Archive for October, 2013

October 30, 2013

Burger Bash NYCWFF 2013

A juicy, medium rare Pat LeFrieda blend burger with caramelized onions, toasted sourdough bread, and finished with a creamy béchamel and emmental cheese.  This was both my first and last taste at this years Burger Bash, and it wasn’t because it was the only burger I tried.  As I maneuvered my way from station to station I took in the view of the Hudson River and New York’s Upper West side.  Pier 92 was a stunning location to house some of the country’s best chef’s burger creations.  About half way through the event I think I went through a burger haze/coma, but it didn’t stop me from making the necessary rounds.

I’ve always enjoyed a very traditional burger.  Load it up with garden fresh tomato, crisp greens and a healthy spread of ketchup and I’m in burger heaven.  I can see the BBQ heating up by the lawn while my dad blares Annie Lenox out of the loud-speaker and maneuvers his way around the pool in an awkward, dance like fashion.  Warm days of summer are crowded with memories of long  days swimming and tennis followed by evenings by the pool chowing down on burgers and homemade fries.  Harold Moore, chef and owner of Commerce Restaurant in New York City’s Greenwich Village, captured these summer moments with his American burger.  To me, a traditional American burger is all about the meat, and the toppings are merely there for decoration.  Tasty decoration, but decoration nonetheless.  If the meat isn’t good then forget the rest of it, you can add as much bacon as you like it’s not going to help.  Harold didn’t mess with tradition; he delivered a perfect burger, grilled to a moist medium rare with fresh toppings found at your local farmers market.  On first glace you might pass this one up – but let me remind you that the classics and still around for a reason.

Next on my hit list was Ai Firoi’s White Label burger by PJ Calapa.  Fresh, spicy pickles, American cheese and bacon marmalade with a side of crispy cacio e pepe tater tots. The bacon marmalade added a delicate smokiness and hint of sweetness, while the pickles added tang and freshness.  Let’s just say I was sold at bacon marmalade and I also have a soft spot for tater tots… I may be guilty of still making them on Saturday mornings when no ones home and inevitably end up being both my breakfast and lunch.

Burger Bash Ai Fiori White Label burger

My second helping of tater tots came courtesy of Cast Iron’s executive chef Franklin Becker.  Before I tell you what’s in this burger, I must ask that you try to hold off judgment.  Don’t immediately dismiss this… are you ready?  Cheeze whiz.  Yes, I said it, cheese whiz.  But this is not your grocery store, neon-yellow cheese pump you had in your college dorm.  This is cheese whiz on CRACK.  Joe Wildmer’s Wisco cheese whiz burger with jalapeño pickles, Nueske bacon and special sauce was a balanced combination of charred beef, buttery cheese and smoky bacon.  If that wasn’t enough, the tater tots were also lucky enough to get a stream of melty goodness.  I never thought I would crave cheese whiz in my adult years but this burger took it to a whole other level, thank you Chef Becker.

Burger Bash Cast Iron The Wisco Bacon Burger

My next victim was a creation from Shane Lyons, executive chef at Distilled, who opted for poblano relish and crispy fried onions on his beef burger.  Fried onions you say? Sign me up! Lyons was able to create a seamless combination of heat and charred beefy flavor; the sour, brine of the pickle cut the richness of the burger and offered up a “healthy snack” among all the French fries and potato chips.  In case the burger wasn’t enough, it was topped with a crispy tater tot rectangle.  I was beginning to see a trend with tater tots, not just your average Sonic version (while I do love those too) but unique versions with truffle oil, sweet potato, corn and cheese toppings.

Burger Bash Distilled Burger 2

But the highlight of the night was the French Onion Soup Burger concepted and presented by Le Rivage’s executive chef and owner, Paul Denamiel.  I have a warm space in my heart for creamy, rich French onion soup – its transcendent aroma engulfs you as you dive into the deeply dark and flavorful broth. Toasted baguette and bubbly cheese on top of the caramelized onions are the ultimate in flavor. While I never imagined it would translate into anything more that a beautiful soup, Chef Paul was able to bridge two seemly unconnected dishes into something extremely unique.  The sweet caramelized onion flavor perfumed the burger, while the toasted English muffin offered a contrasting, chewy texture.  I couldn’t get enough, which is why I ended up having three servings throughout the night.  Le Rivage’s burger took home the Judge’s choice award for best burger, a clear winner against some very honorable competitors.

