Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Friday Night on the Town

My friend Kat and I decided we needed a little upgrade in our social lives so we decided to hit a gallery opening on Friday evening, followed by a late dinner at a restaurant in Allentown I've been meaning to check out.

I adore gallery openings, not because I'm all that cultured but more that I'm a sucker for free wine and cheese. The last few I've attended made you PAY for wine, how ghastly, so I didn't have high hopes. But yes, there was free wine, although I opted for water, and some delicious cheese. Oh, and I was wearing a fabulous new dress and shoes, very Sex and the City, if you will. I hobnobbed with the artists and even bought something, is that a sign that I am finally a real adult?

The opening was lovely but we were hungry so we headed downtown for dinner at Sample. I love the decor; it's in an old music store with tin ceilings and such and the recent renovation included a loft-space and a sweetly circular little bar. I walked in and was immediately greeted by a familiar face and kindly proffered a specialty beverage (the face was Brendan, the drink was a roasted pineapple mojito, thank you Brendan!). After trying to catch the attention of several bored-looking servers, we were seated.

Now, let me tell you a bit about the concept here. Sample, as the name indicates, serves wee bites of food that you order in pieces, like sushi. While I like the idea, couldn't we do something a bit more inspired than mini fish fry or mini bbq chicken salad? Really? Anyway, Kat and I decided to order the flight, which offers a taste of each menu item.

-We were served an amuse-bouche that our server called a vegetarian rice ball. I would call it arancini if it were good, which it wasn't, so instead I'll call it salty fried ball with even saltier soy poured all over it. Kat and I said "Well, it was nice of them to bring something extra, even if it wasn't all that."

-Next we were served the cheese board, including a cheese fondue with pesto, fresh ricotta and pineapple salsa, panini with some cheese and pear something-or-other. And some stale-ass bread hard as a rock. Really, I couldn't even break it and I lift weights. The gluey fondue was saved by the pest0, the panini was whatever and the ricotta was fine.

-The next round was our Mediterranean plate with oilve tapenade (ho hum), hummus (lemony), cucumber salad, pickled onions blah blah blah, I was very bored. The pita was nicely toasted though.

-BBQ chicken salad sandwich, french onion soup and something else unmemorable. Let's just say this; we cut the french onion "soup" in half and there was no spillage. What the hell? Still, Kat and I laughed and carried on.

-Roasted corn bisque, poutine, mini beef on weck. The bisque was very nice, heavy on the cumin with a yogurt-swirl. Poutine, we all know how I love poutine, but if it's not with cheese curd, it's just fries with gravy. As this was. And beef on weck, a seminal Buffalo classic, should never be served without horseradish. For shame!

-Gnocchi in a zucchini puree, steak and fry or some other such nonsense and a mixed green salad with poached pears and blue cheese. This is where I start to get mad. Do not mess with my gnocchi, or more accurately, DO NOT SERVE ME A TATER TOT AND CALL IT GNOCCHI! I have had some bad experiences with gnocchi in restaurants but I have NEVER eaten a deep-fried potato puff served unappetizingly drowning in what looked like Gerber pea-and-carrot puree. Unbelievable. Also, the entire salad, greens and fruit, tasted like the refrigerator. And not a particularly clean one. We didn't even bother to pretend liking any of said items.

-At this point, I was thinking we'd get a crappy dessert and book but no. We had one more plate of unappealing treats. A mini fish fry that was all fry and no fish served on a burnt waffle fry with coleslaw that tasted like it was made in 2006 and had been sitting out since then. I can't remember what other abomination was served with it but it wasn't good.

-Jesus Christ. Did we have to get dessert? Well, at this point, we were considering it a form of entertainment. Rice pudding with honey, chevre and pine nuts was actually nice in flavor but the undercooked rice did not make for the greatest texture. The blueberry cheesecake was glue-like and again, tasted like refrigerator. The mini-smore and mini-coconut whatever included hard, candy-like pieces that were impossible to break, split or chew.

