Sunday, January 31, 2010

Vienna in NYC

Have you ever had one of those weekends where everything just seems to build upon one theme? I'm talking about watching Merchant-Ivory-type costume dramas and then developing a craving for tea. Taking in a movie like Big Night and deciding to make a large batch of spaghetti and meatballs or maybe just watching one of the food and travel programs and thinking that you really do need to plan a trip to wherever they just were just to grab an authentic Chicago deep-dish pizza or *real* barbecue from North Carolina.

Last weekend, I'd signed up to go with a group to the Neue Gallerie in New York. This is a museum, down Fifth Avenue from the Metropolitan Museum of Art, that is dedicated to German and Austrian art and design. It's one of the kind of museums that I really enjoy visiting in New York, as it is used to be a private residence, the exhibits are thorough but not too overwhelming, and the crowds tend to be small. You can also see some of the original architectural details from when it was a home.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Bi Bim Bap

I don't make it a habit of shying away from new food things. While I might not always dive right into them, I generally give new tastes at least a chance. So, today, on the cafeteria menu was Bi Bim Bap. The description of it wasn't at all inoffensive, but the concept was one I hadn't tried before.

A Korean dish, the base was rice, accompanied by various vegetables, garnished with meat, and topped with a fried egg. It was really the egg that sold me on the dish. I didn't think that a dish with an egg on top could be all bad.

The dishes were made to order so I had to get on line today to pick out my lunch. Alongside the rice, I picked out kimchi (naturally), pickled carrots, sesame-spicy tofu, bean sprouts, shitake mushrooms, and beef. A dash of hot sauce was added to the vegetables. Then, the fried egg was put on top.

I'm glad I gave this new dish a chance. The meal was a great combination of flavors and textures. There was enough heat to keep everything from being a boring mush once mixed together. It even helped keep me full long enough to tackle a busy workday afternoon. The next time this is on the cafeteria menu, I won't hesitate to get it again.

Buon appetito!

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Spiced Pecan and Pear Salad

The risotto that I posted last week is very dense. Along side of it, I added a salad that combines some of the typical flavors that are sometimes paired with pungent blues served at the end of dinner to round out a meal. It is a light counterpoint to the richness of the gorgonzola dish and uses in-season pears with crunchy pecans that have been given a sweet-spicy kick. It must have been a hit, because not only have I been craving it, but my sister called me for the recipe as well for a dinner she was hosting for friends last week.

Spiced Pecan and Pear Salad*

Prep Time: 10-15 minutes
Serving Size: 2 portions

1 Bosc pear, not overripe
1/4 tsp. olive oil
1/2 cup pecan halves
1/2 tsp. good-quality maple syrup
2 pinches ground cumin
1-2 pinches ground cayenne pepper (depending upon how hot you like it)
2 pinches salt
3 cups lettuce washed and rinsed (bibb, lolla rosso, romaine)
1 tsp. highest quality extra virgin olive oil (pref. unfiltered)

Cut pear into quarters and then into quarters again. Toss with the olive oil to coat. Place pears in a single layer on pre-heated griddle pan. Pears should cook for about 3-4 minutes per side, until they have grill marks and have started to release their sugars. Once cooked, set aside.

While the pears are cooking, you can begin to toast the pecans in a skillet without any oil or butter, placing them in a single layer in the pan over low heat. After 4 to 5 minutes, the aroma of toasting pecans will start to come through. Drizzle the maple syrup evenly over the pecans. It will start to bubble.

Sprinkle the pecans with the cumin, cayenne pepper, and 1 pinch of salt. Let cook for about 4 minutes more and remove from the heat. Set aside to cool briefly.

Assemble the salad greens on two plates. Drizzle with the unfiltered olive oil and sprinkle the remaining pinch of salt on the salads. Decorate them with the pears and the pecans. Serve at the same time as or after the risotto.

*If serving salad on its own and/or with a different main than the risotto, crumble 1/4 cup Gorgonzola dolce or aged blue cheese over the salads as the last step.

Buon appetito!

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Risotto alla Gorgonzola

Having visitors provides a great excuse to get to the parts of the city that one normally doesn't get to in the course of one's usual errands. This past week, my sister came to town for a few days. We didn't really have a plan, per se, for things to do on this trip. I had some long-overdue things to get done and dragged her around town. In return, I also took her to someplace that I knew would be a little bit of heaven for her.

Murray's Cheese Shop is one of those institutions in New York that is spoken of as the authority on all things for fermented dairy, much like the cheese counter at Fairway. I made sure that my sister was fully prepared to enter this notable establishment. She's often told me that cheese is one of hers and her boyfriend's food loves. I wanted to make sure that she enjoyed her visit.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

More Veggies in 2010

No need to tell most of you just how cold it is outside. Normally, we do get a bit of a freeze here in the city at some point during the winter months, but this is a pretty long stretch of unending Arctic air for us. We've also seen more snow than in recent years.

The frigid weather has had a direct impact on my motivation to do pretty much anything. Unfortunately, this also includes things like heading out of my apartment to do food shopping. In support of the merchants who stand outside at their tables at the Greenmarket in all sorts of temperatures hot and cold, I pulled myself off of the sofa yesterday, and made the trip down to Union Square.

That was, however, after having binged on a combination of Food Network shows. These are the guilty pleasures I will not be giving up in 2010. I made it through "Healthy Appetite with Ellie Krieger," "Tyler's Ultimate," and "Ask Aida." By the end of it, I was thoroughly inspired to get some goodies with which to cook up some great weekend meals.

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