me tell you, dear readers, February is a sad, sad month.

Unless it’s a Leap Year. Then we’re cool.

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Happy Holiday Weekend!

I don’t know about you guys, but I am jonesing for a long weekend. And this one is especially spectacular because it’s Memorial Day weekend and it’s the OFFICIAL (drum roll pleeeeeease) beginning of summer! Prayers: answered.

This weekend, I’ll be eating a lot (I know, it’s terribly shocking) and to whet your palate, a few pictures of beautiful brunches inhaled calmly and daintily enjoyed last weekend.

Magnolia 6th Ave at 12th Street, Park Slope, Brooklyn, NY

On the menu:
French toast with real maple syrup
Lobster frittata with red bliss potatoes and an English muffin
Eggs benedict with red bliss potatoes
Coffee
Mimosas

Verdict: Love this place! Let me paint you a picture: my old friend, Kristy, and I met at Magnolia to catch up after almost two years of not seeing each other. So we needed some time… a lot of time. The staff was incredibly sweet, amazingly patient, and they didn’t even judge us when we ordered three full meals between the two of us. “Can we uh… have the French toast for dessert?” Our waiter grinned and assured us that “people do it all the time!” Thank you for lying, waiter friend.

Another thing that completely sold me on Magnolia was their banana bread basket served before the meal. Tucked inside a linen napkin were squares of moist, flaky banana bread (without nuts! wahoo!) that Kristy and I munched on before, during, and after our meals. I love when a New York restaurant serves bread and water immediately after you sit down, as if saying, “Hangover cures while you wait!”

Happy Memorial Day weekend, friends! Enjoy every sun-filled minute.

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Sunday Suppers

Just a quick post to tell you guys about this FABULOUS blog I just stumbled upon. The gorgeous photos are worth a visit alone. [Click on the picture to go to the site!] I’m going to see if I can participate in the near future…

photo courtesy of Karen Mordechai and Sunday Suppers

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Book It

I was fortunate enough to attend a panel discussion with some very influential people in the food writing world, including writers from The Kitchn, Tasting Table, and the New York Times. During the course of the discussion, there was much debate about the future of food writing and cookbooks. In ten years will printed books be obsolete? I am a total paper nerd and have to admit that I love the smell of an old library book, the weight of the Sunday New York Times under my arm, and the food-splattered pages of my oldest cookbooks. If you’re a traditionalist like me, you’ll wholeheartedly agree. Maybe you just let out a resounding “HEAR HEAR!” at your desk.

Maybe not.

In any case, below are my recommendations for cookbooks that you should not be without. You can Google “souffle recipes” but it just ain’t the same.

Applehood and Motherpie by Junior League of Rochester; an upstate staple, and an endless resource for amazing homemade dishes from appetizers and soups to entrees and desserts.

The Essential New York Times Cookbook by Amanda Hesser; includes 1,000 plus recipes from the lauded newspaper's unrivaled history of culinary journalism. Available October 2010

Martha Stewart's Cookies by Martha Stewart Living Magazine; every cookie I have ever tried from this book has been incredible. So reliable.

Mastering the Art of French Cooking by Julia Child; because well... duh.

Joy of Cooking by Irma S. Rombauer; this is a kitchen standard and has a recipe for everything you have ever wondered how to make.

Someday I’ll add to this list “Food E. says EAT IT by Lauren E.” but for now… well… there you go.

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Meat and Potatoes: 2.0

Some things are better with mustard: ham and swiss, a ballpark hot dog, your sworn enemy’s favorite white silk blouse… Kidding. Promise.

When I stumbled across this recipe, I was smitten. As I mentioned, I’m a texture girl myself and this recipe is FULL of amazing textures. I complemented the steak with a simple warm potato salad, and there were clean plates all around. Warmed my little Food E. heart.

