© Photo courtesy of Bon Appetit Management Co.
© Photo courtesy of Bon Appetit Management Co.
The noise this week may have been about the latest Zagat and Michelin guides, but one of my new favorite NYC dining sources is by F&W's own former travel editor Salma Abdelnour. Salma kindly downloaded her brain into a new website launched this week, salmaland.com, where she offers a carefully curated selection of 60 of her favorite spots, organized by neighborhood. A sample (about Nolita favorite Café Gitane): "Order a café crème and the baked eggs with basil ... and be reminded why you’re alive, why you’re in this crazy town and why it’s all worth it." Salma will be adding other cities (SF, LA and London all coming soon). She's also looking for other fun ways to make the sight searchable (best last-minute dinner reservation, best spots to celebrate a birthday); readers are invited to contact her with suggestions through the site.
If you can't get a copy of Harumi's book, try these delicious Japanese recipes from Food & Wine:
Food52 celebrates cookbooks too. Next week Hesser and Stubbs and their writer-friend Charlotte Druckman will launch a new project called the Tournament of Cookbooks, a sort of NCAA championship for 16 of the best cookbooks of 2009. Contenders include everything from Ad Hoc at Home by Thomas Keller to I Loved, I Lost, I Made Spaghetti by Giulia Melucci. Judges are food writers, bloggers, chefs and other pros—including F&W’s own Gail Simmons and Grace Parisi—as well as noted foodies Gwyneth Paltrow and Nora Ephron. “We thought a sports-like tournament would be fun, with two books competing in each round,” says Hesser. “Rather than have the judges tell readers why they do or don't like a cookbook, we want them to articulate what makes one book better than another.”
The 17-day contest begins next Wednesday; the Food52 community can vote on whether they agree with the pronouncements. A party and panel discussion will follow in early November at NYC's Astor Center, where readers can hobnob with authors and judges, and maybe catch a glimpse of the winner's Piglet Trophy.
Co-founder Lockhart Steele takes Eater national.
Retained-heat cooking has been around for ages, but I just discovered the idea by accident. Last Sunday, my son had a soccer game that took us out of the house from 3:45 until 6 p.m.—prime cooking hours. I had a Parmesan rind on hand, so I decided to make this hearty minestrone from F&W's Marcia Kiesel. By 3 p.m., though, I realized it wouldn't finish cooking before I had to leave for the game. Then I thought of actor and environmental activist Ed Begley, Jr., who encourages low-energy cooking and has just published the book Ed Begley, Jr.'s Guide to Sustainable Living. Why couldn't I just turn off the stove and let everything cook on retained heat? I added everything but the green beans to the minestrone and brought it to a boil, then turned off the gas and left the pot covered on the stove. I biked home at halftime to add the green beans (and brought the soup to a boil again), then returned to the game. When the whole family came home, the minestrone was ready to serve.
My family started composting in our backyard last year, and this summer, my husband scattered some of the resulting soil in the bed where we plant thyme, basil, parsley and sage. A few weeks later, out sprouted two big, leafy plants we didn't recognize. "It looks like some kind of squash," said my husband, who grew up with a quarter-acre vegetable plot in his backyard. So we let the mystery plants grow. It turns out, the seeds from a spaghetti squash we'd eaten last summer must have survived the composting process. We got tons of rain this summer, so we never even watered the plants. A few weeks ago, we had our first harvest. I cooked a squash using steps 1 & 3 from this recipe by F&W's Marcia Kiesel and tossed the strands with some whole-wheat spaghetti and pesto. The process of composting is basically benign neglect—you throw vegetable peelings, eggshells and leaves in a pile and let it sit. I never expected I would also get a vegetable garden without having to lift a finger.
Bad reviews posted on a website like yelp.com or urbanspoon.com can be the death of a restaurant, while glowing reviews can triple business. In an effort to generate more positive buzz, Mel’s Drive-In on Mission Street in San Francisco is doing something sneaky. Every check advertises a 20 percent discount on your next meal if you bring in a printout of your Yelp review. One blogger ponders if Yelpers will risk the integrity of their “Yelp status” for a few bucks off their next milkshake.
I hadn't cooked for my kids for more than two weeks, but all that changed when they returned from camp yesterday. Maybe I was out of practice, maybe I was feeling a bit defiant or maybe I was just hoping for a change, but given how much I enjoyed superspicy broccoli rabe last week, I wanted it again. There were sweet Italian sausages in the fridge, some homemade focaccia buns in the freezer and, of course, broccoli rabe—all ready to come together. I thought about sautéing the broccoli rabe, chopping it and kneading it into the sausage meat, but that would've been too cruel to my kids, not to mention self-defeating (I would surely have wound up making PB&Js). To satisfy everyone, I sautéed the broccoli rabe with garlic and so much crushed red pepper flakes all our mouths were vibrating, grilled the sausage patties (and the buns) and sandwiched it all together. A little aioli with olives, capers and herbs from my garden finished the dish. Malcolm, my 7-year-old son, passed on the aioli and broccoli rabe, but my 12-year-old daughter, Pia, ate it all.
I spotted an unusual cheese on both of Le Bernardin’s tasting menus recently: la faisselle. When I asked about it, I discovered that it's a soft, creamy cheese handmade exclusively for the restaurant by the Vermont Butter & Cheese Company.
La faisselle looks like fromage blanc, but tastes extraordinarily different because of what’s in the cultures. Also, the fromage blanc found in stores is made with skim milk, while la faisselle is made with whole milk and has a little crème fraîche added at the end. The result is a delicate texture and a fresh, milky flavor with a hint of hazelnuts and a bit of acidity.
© Michael Laiskonis
La faisselle cheese at Le Bernardin.
Part of the fun is how the cheese is served at Le Bernardin: The cheese is ladled into special ceramic pots (faisselles) that have holes to allow the whey to drain out. Michael Laiskonis, Le Bernardin’s pastry chef, pairs the cheese with honey, toasted almonds and a coulis of local strawberries.