French Onion Soup Burger concepted and presented by Le Rivage’s executive chef and owner, Paul Denamiel

A week later I’m still in recovery mode.  It was an unforgettable night with great food and even better company.  With over 30 outstanding burgers on the menu I’m looking forward to next years Burger Bash.  Who’s coming with me?

Advertisements
October 15, 2013

Warm Brussels Sprouts Salad

The way I get myself over the loss of something… in this case, the warm, comforting embrace of Summer… is to consider what I am looking forward to next.  Chilly days and cozy nights, pumpkins and squash, and the beautiful deep colors of the falling leaves that are echoed in the change in my wardrobe.  Lush sweaters, leather jackets, textured cords, hats, knits, scarfs and my favorite of all, boots!!   You never see me procrastinating to pull out the sweaters or prepare the house for fall.  The time for reflecting on the year and gearing up for a strong finish does not escape me.

IMG_2817

On a cool Thursday night, after weighing our dining options, my mom and I slide into one of the wooden banquettes of the local Italian eatery Pizza Antica.  A generous bowl of warm, salted focaccia with rich olive oil is set on our table as we relax into our booth and peruse the menu.  When I came across the warm Brussels sprout salad I didn’t need to keep reading. With the onset of cool, autumn weather brings us Brussels sprouts at the peak of their growing season.  By the end of summer I’m anxious to dig into fall’s harvest and at farmer’s markets the landscape shifts to display a new array of deep reds, yellows and creamy whites. Gone are the strawberries, corn and stone fruits of summer; in their place, root vegetables, squash and cold-weather tree fruit emerge. It’s an exciting time of transition, and also a delicious one.

This salad is a celebration of fall and combines all that is good in the world – bacon, Brussels spouts, garlic and homemade croutons for a variety of flavors and textures.  The nutty flavor of the pan-fried sprouts is complemented beautifully by the smoky bacon, creamy egg and chew of the toasted bread.  Everything is brought together with a light, garlic vinaigrette which compliments the tender sprouts without overwhelming the dish.  This recipe was inspired by Pizza Antica, and I encourage you to adapt it as you go.  Sometimes I throw in some toasted almonds for crunch or top it with finely grated Parmesan cheese.

Ingredients

Warm Brussels Sprouts Salad

  • 1/2 slab bacon (9 slices of pre-cut bacon)
  • 4 tbsp. extra light extra virgin olive oil, plus 2 tbsp. for croutons
  • 2 medium onions, peeled and sliced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 6 slices sourdough bread, cut into 1/2″ squares
  • 6 large eggs
  • 2 lbs. Brussels sprouts
  • Sea salt, to taste
  • Freshly ground pepper, to taste

Vinaigrette

  • 1 large garlic clove, minced
  • 1 large shallot, minced
  • 1 tsp. fresh thyme leaves
  • 3 tbsp. red wine vinegar
  • 1/2 cup extra light extra virgin olive oil
  • Sea salt, to taste
  • Freshly ground pepper, to taste

Method:

  1. First we’ll make the vinaigrette and set it aside for later.  To make the vinaigrette, soak the garlic, shallots, and thyme in vinegar for roughly 45 minutes.
  2. After soaking, slowly whisk in the oil. Season to taste with salt and pepper and reserve covered.
  3. Preheat oven to 300°F for the croutons.
  4. Toss cubed bread with light extra-virgin olive oil and toast in the oven for 20-25 mins until golden brown and crispy.  Allow to cool to room temperature and set aside.
  5. Cut bacon into 1/2″ squares and cook over low to medium heat until almost crisp; drain off the fat and set aside.
  6. In the same pan you cooked the bacon, heat 2 tbsp. light extra-virgin olive oil.  If you have some remaining bacon fat leave it in the pan and just add any extra oil as needed.  The extra light olive oil has a higher smoking point so if you don’t have it, replace it with canola oil.
  7. Sauté sliced onions over medium-high heat until golden brown, two minutes before you remove it from the heat add the garlic; drain and set aside.
  8. In a small saucepan, cover the eggs with cold water and bring to a low boil.  Once boiling remove from heat and cover.  Let the eggs stand in hot water for 8-9 minutes.  Then run cold water over eggs to stop the cooking – this will give you hard-boiled eggs with a firm yolk.
  9. Peel eggs and dice finely (about the size of a small pea) and reserve covered in the refrigerator.
  10. Clean the sprouts by removing the first few dark leaves and discarding. Cut off the stem, and separate the leaves one by one. When you get to the light green center and can’t pull off the leaves, either slice the heart very thin or reserve for other uses.  Peeling the leaves is definitely the best way to make this salad, but if you are short on time you can also shred them in a Cuisinart.  It will save you at least 30 mins but you won’t get the same texture.
  11. In a large sauté pan, heat remaining extra-virgin olive oil until almost smoking and add sprouts leaves; toss until wilted (about 3 minutes), season with salt and pepper.
  12. Add reserved onions and bacon and warm until hot.
  13. When hot, add vinaigrette and toss to distribute evenly.
  14. Add croutons and chopped eggs and toss to incorporate.
  15. Serve!

