Friday, October 29, 2010

Farro Risotto with Roasted Butternut Squash and Thyme-Roasted Mushrooms

I fell in love with farro (also known as emmer) when I lived in Italy.  One day when I was miserably sick with a head cold, thousands of miles away from my family and not yet realizing how to make my own chicken soup, I went to the small store that sold mostly frozen produce that was near my apartment.  In one of the display cases was a large plastic bag of what I could determine was a vegetable soup mix.  I decided to try it.

Being sick is no fun, but it is even less fun when you live in another country and have no idea what over-the-counter product will cure your ills.  I inhaled the steam from the broth to try to open up my clogged nose.  Then, I dipped my spoon in the bowl to taste it.  The vegetables were fine, but there was something else in there that I couldn't quite identify.  It was had a hearty, nutty taste to it.  It wasn't exactly rice or barley, which I'd had usually had in soups.  What was it?

Monday, October 25, 2010

New Amsterdam Market Hudson Valley Harvest

Yesterday, a friend and I decided to explore the Hudson Valley Harvest at New Amsterdam Market downtown at the site of the former Fulton Fish Market and by the South Street Seaport.  She'd never been down to this market before and was intrigued to see what it had to offer firsthand.  This is one of my favorite ones in the city for a number of reasons, but I haven't had a free Sunday to make it down there since the Ice Cream Festival in August.

Organized with Glynwood, an organization dedicating to working with small farms in the Northeast, the market gathered purveyors from the Hudson Valley.  This was a food tasters heaven.  We walked around from stall to stall trying some of the products on offer and making mental notes of the ones to which we wanted to return to buy their wares.  There was a great variety of meats, cheeses, and beverages with some sweet items as well, too.  The suppliers were eager to show us their items and to talk about how they are made so there was also a more personal angle to our shopping.

I definitely found some new favorite items for my holiday buying list, which seems to be getting longer and longer each week.  From the photos below, I think that you might agree with me that this was an afternoon well-spent wandering around the market, especially as it ended with some a delicious food (you'll have to get to the end to see what we ate).  I think this is definitely going to end up being a foodie Christmas for my family.  Well, that is if my dad gets the oven fixed in time for our arrival!

Sunday, October 24, 2010

East Village Eats / Fourth Arts Block

Yesterday, I had the opportunity to participate in the East Village Eats Tasting Tour to benefit Fourth Arts Block.  Organized as a pre-paid walking and eating tour, the weather cooperated fully, giving us a glorious fall day to wander around from restaurant to shop to bar enjoying samples of their specialties.  I'd invited along a friend with whom I hadn't had a chance to catch up in a few weeks.

Apparently, I wasn't the only one who'd grabbed my buddies to hang out for the day, spork in hand and as our guide.  We saw several other groups of folks moving along the same edible path as we were.  The atmosphere was very relaxed and casual, and there were almost no waits at any of the vendors, with the exception of a few, and even those lines moved fairly quickly.  What was great for me is that it dragged me down to the East Village, where I rarely actually hang out.

The nice thing about this activity, as well, was that the overall area of the tour was kept pretty consolidated with several clusters of places to visit.  The portions were generally good-sized tastings, which kept us full but not overly so that we didn't want anything from the next place.  I wouldn't have minded a few more sweet bites along the way, but that is probably just my tastebuds talking.  I hope that the organizers thought that this was worth doing because I really enjoyed it and would like to see it happen again, perhaps with even more venues participating.

We managed to make it to thirteen of the eighteen locations on the map.  Here was the order of our itinerary (numbers follow key on the map):

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Salad with Balsamic Vinegar-Fig Reduction

It's around midday on the East Coast.  The internal alarm is going off in your stomach, and your brain is saying to it, "What are we going to eat today for lunch?"  It could be that you are heading to the company cafeteria for the day's specials (guess it's salad again as nothing looks appealing) or you might be heading outside to the local quick-and-easy sandwich/salad/pizza/hot buffet place.  If you were really on top of it, you might even have packed your lunch.

Then, back at your desk, you start reading the blogs.  I hope this one is one of your stops because today I have a great and easy recipe for a delicious salad that could be what you have for dinner tonight to balance out whatever it was that you had for lunch today.  You can probably find everything to make it at the grocery store on a stop on your way home from work.

Monday, October 18, 2010

International Pickle Day 2010

It was a Lower East Side foodie weekend this past one.  Not only did I take in the Grub Street / Hester Street food festival on Saturday, but I also went down there again for International Pickle Day 2010. Truthfully, I’m not all that much of a fan of pickles, much as I try to be.  Turns out that while this festival pays homage to the many flavors and brining treatments for the cucumber, its scope also covers canning and preserving in general, so that some of the participants brought their jams, chutneys, and other items in that genre.

One of the more well-known stores who participated in Sunday’s festival was Russ & Daughters.  Their ancestor started out selling herring and other items from a push cart on the Lower East Side, which was not an unusual enterprise in New York in other centuries.  To start up a store and to keep it going through the economic ups and downs that we’ve had since then is.  The Beet & Lemon Shrub that they had at the festival was a drink that was supposedly popular at one time, prior to carbonated sodas. As I brought it up to my nose, the smell of the beets attacked my senses.  The tang of the lemon hit after the first sip.  I have to say that it was not my thing at all.  

