Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Bagel Time!

When Mom turned to me during the car ride down to the train station and declared, "I have to get a bagel before we leave the city!" she echoed my thoughts perfectly. Thursday morning we went to the deli across the street from Grace's apartment and got bagels, juice, and fruit salad. We watched all the New Yorkers rushing in and out to grab their breakfasts on the way to work and enjoyed quietly pointing out the particularly interesting ones: the man wearing a vicuna coat with a baseball cap, the Spanish woman with a very cool minidress with long belled sleeves and an agressive, full-length frontal zipper, the young Russian man behind us who was almost too pretty to be real. It was nice to sit and relax in the midst of all that hubbub. And there's really nothing like a New York City bagel. We both chose multigrain with cream cheese; Mom opted for scallions on hers while mine, pictured above, was slathered with strawberry-flavored spread. I don't eat bagels very often, but when there's a really good bagel to be had, I can be tempted. My favorite combo? Salt bagel with veggie cream cheese. Mmm....

Monday, November 24, 2008

The Harrison, NYC

I'm back from a fantastic but short trip to the city. It was great to finally see the movie I worked on three years ago and to meet up with some old friends. My mom and I carpooled down to New Haven, took a train in to Penn Station, and stayed at my friend Grace's apartment. Grace joined us for the movie and for dinner beforehand. She is a devoted foodie and assembled a fabulous list of restaurant options; after some debate we narrowed the list to two and Grace made the final choice of The Harrison.

Please excuse the lousy photos; the restaurant's candlelight made for great atmosphere but terrible shooting conditions. It was just too dark and I had to resort to using the flash. With food this tempting, we could barely hold off on digging in long enough for me to take pictures, so I snapped just one quick photo of each dish.

Above is Mom's appetizer of black mission figs with blue cheese and prosciutto; it was absolutely delicious and something we will definitely make at home. It's such a simple but satisfying combination.

Grace opted for the oven-roasted sardines with breadcrumbs and garlic oil. It was tasty, but I'm not sure I'm a sardine fan. I've only had them once before, at my second grade class's Oktoberfest (my teacher was German).

And here is the dish that caught my eye from the very first moment I opened the online menu: kabocha, delicata, and brussels sprout salad with pumpkin seed vinaigrette. It was spectacular - the squashes perfectly roasted, the textures pleasingly various, and the sprouts - oh, the sprouts! The sprouts had been marinated and were very, very vinegary, which was fine with me, because I love vinegar. They were plump and juicy and when I bit down they let loose bursts of tangy, green flavor. Brussels sprouts are my new favorite vegetable, and while so far I've tried roasting and pan-searing, now I'm determined to make some sour, mouth-puckering, marinated sprouts like these.

Apparently I'm not alone in my love of vinegar; the chef at The Harrison must love it, too, as he uses it liberally. Sometimes a bit too much, it seems. This is Mom's entree of red snapper with graffiti eggplant, tomatoes, and fregola (a Sardinian pasta akin to couscous). The snapper had a really nice texture, with a surprisingly crisp crust, considering it didn't appear to be breaded, and a nice, flaky interior. But it was a little bland and didn't quite stand up to the robust flavors offered up by the rest of the dish. The server had warned us that the graffiti eggplant was very sweet that day; the sweetness wasn't a problem, but the excessive vinegar was. On its own, I rather liked the eggplant (again, I love vinegar), but it was too much vinegar for my Mom, who ordered the dish, and it definitely overpowered the delicate flavor of the snapper.

I ordered the Black Angus flank steak with red potatoes, pommery mustard, and sweet red onions. I love, love, love stone-ground mustard, and since no other entree really jumped out and screamed "EAT ME!" I ordered this. It was a good choice; the steak was incredible tender, the potatoes and onions were perfect, and there was just the right amount of mustard. The greens that you can see peeking out from under the onions were also doused with vinegar, but since there weren't a ton of greens, it was just the right pop to wake up the tastebuds.

Grace chose the monkfish special with broccoli rabe and spaghetti squash and I believe she enjoyed it. (Grace, if you're reading, can you weigh in in the comments?) She certainly came closer to finishing her entree than either Mom or I did. That's another thing about The Harrison- the portions are quite large. I hardly ever leave anything on my plate when I go out to eat, but I left probably a quarter to a third of my food on the plate. Not because it wasn't good, but because I didn't have room.

Of course, not being able to finish our entrees didn't stop us from ordering dessert. The three of us split the chocolate pretzel tart with sea salt potato chip and malted anglaise. The cream on top seemed to be creme fraiche; Grace also detected a hint of creme fraiche in the chocolate fudge filling of the tart. The crust was similar to a graham cracker crust, only made with crushed pretzels. The tart was good, the chocolate very rich, but I think the salt could have been stronger. It was a little too subtle.