Recipe sourced from http://www.pizzaantica.com/

 

October 5, 2013

Grains of Paradise and Cayenne Oatmeal Cookies

Living in Houston I’ve learned that Texans LOVE spicy, hot food.  They serve everything with a side of Tabasco or hot salsa that makes your forehead sweat, and it’s already hot enough without the spicy food.  Eggs, steak, salads, burgers… everything is bursting with heat.  I spent my first few months in Houston downing gallons of milk every time I attempted to conquer the red salsa at our local Mexican restaurant.  Sadly, I never succeeded.  But in an effort to enbrace my new home I’ve tried to incorporate some spice into my classic recipes to satisfy my friends cravings.

Grains of Paradise and Cayenne Oatmeal Cookies

The thing I like about these cookies is that they don’t immediately smack you in the face with heat, it gradually hits at the end and lingers ever so slightly.  I didn’t want to mess with a classic too much, but I do think this takes a traditional oatmeal cookie to a more grown up level.  The cranberries add to the chewy texture of the oats and give it an added sweetness needed with the earthy spices. I purposely left out cinnamon, usually a staple in oatmeal cookies, as I didn’t want it to mask the other spices. 

The secret ingredient in these cookies is grains of paradise, a spice native to West Africa. I crushed the grains with my mortar and pestle which released the most heavenly aroma — a combination of black pepper, cardamom, coriander and citrus with a lingering scent of something floral and woodsy.  If you crack one between your teeth, the flavor follows in much the same order as the aroma.  If you only get one thing from this recipe I hope it’s an introduction to this wonderful spice.  The floral, peppery flavor is going to make a wonderful addition to just about all your favorite foods.  Your grilled steaks, fish, vegetables and potatoes will thank you.

If you’re looking for something a little more special, pop two cookies in the oven at 350 for a few minutes and add a scoop of vanilla ice cream and you have a perfect ice cream sandwich. 

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 3/4 cup light brown sugar, packed
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 tsp. vanilla
  • 1/2 tsp. freshly ground nutmeg
  • 1 tsp. cayenne pepper (more if you are adventurous)
  • 1 tsp. grains of paradise
  • 1 tsp.  baking soda
  • 1/2 cup toasted pecans, chopped and toasted
  • 1/2 cup dried cranberries
  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 3 cups traditional Quaker Oats (not quick cook)

Method

  1. Preheat the oven to 325°F
  2. Position racks in the upper and lower thirds of the oven. This helps the cookies crisp by being closer to the heat source or at the very top where the heat accumulates.
  3. Place nuts in a small pan and toast on medium heat for 5-7 minutes.  As soon as they become fragrant take them off the heat and space them on the side to cool.
  4. In a medium bowl, mix together flour, baking soda, nutmeg, cayenne, grains of paradise and salt thoroughly and set aside.
  5. In a large bowl, beat butter, white and brown sugar, and vanilla until the mixture changes color and becomes a smooth, pale white… this is what you want so you have light, fluffy cookies.
  6. Slowly add the flour mixture and continue to stir with a wooden spoon until well incorporated.
  7. Add oats, pecans and cranberries and stir until mixed well.
  8. Scoop dough on to ungreased cookie sheets, I use a mini ice cream scoop to make it easier.  I also spray the spoon with pam so the dough doesn’t stick.
  9. Bake for 8-10 more minutes until the cookies are golden brown
  10. Let the cookies cool on pan for 1 minute before placing on wire rack.
  11. Enjoy!

 

%d bloggers like this: