The New York Times columnist shares his favorite dishes, from grilled mackerel with Sicilian caper-tomato salsa to crunchy vegetable salad with ricotta crostini.
Food & Wine
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The Breslin's Ricotta Pancakes with Orange Syrup
Guests at Ace Hotel can order April Bloomfield's pancakes in their rooms or at her restaurant, The Breslin. While the pancakes are delicious on their own, they're exquisite with the soft ricotta topping, crunchy sliced almonds and ingeniously vibrant (and neon-bright) orange syrup.
Seared Scallops with Basil, Anchovy and Sweet Corn Pudding
The quality of the seafood is key in this lemony, piquant dish. April Bloomfield recommends seeking out day-boat scallops, caught by fishermen who return from a day at sea with supremely fresh scallops that haven't been treated with any kind of preservative. Instead of being milky white, they're almost coral-colored.
One of the most popular cured meats on restaurant charcuterie boards, soppressata is a hard salami from southern Italy. Andrew Carmellini's family grinds their own meat to make it, but much easier is buying Italian sausages and removing their casings. To give the fresh soppressata extra spice, use hot sausages instead of sweet ones, or increase the amount of crushed red pepper.
Most restaurants make pork fried rice with generic pieces of barbecued meat; Andrew Carmellini uses both seared ground pork and sweet, aromatic Chinese sausage in his playful version. As an alternative to Chinese sausage—which is now available at many Costco stores—substitute thick matchsticks of lean maple-cured bacon.
Grilled Shrimp with Mom's Avocado-and-Orange Salad
Andrew Carmellini's dish is a mix of two beloved salads: shrimp-avocado and shrimp-citrus. He throws in a few surprises, too, like the hot sauce in the dressing. He recommends a fruity one from the Caribbean made with habaneros: "Habaneros are crazy," he says.
"I created this dish late one night when I was hungry and tired of my menu," Sue Torres says. "The tequila adds a little smokiness to the shrimp, and I liked the great textural difference between the creamy avocado and the crispy tostada." At Los Dados, Torres fries homemade tortilla rounds to make the base for this crunchy appetizer; here, we've substituted store-bought chips.
These crispy, cheese-stuffed bites are the kind of Mexican comfort food chef Sue Torres cooks. "You can stuff the mashed plantains with lots of fun things, like chorizo, beans or shrimp," she says. The key to their success is finding ultraripe plantains, "so black and soft and sweet that you think you should throw them out." As with bananas, underripe plantains ripen more quickly when placed in a paper bag.
Sue Torres takes her tacos seriously—the taqueria inside Los Dados employs an abuelita ("grandma") who hand-presses the tortillas—but she wants her guests to enjoy eating them. "I like offering lots of options, so everyone can play with different flavor combinations," she says. The sweet Coca-Cola–and–tamarind marinade Torres uses to tenderize and flavor skirt steaks was a discovery she made while traveling through Oaxaca. "Mexicans love Coke. They'd offer it to me at breakfast," she says.
To top meaty mahimahi at Marea, Michael White makes a vinegary caponata (a Sicilian relish) with fresh artichoke hearts, not the traditional tomatoes and eggplant. Trimming artichokes can be time-consuming, so buy marinated artichoke hearts from the grocery store instead.