As you can see, we had quite a feast. Not pictured: an order of duck fat fries with malt vinegar aioli. It was the first time I had duck fat fries and I was suitably impressed. I kept thinking they were like regular fries, but then the richer and more complex flavor would rise up. We also started the meal with cocktails - Mom and Grace had cranberry-ginger martinis, which were delicious! I'm not usually a martini drinker, but these were so smooth going down. We're going to try to recreate them for Thanksgiving. I ordered an Apple Bulleit, which was a blend of bourbon, apple cider, lemon juice, grenadine, and something else that I can't remember. It was very good; Mom thought it was too sweet, but it didn't taste sweet to me at all. It tasted like autumn - fresh apples and pumpkin pie spices! I also had a glass of O'Leary Walker 2005 Shiraz, which I enjoyed very much; it had a wonderful smell and a plummy taste that stood up well against strong flavors in the food.

Overall, our meal at The Harrison was satisfying, with interesting choices and food that was generally well-prepared, but certainly not perfect. If, like me, you have a taste for the sour stuff, order away; otherwise you may want to ask your server about how much vinegar a dish contains before making your selection.

The Harrison
355 Greenwich St.
New York, NY

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Out of the Box: Final Week of the Summer

Our CSA "summer" share actually lasted well in to October. Here's a shot of our final weekly pickup, which included potatoes, beets, celeriac, leeks, rainbow chard, dinosaur kale, cabbage, carrots, butternut squash, delicata squash, broccoli, and brussels sprouts.

Both the butternut squash and the kale I cooked and then froze for later use. Everything else I used in various dishes that I will post about over the next week or so, except for the celeriac, which I still haven't used! Luckily it's a root vegetable and keeps very well.

Here's the delicata squash after I sliced off the ends and cut it lengthwise, but before I scooped out the seeds. We received delicatas several times over the summer; the first time, I roasted the two squash halves with some water in the pan, and the result was indeed very delicate, with the texture of a very soft puree and a taste reminiscent of apples and pears. I also tried a delicata and gruyere soup, which was a huge disappointment: it was somehow too bland and too sweet at the same time (to me, anyway; Dan enjoyed it, but he's easy to please).

With this delicata, I think I finally found a method that really brings out the best flavor of the squash. I left the skin on and chopped the squash in to small chunks, which I tossed with olive oil, salt, and pepper, and roasted at 400 degrees for about twenty-five minutes, stirring once or twice. The result was amazing: the flesh was tender, the skin crispy, and the salt and pepper provided a nice, kicky contrast to the natural sweetness of the squash.

I tossed the warm, roasted squash cubes with dried cranberries and toasted pine nuts and added a simple side salad with mustard vinaigrette. This was a very satisfying and delicious meal, and the leftovers were not leftover for long; Dan couldn't pass through the kitchen without grabbing a few more bites, and I certainly couldn't blame him.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Popovers That Didn't Pop

At least once every weekend, I try to make something a little special for breakfast. Popovers are one of my favorite treats to make as they require very few ingredients, take only a few minutes to whip up, and are delicious with butter, jam, and a pot of tea. You have to be careful not to open the oven while they are cooking, as that will make them fall flat, and when you do pull them out, you're supposed to immediately pierce each one with a fork to let the steam out so they don't collapse. Sometimes, though, they fall anyway.

I've heard it helps to have the eggs and milk at room temperature before you mix up the batter; if they are too cold to start with, they just can't get and stay puffy. This time, I was impatient and took the ingredients straight from the fridge, so my popovers didn't pop. At least they still tasted wonderful.

For a simple popover recipe, go here. A note about pans: some people have special popover pans. Even though I sometimes go on popover sprees and make them several times over the course of a few weeks, I just can't justify another specialized piece of kitchen equipment, so I use a muffin tin. It works just as well (as long as you have the patience to make them properly).

And I'm back

I apologize for the recent posting drought. My computer almost crashed. It turns out I had more than 7500 photos on it and was using all available hard drive space. I couldn't even back up my photos on disc so I could clear up my hard drive because I didn't have enough memory to operate the burner, so I had to borrow Dan's drive and export thousands of photos in order to make my computer functional again. I'm now down to about 1500 photos, a third of which I just imported. So I have tons of pictures to post and things to write about.

I'm heading to New York City this week for the premiere of an independent film I worked on a few years ago. I am so excited! This will be the first time I've ever seen it. My mom and I are traveling together and we've got a reservation at The Harrison, which looks amazing! I'll definitely take photos and write up a review. I'm particularly excited about the kabocha, delicata, and brussel sprout salad and the chocolate pretzel tart. Take a look at the menu. What would you order?

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Update: Roasted Vegetable Soup

I found a few more pictures of the roasted vegetable soup that I posted about the other day. Here's a shot of the tomatoes, leeks, and carrots in the lightly-oiled pan, about to go in the oven:

And here's a shot of the finished product, served with smoked cheddar and a whole wheat biscuit. This makes a wonderful meal for the cold, drizzly, late-fall days.