I have a disproportionate amount of guy friends, which means I usually start getting distraught calls around this time of year (i.e., two days before Valentine’s Day) asking for gift suggestions. Case in point: Over the weekend, I asked my newlywed friend Adam what he was doing for his wife on Valentine’s Day. His response: “I didn't know you still have to do Valentine's Day after getting married!” For any other guys out there who may have forgotten, or waited until the last minute, here are a few ideas for the food-and-wine-loving woman that will fit every budget.
* The newly introduced Pulpe Vitaminée facial ($235) at the Caudalie wine spa in New York City’s Plaza Hotel is an hour and 20 minutes of pure bliss. The grapeseed-based vitamin-E serum used in the treatment is superhydrating and left my skin glowing. After the treatment you get to relax even more in the spa’s glamorous wine lounge, where a sommelier will serve you a complimentary glass of the house wine, Chateau Smith Haut Lafitte.
* Cult beauty brand Fresh recently launched a new collection, Citron de Vigne, inspired by Veuve Clicquot’s vintage La Grande Dame Champagne. The perfume is $75, but I also love the soap, which comes hand-wrapped in kimono-inspired paper and costs $14.
* I eat out for work all the time, so I’m always more impressed when a man offers to cook me dinner. It’s much more intimate and thoughtful (and usually less expensive!) For inspiration, check out Food & Wine's most sexy recipes and irresistible milk-chocolate desserts.
© Caudalie Spa
The wine lounge in Caudalie Spa at the Plaza Hotel
© Courtesy of Fresh
Fresh's new Champagne-inspired collecttion
I can totally relate to Russ Parsons’ LA Times article about his overstuffed fridge—one that might horrify less passionate cooks. Unlike many people, I have no gunky bottles of salad dressing, but like Parsons, I have jars upon jars of condiments that could help me make a vinaigrette. Three types of mustard (at least!)? Check. Two types of soy sauce? You betcha. Nut and seed oils? Of course. Cornichons, capers and anchovies? Absolutely. But instead of the shelf devoted to pickles that Parsons has, I have one for spicy things. It includes Tabasco, another Louisiana hot sauce, pickled peri peri chiles, pickled jalapeños, chipotles in adobo, Sriracha, harissa, Thai red chile paste and sambal oelek. Yes, I use them all, but I can see why someone might suspect otherwise when the same jars have been in the fridge for two years. To organize all those condiments, I recently saw a clever solution over at The Kitchn: Use cardboard six-pack holders to keep the jars and bottles in place.
I like to think of myself as resourceful and clever and not just cheap, especially when it comes to scraps ("orts" if you do crosswords...). But this new use of broccoli stems is SO resourceful and clever, it makes me angry I didn't think of it first.
There's no lack of great small-batch pickles —ramps, beans, okra, watermelon rind, you name it-and no lack of great recipes, but I am definitely looking forward to trying these pickled broccoli stems, published in yesterday's New York Times Health section. Most of the nutrients in broccoli are contained in the crown, or the florets. But there is loads of much-needed fiber in those stems, and all it takes is a clever and resourceful cook to find ways to use them.
I'd buy Country Life butter—for no other reason than because I can't imagine a bigger disconnect between product and spokesperson. In this spot on British TV , John Lydon, a.k.a. Johnny Rotten of the Sex Pistols, is seen in a stuffy private-club reading room, at a cricket match, driving through the countryside in a vintage Bentley and on a country estate running from cows. All silly, indeed, but the biggest disconnect is the twee suburban kitchen where he breakfasts on tea and toast in a boring plaid bathrobe. (Probably not that far from the truth.)
There are more widely available (and less hawked by notorious D-list celebs) butters, like Meyenberg (pale white) goat-milk butter, which is so delightfully goaty that I find it irresistible. Organic Valley cultured unsalted butter is another one of my favorites, with a slightly tangy flavor and lovely yellow hue. Both are great with steamed fish, which allows the sweetness and silkiness to come through.