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Grub Street Food Festival / New York Magazine

Today was the much-anticipated Grub Street Food Festival at Hester and Essex Streets at the site of the Hester Street Fair on the Lower East Side of Manhattan.  The weather being on the sunny, if slightly cool, and very windy side, this was the perfect kind of fall day and combined with one of the only excuses (food!) that would make me suffer through the ever-changing MTA weekend subway schedule, I made the trek downtown.  I had planned to meet up with Nora at Amateur Foodie Adventures and some friends to check out what was on offer, which was another incentive to venture south.

I know that some of my companions could not figure out the reason for dragging them out of bed to be able to meet me at the un-civil hour of 10:00 a.m. on a Saturday, but once it hit noon, they soon understood why the dedicated food festival goer always tries to be one of the early birds.  The photo above was taken just as it all started.  The lack of crowds gave us ample time to execute my tried-and-true methodology of plotting out my attack strategy: circle around once; make a mental note of the options; eat.  This way you can create your "must eats" list and your "maybe I'll go back later if there isn't a line" list.  Given the packs of people who have been at the same events as I have this year, this seems to work just fine.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Paglia e Fieno or Straw and Hay

I discovered the recipe for Paglia e Fieno, or Straw and Hay, in Diane Seed's The Top One Hundred Pasta Sauces book.  For a while in the mid-1990s, this book was sold at Crate & Barrel, and I used to pair it with wooden kitchen spoons and a pasta fork as a wedding present for friends who got married in that era. It was just after I had returned from studying in Italy for a year, so I wanted to invite them to learn about all the amazing sauces that Italians use with their variety of pastas.  It was at the new peak of the Italian food craze in the U.S., so hopefully my timing was perfect. 

Although it seems like a tiny volume for a cookbook, as it closes out at 123 pages with no photos only illustrations, this is one of those resources from which I've pulled many recipes that are in my meal rotation.  She has lots of vegetarian vegetable ones in addition to the ones with meat and seafood.  The headnotes that go along with the recipes are informative and helpful in putting them together.  Most of the ones I usually make are suitable for a weeknight dinner.  I have to confess, I've been too scared off by some of the more complex and complicated ones to attempt them (like the Timballo) but maybe that is something that I should add to my resolution list to tackle next year.  If you don't already have this on your bookshelves, I highly recommend it.  

Monday, October 11, 2010

New York City Wine & Food Festival

Through, I had the unique experience this weekend of volunteering to help out with activities around the New York City Wine & Food Festival, presented by Food & Wine and Travel + Leisure magazines and benefitting Food Bank for New York City and Share Our Strength, two organizations that focus on getting food to those who need it the most.  With four days of jam-packed food-related events held under the most gorgeous fall skies that the city could muster, I was able to get my fill of celebrity chef sitings, to take in a panel, and to manage to get in a few bites of some great food all during my several volunteer shifts.

My first assignment was on Friday at the Cooking Channel's Meatpacking Uncorked event presented by the Corcoran Group Real Estate.  This was a pub-crawl or progressive-dinner type event where guests paid a flat fee and followed a map to the boutiques, restaurants, and food truck stations to sample some wines and small plates.  Working at this, I didn't have a chance to get to every station, and we weren't allowed to drink.  I did manage to make it to a few of the places, as my card indicates:

Wednesday, October 06, 2010

Fennel and Ham Gratin

Last Wednesday, when I was running my errands at the Greenmarket, I saw a couple of fantastic items that inspired me to create a dish that I'd been wanting to try.  Arcadian Pastures had this gorgeous ham on display.  Their other meats looked great as well, and they are on my list to try the next time I have those items on my shopping list.  To me, you really can taste the difference when using organic and humanely-raised meats in your dishes.

Another item that has been cropping up in the market the past few weeks is fennel.  I managed to find a double-bulbed one, sort of like a double-yolked egg, I guess.  Fennel, like leeks, is one of those vegetables that I didn't really get to know until I lived in Europe, where it appears more often in various dishes.  This certainly wasn't something that my parents would dare try on us as kids.  They preferred to keep to the green beans-peas-corn-salad rotation.

Sunday, October 03, 2010

Pig Island PorkFest 2010

Yesterday at Governors Island was evidence of yet again why New York is such a wonderful food city.  The sunny, slightly cool fall day was perfect for the first Pig Island festival, celebrating the area's food, drink, and music.  Jimmy Carbone of Jimmy's No. 43 put together an amazing gathering featuring pork dishes assembled by 20 chefs using 80 pigs from local farms along with beverages from Sixpoint Craft Ales and NY State Wines.  Below is a photo that I got at the Greenmarket on Wednesday when the pigs were delivered.  Part of the proceeds of the event went to Food Systems Network NYC to support their efforts to bring together the stakeholders in the NYC food community.

Leaving from Manhattan at about 9:00 a.m., I was one of the many volunteers who helped assist with the event.  It seemed like everyone who offered to help out was pork- and food-obsessed, which was perfect for this activity.  While waiting for everything to start, we could see the chefs firing up their grills and getting their ingredients ready for the hungry hoards.  The aroma of barbecue scented the air.  I couldn't wait to try everything there was to eat on my break.

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