On the menu:
Mustard Crusted Beef Shoulder over arugula, green bean, red onion salad (Adapted from Epicurious.com)
Warm potato salad
Serves 4

Mustard Crusted Beef:

Beef:

1 1/2 lb beef shoulder
1 Tbsp salt
1/3 cup coarse-grain mustard
1 tsp dry mustard
1 1/2 Tbsp packed dark brown sugar
1 tsp coarsely ground black pepper
1 tsp finely grated fresh lemon zest
1 tablespoon vegetable oil

Salad:

4 cups roughly chopped arugula
1 small red onion, sliced very thinly
3/4 lb green beans, cut into bite-sized pieces

Dressing:

2 Tbsp balsamic vinegar
1 Tbsp lemon juice
1 tsp Dijon mustard
1/3 cup olive oil
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp fresh ground pepper

Preparation:

Preheat oven to 425°F.

Stir together mustards, brown sugar, pepper, and lemon zest.

Pat beef dry and season generously on both sides with salt. Heat oil in a heavy skillet over moderately high heat until just beginning to smoke, then brown beef for around 2 minutes on each side.

Transfer to a shallow baking pan that has been coated in oil. Pour mustard mixture over the top of the meat so it is completely covered.

Roast beef in the oven for 30-35 minutes for medium-rare (NOTE: my cut of beef was about 1 1/2 inches thick; if yours is any thicker or thinner add or subtract a few minutes accordingly). Remove from oven and let sit for 45 minutes. (Why, you ask? See here).

Prepare salad while beef is roasting:

Place onion slices in a bowl and cover with cold water. Allow to soak for 30 minutes. Cook beans in boiling salted water until bright green and slightly tender, about 5 minutes. Drain beans in a colander and rinse under cold water to stop cooking, then transfer to a large bowl. Add arugula to beans. Drain onion slices and pat dry.

Make dressing and toss salad:

Whisk together vinegar, lemon juice, mustard, and salt and pepper to taste. Add oil in a slow stream, whisking until completely incorporated, about 3 minutes.

Cut beef into thin slices, cutting against the grain of the meat at a 45 degree angle. Plate salad in layers: arugula, green beans, red onion slices, a Tbsp or so of dressing, and then beef slices.

Warm potato salad:

16-20 small red potatoes
1 Tbsp fresh dill, chopped
1/4 cup mayonnaise
2 tsp salt
1 tsp fresh ground black pepper

Boil potatoes for around 20 minutes, until you can stick a fork in and it pulls out easily. Drain water from potatoes and let cool for 10 minutes. Cut potatoes in half and toss with mayo, dill, and salt and pepper. Serve warm alongside steak.

The brilliance of this meal is in the leftovers. You can slice up whatever beef is leftover, wrap it in foil, and stick it in the fridge. Separately wrap up the salad remainders, the potato salad, and the dressing and serve it all cold the following day. The flavor of the mustard will only marinate in the beef even more and that, my friends, is a good thing.

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“Seize the moment. Remember all those women on the Titanic who waved off the dessert cart.” -Erma Bombeck

Just a quick post to shout out a delightful little bakery in Williamsburg that could easily be transplanted to the English countryside or a quaint little town in Northern California. Not only was the ambience perfect for a sunny Saturday, but the flavor combinations of the baked goods were mind/tastebud blowing.

Action shot!

Bakeri 150 Wythe Avenue, btwn 7th St and 8th St, Williamsburg, Brooklyn, NY. The assortment of baked goods is incredible, and they also serve sandwiches, coffee, and other assorted drinks.

On the menu:
Hazelnut rosemary chocolate chip cookie
Pistachio raspberry muffin

Verdict: Sweet, cakey, salty, post-brunch heaven. I mentioned in a previous post that I am not opposed to dessert after brunch because it is technically a midday meal and technically I’m an adult and I can do whatever I want so THERE. Ahem. You might not think rosemary in a cookie would be so tasty, but the consistency was spongy but dense enough to hold up the flavor, and the chocolate was a nice balance to the salt. The muffin was sublime: the pistachio flavor pervaded and the raspberries were a nice sweet aftertaste.

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