© Chris Quinlan
The Del Posto crew with their Tamworth pig
I was lucky enough to be a judge at the culinary competition Cochon 555
when the 10-city tour hit New York on Sunday at the Maritime Hotel. The worthy cause: raising awareness of heritage pigs and money for charitable foundation Farms for City Kids
. I took it easy during the pre-game warm-up, which included cheese from the fantastic Saxelby Cheesemongers
, 60 Minute IPA from Dogfish Head and plenty of wine, like the fruity Kosta Browne Pinot Noir, in anticipation of the main event: stuffing myself with nearly 20 pork dishes from four of the city's best chefs and an exceptional farmer who cooked their way through over 300 pounds of porktastic goodness! The chefs' fondness for pork fat, evident in dishes like farmer Michael Clampffer's pork brine Dirty Martini with a skewer of whipped lard and Resto chef Bobby Hellen's boudin noir tart in a pastry shell made from the pig's back fat, left me contemplating detox
. My favorite dishes of the day: tender beluga lentils perfectly braised with pig stock and root beer, topped with head and shoulder cheese, shoulder confit and a liver mustard aioli and a waffle topped with pork whip and candied skin from Bobby Hellen; smoky sausage in a mini hot dog bun and spicy soup with white beans, sausage and head cheese from Del Posto's Mark Ladner and, of course, the winning dish from Fatty Crab's Corwin Kave - pork with pickled chiles, ginger and jalapeños covered in fish sauce and deep-fried sambal and served with a skewer of fatty pig liver and heart.
Next stop for Cochon 555: Portland, OR.
For quite some time now, the only lamb I've been able to buy is from New Zealand. Thanks to Costco, it's cheap and sold in bulk (good for feeding my family). The only downside is that I never find it all that flavorful. I guess that's fine if you don't like the taste of lamb, but then you should just buy beef...
A friend sent me eight lamb loin chops from an American lamb farmer, and I was eager to try them. After a quick marinade in garlic, olive oil and a hit of balsamic vinegar, I seared them and finished them in the oven. They were tender, succulent and lamb-y (not a baaaad thing, in my book). It was like the lamb of my childhood—packed with flavor, not like the overbred bland lamb I've grown accustomed to.
Here's my easy recipe:
8 lamb loin chops, (preferably American), about 1 1/2-inches thick
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 teaspoon chopped rosemary
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
Salt and freshly ground pepper
Preheat the oven to 425°. In a resealable plastic bag, combine the lamb with the garlic, rosemary, vinegar, 1/4 cup of the oil and very generous pinches of salt and pepper. Seal the bag and let sit at room temperature for 1 hour. Drain the lamb, reserving the marinade. Heat the remaining oil in a large ovenproof skillet until shimmering. Add the lamb and cook until browned all over, about 6 minutes, turning once. Add the marinade, transfer to the oven and roast for about 5 minutes longer for medium-cooked lamb.
Knock on wood (preferably reclaimed or FSC-certified!), I haven’t had a serious bout of flu this season. In fact, these past years, I’ve avoided most of the bugs that swirl around in the office when everyone’s cooped up inside. I have no scientific proof, but I think the secret to my resilience is kale.
In the winter, when kale is the sweetest, I try to eat at least one bunch a week since it’s loaded with immune-system-boosting vitamin C (you only need to eat 2 ounces of the leafy green to get 100 percent of the recommended dose). It doesn’t hurt that kale is amazingly healthy in other ways: It’s loaded with cancer-preventing phytonutrients and bone-supporting calcium (there’s more scientific information at this website. Here are a few of my favorite ways to prepare this superhero of a green:
Braised Kale: This simple recipe from New Orleans chef John Besh serves 12 but it’s easy to cut back—or even better, save the leftovers for another night.
Roasted Chicken Legs with Potatoes and Kale: This earthy one-pan roast from F&W’s Grace Parisi is a quick and inexpensive way to feed a crowd.
Kale-and-Avocado Salad: Cookbook author Adina Niemerow uses raw kale in this supersatisfying salad, grinding the leaves lightly with salt so they wilt.