OK, so the food was definitely not memorable but the company was marvelous so we'll just have to try again to erase the memory of such foul food.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Guaranteed Pick-Me Up

If you're feeling down, stop blubbering and follow these directions. Go directly to your farmers market or other purveyor of fine produce and get some strawberries. Make sure you have heavy cream, powdered sugar and vanilla on hand to make fresh whipped cream. Slice up the berries with some sugar, top with whipped cream and eat several bowls. Do this at every meal, or simply as a meal replacement, it's especially nice for breakfast. I keep meaning to make shortcake but well, I'm lazy and I'm otherwise preoccupied so this does well in a pinch.

Monday, June 9, 2008

Indian-Inspired, Curry-Rubbed and Rolled Up Like a Burrito

I made a very satisfying dinner last night that I can only describe as an Indian-style burrito. I made this with turkey cutlets but I would venutre to say that it would be lovely with shrimp or even grilled vegetables. I took several pictures but none really did it justice. Anyway, the spicy turkey played off the cool raita marvelously, the light crunch of cucumber and acidic punch of mango made for a perfect meal on a hot afternoon.


1 cup plain yogurt
1/3 cup mango chutney
1/2 mediuum cucmber, diced
1/4 medium onion, sliced very thin
1 clove garlic

Everything Else:

2 turkey cutlets
2 T. curry paste
olive oil
2 pieces of naan

Rub the turkey cutlets with curry paste and let sit for at least 30 minutes. While you're waiting, make the raita. A few words on that; I love raita. It works such magic against heat and spice. I put different things in it depending on what I've got but I am partial to fresh mint or cilantro or in yesterday's lucky example, both. I've seen recipes that call for garlic OR onion, I'm not expert on Indian cuisine but my palate prefers both. Cucumber and cumin are also essentials; the first provides that delicate flavor and the latter gives a smoky undertone. I used a store-bought mango chutney to this raita and I will never make the mistake of buying it again. It really pales in comparison to homemade. Only problem with making it yourself is that the shelf-life is pretty short. Sheesh, I gotten away from the directions for the rest of the recipe, sorry! Anyway, mix up all the ingredients for raita. Heat up two skillets with a bit of oil in one and a light mist in the other. Sear the turkey on both sides, it only needs to cook a few minutes per side. In the lightly misted pan, I like to grill the naan so it's warm and soft and pliable but I suppose you can skip that, if you like hard, dry bread.
Place a cutlet in the warm naan, top with chutney and slice of avocado and have at it!

As per request, the following is a recipe for mango chutney that I've used for the past several years. Only changes I make are; I often eliminate the bell pepper, I never add raisins or nuts and hardly ever make the entire batch. Also, I taste throughout, adding more sugar or vinegar as needed.

4 pounds fresh mangos, ripe but not too soft, peeled
3 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 teaspoon chile flakes
2 1/2 cups medium dice red onion
1/4 cup minced fresh ginger
1 cup small dice red bell pepper
8 ounces unsweetened pineapple juice
4 ounces cider vinegar
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 1/2 tablespoons curry powder
Kosher salt and fresh ground white pepper
1/2 cup raisins or golden raisins
1/2 cup toasted, roughly chopped macadamia nuts

Cut the mango flesh away from the pit. The pit is shaped similar to an obelisk, so you'll end up with 2 large pieces and 2 smaller pieces from each mango. Roughly chop the flesh.
In a saute pan heat the oil and add the chile flakes. Be careful not to burn the chile, just toast to flavor the oil. Add the onions and sweat until soft. Add the ginger and bell pepper and saute for 1 to 2 minutes. Finally add the mango and cook for 1 more minute.

In a separate bowl, combine the pineapple juice, vinegar, sugar, and curry powder. Add this mixture to the pan. Stir to combine. Bring the mixture to a bare simmer and reduce for about 30 minutes, stirring frequently. Season with salt and pepper. Add the raisins and the nuts and transfer to another container over an ice bath. I used a mild yellow curry powder, but if you want it hotter go for red.

