Sunday, May 30, 2010

Markets of New York City

Last week, I made it to two book signings for Karen Seiger for her book Markets of New York City.* This is a wonderful resource for the locations and wares of the many markets in the five boroughs. I've known Karen for a few years and had been waiting to get my hands on this book to read it and to see what tidbits she had unearthed during her research for this project. The many markets, flea, food, etc., each with its own personality, are some of my favorite things about this city.

The Greenmarket at Union Square (p. 221) is one of my go-to places for weekly grocery shopping. One of the things I found a few weeks ago at the market were garlic ramps. These were the 'new black' of a few years ago, when they seemed to flood the farmers' markets at the first sign of spring. They showed up on restaurant menus pickled, alongside meat dishes, and in other formats. I've tried to jump on the ramp bandwagon as well, but it has been a challenge.

Aside from cutting the leaves separately from the white bulb and sauteing them each on their own, I haven't really been able to figure out much to do with them. The top and the bottom cook in completely separate ways, with the leafy part being more like an herb and the bulb as sort of a cross between an onion in texture and mild garlic in flavor. So, unfortunately, this week, as I was taking inventory of my crisper drawer, I found a bunch of ramps with withered tops lurking at the bottom of it.

Not wanting to be wasteful, I was stumped for how to salvage the ramps in order to do something at least with the bottoms. Then, I remembered an email that Karen had sent to me while she was wandering through the markets a few weeks back. She alerted me to a stand that was selling ramp butter. Ah, ha! Here's a possibility for these, I thought, and my mind started working as to how this could come together.

One of the vendors I visit each time I'm at the Greenmarket is Ronnybrook Farm. I'm an ardent fan of their products. The people who run the farm are out selling their wares in the freezing, bitter cold of winter and in the sultry, blazing heat of summer. For this project, I decided to use their Salted Sweet Cream Butter. Normally, I go with unsalted butter for my recipes, to control the salt content, but this time I thought I'd see how I did with salted.

So, I finely diced about one and a half tablespoons of the ramps (white part and some of the green stem only), added it to four ounces of the softened butter, and threw in a hefty pinch of freshly-ground white pepper. I wrapped up the seasoned butter in plastic wrap and rolled it into a log. Then it went into the freezer to harden. This way, I can keep it on hand to add to recipes as I need it. I didn't add any other herbs or seasonings so that I have the flexibility to use it with a variety of dishes. Many thanks to Karen for her great idea!

before mixing everything together

ready for the freezer - marked as already salted

Buon appetito!

*Markets of New York City is available on You can also follow Karen on her website of the same name, subscribe to her Twitter feed, and become a fan of Markets of New York City on Facebook.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Homemade Granola

Having grown up in the 70s, it is probably a little bit surprising that I haven't really had much granola in my life, although I recall there being various macrame things and stuff made out of gimp floating around my parents' house. I only really started eating it a few years ago to incorporate more grains and yogurt in my diet, as I usually have those together for breakfast or an afternoon snack. This wasn't something that my folks kept around the house much, and I don't ever recall my mom actually making it from scratch, although she did go through a whole wheat bread baking phase.

So, it was interesting to read Molly Wizenberg's story in the June issue of Bon Apppetit. She writes about falling in love with a particular version of granola after going to a fitness spa with her mother and her attempts at trying to make the recipe. Through that she created her perfect Everyday Granola. Earlier this week, I ran out of the store-bought kind that I usually keep in stock. This provided the perfect excuse to try out a new project, in keeping with my mission to try to make more things myself instead of buying them ready-made.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Chicken in Morel Sauce

Remember a few weeks back when I got cold feet about making a recipe that I'd seen Gordon Ramsay do on The F Word? Well, I decided that as the days of asparagus and morels are quick and fleeting, I would need to overcome my phobia of two-page, small-type sets of instructions with multiple groups of components to prepare. I'm not sure how you are, but there are times when I look at a recipe and my eyes start to roll in the back of my head by about the 13th ingredient I see listed. At that point, I just give up and find something else to do, like going across the street and grabbing a slice of pizza.

I was encouraged to push ahead and make the Roast Chicken in Morel Sauce by my youngest sister, who reminded me that she had made it several months back for a dinner for my father and some of our family friends. When she was up here visiting earlier this year, she'd picked up a package of dried morels that we had found in our jaunt around the city. I hadn't realized that she had used them to make this. She assured me that the dish was doable, despite the lengthy set of instructions.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

mmmm....Chocolate Cookies with Chocolate Chunks

On Friday, one of the guys in the office where I'm currently doing a consulting gig mentioned that I should be making cookies for them again. He said that, by having brought in Chocolate Chip Cookies about three weeks ago, I'd set the bar high and needed to have a follow-up cookie contribution for the team to sample. I'm not sure if this will land me a permanent position at the company, but it is nice to work with folks who appreciate my baking experiments.

This weekend, I decided to test drive a recipe I'd made to bring to the beach the weekend after my job officially ended. These had been well-received by the folks who'd eaten them when I had brought them to a friend's place. I'm not sure why, but the perfect chocolate-chocolate-chip cookie seems even more difficult to pin down than a regular chocolate chip cookie recipe. It likely has something to do with the balance of cookie chocolate flavor to chip chocolate flavor. This version has both semi-sweet chocolate chips and white chocolate chips which might be what works so well.

Sunday, May 09, 2010

Distracted by Dumplings

Yesterday, I bought these beautiful asparagus at the Greenmarket. Having been out of town last weekend, I was hoping to get my hands on some of these green beauties this Saturday. The time to buy these in season and locally is always too short. Fortunately, I was able to get my hands on quite a few, as you can see from the below photo:

Oh, I had had such grand plans for what I was going to make with these, I had thought about pulling together the Asparagus with Morels and Tarragon dish that I had really enjoyed last year. Then, I had an idea to try a recipe for Roast Chicken in Morel Sauce, as seen on The F Word (one of my all-time favorite food/cooking programmes). Even the video made it seem easy. I had the asparagus, I found bone-in chicken breasts, and I also closed my eyes and paid for the dried morels, which were not inexpensive.

Then, on my way to church this morning, I was making my way towards Park Avenue when something out of place caught my eye. This was not in a see-something/say-something way, but rather in a ' don't generally see that in this neighborhood' vein. It was the Rickshaw Dumping Truck! After that, all I could think about was whether or not they'd still be there on my way back home. Any idea of preparing vegetables for lunch had gone by the wayside.

I know that some of you are thinking, "Gross, I would NEVER eat something that came off of a food truck!" I know this because I am related to you, and you've already very clearly made your point to that effect. To that I say, "Good, more dumplings for me, then." I'm not a rabid food-from-truck eater, especially when the topic of the hotdog cart is mentioned, and I mostly avoid the ones that hang out around 6th avenue in Midtown during the lunchtime hour. The caveat to that is that I do frequent the select few that I know are actually very good.

Rickshaw is one of those for me. How can you not love the Chicken and Thai Basil dumplings that are served here? (They also have the standard pork version and a vegetarian edamame one as well as sometimes having a special 'guest dumpling flavor.') It comes with the Peanut Sauce. Ordered with a side salad (or sesame noodle salad in this case), it was $9.00 total.

Given that I'm now without a subsidized company cafeteria for my noon repast, that seems pretty o.k. to me for lunch. The steamed dumplings stuffed with ground chicken, carrots, glass noodles, and peppery basil wrapped in soft dough, dunked into the slightly spicy sauce make a filling and eye-rollingly good break in the middle of the day. No wonder I've followed that truck to its various locations around the city.

Buon appetito!
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