Spicy Kale Chowder with Andouille Sausage: Sausage and kale are natural partners in this flavor-rich soup from F&W’s Marcia Kiesel—which takes a mere 45 minutes to make.
Crispy Baked Kale with Gruyere Cheese: Even in an indulgent preparation, like this one from Maine chef Sam Hayward, kale still has all its nutrients (as far as I know anyway). This is a great way to introduce the green to picky eaters and skeptics.
I'm very excited about an upcoming Tasting & Testing column for which I get to develop a great recipe for ramen—Japanese noodle soup. I've made it to a few New York City ramen shops, Rai Rai Ken and Ippudo —for some much-needed research. What's nice about the more low-key places (those that serve noodles at a counter facing the kitchen) is that I can pretty much see everything that goes into my bowl just by standing up—very helpful when working on a new recipe. I saw what went into the stock, how they cooked the noodles, how they dressed the bowls, etc.
What I missed there, I learned from watching Cooking With Dog on YouTube . On this show, a woman demos all sorts of Japanese dishes, from ramen to katsudon (fried pork cutlet) to okonomiyaki (Japanese egg foo yong). Beside her, perched on a wooden stool next to the countertop hot plate, sits a gray toy poodle. The eponymous "Dog," though not directly addressed, is very well behaved—never nibbling at the skillet or pawing at the ingredients or acting up, as dogs often do when in front of the camera. He just sits there like a curly gray Buddha, observing. He is rewarded, however, with a small treat at the end of each segment. There's much to learn about ramen here—for example, that the sliced, braised pork needs to be crisped under the broiler before it goes onto the soup, and that by squeezing the pork you release the fat (really?). But having once been the owner of an ill-tempered mutt, what I'd really like to know is, how did they train "Dog"?
Eco or cuckoo? Efficient or lazy? Resourceful or just plain cheap? Given my family's distaste for leftovers, my near inability to make "just enough" and the rate at which my fridge gets emptied, I found myself tossing way too much moldy, rotten food in the trash. I'm now on a mission at home to waste as little as possible, especially in the kitchen.
Sure, broccoli stems, rotisserie chicken bones and carrot butts all do double duty; I store them in Ziplock bags that date back to the '90s and use them for things like slaws and stocks. But I'm always looking for more inventive dishes. Not to mention dishes that completely obscure the fact that they are made with leftovers. From Thanksgiving alone, I found several creative uses for mashed potatoes, stuffing, turkey and gravy. Here are some of my discoveries.
Mashed potatoes: Whip mashed potatoes and grated cheddar into hot stock for a creamy, thick soup.
Stuffing: Moisten stuffing with egg and milk and knead it into ground meat for meatloaf (a real revelation, as this eliminates the need to season, sauté onions or chop herbs!!).
Turkey and gravy: Whisk gravy into hot water or canned chicken broth for a soup base, then stir in diced turkey.
The Full Monty (mashed potatoes, stuffing, turkey, etc.): Finely dice everything together, stir in some grated extra-sharp cheddar and use as a stuffing for empanadas (meat-filled pastries).
This weekend was so dreadfully cold, all I wanted to do was hole up inside my apartment. But when I got a dinner-party invitation from Erika Lesser, executive director of Slow Food USA (the U.S. arm of the international movement founded to preserve traditional foods), and her husband, Jim Hutchinson (wine buyer for Domenico Valentino Selections), I made the trek to Brooklyn without any hesitation. And I'm so glad I did. They were the consummate hosts—and had the perfect start to the evening: extraordinarily large, clean-tasting oysters from Blue Moon Fish on Long Island's North Fork, served simply with lemon slices. To further celebrate oyster season (the colder the waters, the better the flavor), here are some of my favorite oyster recipes:
Light and Creamy Oyster Chowder with Salsify
Oyster Dressing "Grand-Mère"
Pan-Fried Oysters with Creamy Radish and Cucumber Salad