Thursday, June 5, 2008

Firing Up the Grill for My Pappa

I haven't been cooking much lately but I have been reading a fair amount about cooking and Gourmet's grilling feature this month has caught my interest. Often the recipes featured in Gourmet include ingredients that I don't have on hand or fussy techniques that I don't feel like employing. Not so this time.
The spread entitled "Ten June Favorites" seems just about perfect for my Fathers Day brunch, except that I hate getting the coals started for the grill. I am intruigued byt this breading-of-meat-before-grilling method; it reminds me of the most fantastic Easter meal I ever had. It was in Sicily about four years ago and featured breaded veal with peas and mint. Simple, clean and very fresh. I also plan onf making this grilled pizza and perhaps these artichokes. Oh, and I am DYING to try out this Stracciatella Tortoni Cake with Espresso Fudge Sauce! I'll let you know how it turns out, beating meringues over a double boiler sounds characteristically, Gourmet-snotty but for my pops, it's worth it.

Grilled Veal Chops with Arugula and Basil Salad
Active time:45 min Start to finish:45 min
June 2008
We were bowled over by Miraglia Eriquez’s mother’s method for grilled breaded chops—it truly combines the best of both worlds, with the crumbs toasting and crisping up while taking on a hint of smoke. Meanwhile, the meat inside couldn’t be juicier. A light, peppery salad gives the chops a freshness that tastes just right at a cookout.
For salad
5 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
3 medium tomatoes, cut into thin wedges
1 small red onion, halved lengthwise, then thinly sliced crosswise (1/2 cup)
10 oz baby arugula (5 cups)
1 cup packed basil leaves, torn into pieces
For veal chops
6 (3/4- to 1-inch-thick) bone-in rib veal chops (4 to 5 lb; see cooks’ note, below)
4 cups fine fresh bread crumbs (from 10 slices firm white sandwich bread)
4 cups grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
1 cup olive oil
Start salad:
Whisk together oil, lemon juice, 1/2 tsp salt, and 1/2 tsp pepper in a large bowl until combined, then stir in tomatoes and onion.Make Veal:
Preheat oven to 350°F with rack in middle.
Gently pound chops (avoiding bone) to 1/8 inch thick between 2 sheets of plastic wrap with flat side of a meat pounder or with a rolling pin.
Toast bread crumbs in a large 4-sided sheet pan in oven, stirring once or twice, until dry but not golden, 7 to 10 minutes. Cool completely.
Stir crumbs together with cheese and 1/4 tsp each of salt and pepper in a shallow bowl or pie plate. Sprinkle chops with 1/4 tsp each of salt and pepper.
Line a large baking sheet with wax paper. Put oil in another shallow bowl or pie plate. Dip each chop in oil, letting excess drip off, then dredge both sides of chop (and bone) in bread-crumb mixture, pressing gently to help crumbs adhere. Transfer to baking sheet.
Prepare a grill for direct-heat cooking over medium-hot charcoal (medium heat for gas); see “Grilling Procedure.”
Oil grill rack, then grill chops, covered only if using a gas grill, turning once, until just cooked through and golden brown and grill marks appear, about 8 minutes total.Finish salad:
Just before serving, add arugula and basil to salad and toss, then season with salt and pepper. Serve over chops.
Cooks’ notes:
You can substitute boneless 1-inch-thick pork chops for the veal chops; r

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Teppo Update

So I've been crying for the past several hours. My good neighbor Dave heard the brakes squeal and a thump and ran out to see what happened. My Tep, bad ass to the end, apparently picked himself up and ran to the backyard to expire peacefully. My pappa found him and was with him in the last minutes he was alive. I'm glad he wasn't by himself when he died.
When I got home, he was still warm and even though it was hard, I'm glad I got to say goodbye to him. He was hardly even sullied by death, no blood, just peaceful. We picked his favorite spot under the lilac bush to bury him.
The funny thing, I don't even like cats, my pops doesn't like cats but we were both taken in by him; such a friendly, fearless and affectionate soul. The neighborhood loved him, often I would go outside to see Teppo curled up in the arms of next door neighbors Leslie and Theresa, see him sitting in the flower pots catching some sun or terrorizing Patty's dogs down the block. I know I won't be the only one to miss him.

RIP Teppo

Well, my fear of my cat getting hit by a car finally came to fruition, about 20 minutes ago. My father just called me to break the news and I am boo-hooing like a baby here at my desk. I feel like such a bad mamma and I can't believe he is dead. I hope there are lots of birds and lady kittens for him to chase in pet heaven. I miss you already Tep!