Tuesday, March 30, 2010


I went to a friend Julia's house for a homemade breakfast before heading into Manhattan to check out the Whitney Biennial.  She made the most delicious eggs Benedict I have ever had, which we paired with some fantastic Nueske's bacon my boyfriend's mother sent us from Massachusetts and some homemade bread.  The New York Times recently published a recipe for no knead bread that has been spreading like wildfire around my food-oriented friends.  Luckily, Julia has been nice enough to share her recipe along with the Times'.

Eggs Benedict with Homemade Bread and Smoked Bacon
(recipe by Julia Ziegler-Haynes.  Bread recipe adapted from the New York Times)
serves two hearty portions

6 strips smoked bacon
2 cloves garlic
1 pound fresh spinach
4 eggs
4 tablespoons butter
2 egg yokes
1/2 teaspoon lemon juice
fresh cracked pepper
sea salt

For bread:
3 cups all-purpose or bread flour (with extra for dusting)
1/4 teaspoon instant yeast
1-1/4 teaspoon salt
cornmeal or wheat bran for dusting

The night before (15-20 hours ahead of breakfast time) combine flour, yeast and salt for bread.  Add 1-5/8 cups water and stir until blended.  Dough will be shaggy and sticky.  Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and let rest for at least 12 hours, preferably about 18, at room temperature.  Once the surface is dotted with bubbles, lightly flour a work surface and place dough on it.  Sprinkle with a little more flour and fold over on itself once or twice.  Cover loosely and let rest for 15 minutes.  Using just enough flour to keep the dough from sticking to the work surface and your fingers, gently and quickly shape the dough into a ball.  Coat a cotton towel generously with flour and cornmeal or wheat bran.  Put dough seam side down on the towel and dust with more flour, and bran or cornmeal.  Cover with another cotton towel and let rise for about 2 hours.  When it is ready, the dough will more than double in size and will not readily spring back when poked with a finger.  At least half an hour before dough is ready, heat oven to 450 degrees.  Put a 6-8 quart heavy covered pot (cast iron, enamel, pyrex or ceramic) in the oven as it heats.  When the dough is ready, carefully remove the pot from the oven.  Slide your hand under the towel and turn the dough over into the pot, seam side up.  Shake the pan once or twice until dough is evenly distributed (it will straighten out as it bakes).  Cover with a lid and bake 30 minutes, then remove lid and bake another 15-30 minutes until loaf is nicely browned.  Cool on a rack until the rest of the food is ready to eat.

Cook the bacon in a 12 inch skillet, while boiling pot of water to poach the eggs.  Wrap the cooked bacon in foil and paper towels to reheat just before serving.  Pour off most (but not all) of the fat.  Saute two large garlic cloves in the remaining fat over medium-low heat.  When it is is slightly translucent or starting to brown add the spinach and season with salt to taste.  Remove from heat when just wilted.  Poach 4 eggs and keep in a bowl of cool water when cooked to desired level.

For Hollandaise sauce, melt butter in a saucepan and set aside.  Whisk egg yokes with one tablespoons water and lemon juice and 1/4 teaspoon salt.  In a saucepan over low heat, stir the egg mixture until thick and sticky.  Remove from heat.  Add the melted butter slowly while stirring.  Set aside to rest.  Slice 4 pieces of the fresh bread and toast, reheat the eggs in a pot of hot water for 30 seconds each.  Top the toasts with spinach, one egg each and a generous amount of sauce.  Crack fresh pepper over and serve with the reheated bacon.

This isn't a light breakfast, but it is good fuel for a day of looking at art.  We ate then journeyed into the city to check out the 2010 Whitney Biennial.  Past shows have been a serious disappointment but this one was actually pretty engaging.  Highlights included textural paintings by Lesley Vance (above), drawings by local scenester Aurel Schmidt, photographic light images by Josh Brand and, in a refreshing change from most Biennials, an older artist whose pieces were my favorites in the show: Roland Flexner.  His sumi ink drawings are utterly hypnotic.  We left the Whitney hopeful and a little inspired before a walk through Central Park to the Humble Arts Foundation's 31 Women in Photography show opening at Affirmation Arts.  Friend Amelia Bauer had a piece in the show and it was a great end to a fun weekend day.

Sunday, March 14, 2010


My sister came to New York for a visit and I threw a dinner party for family and friends in her honor (and to celebrate a soon-to-arrive addition to the family!)  I cracked open the Sunday Supper at Lucques cookbook, took a deep breath, and dove into an intense late winter/early spring dinner menu.

I first heard of this book from a friend who made a delicious lobster salad last summer in Maine.  This time on a cold, rainy March evening, the bulbs in the garden just starting to break out of the dirt, we started with a spring onion tart with Gruyere, smoked bacon and arugula salad; followed by bay scallops with chanterelles, sherry, and parsley breadcrumbs; then the main course of braised beef short ribs with whipped potatoes, Swiss chard and horseradish cream; and for dessert, a spectacular chocolate bread pudding brought by a friend.  Needless to say, I had my work cut out for me.  The first challenge was gathering all the ingredients including three separate stops at different Citarellas to find enough live in-shell bay scallops to fit the recipe.  It was a full day of prep and cooking, but I had a great time and the food turned out wonderfully.  I was so happy to get to spend time with my sister and good friends.  Spring is just around the corner!

Spring Onion Tart with Gruyere, Smoked Bacon, and Arugula Salad
(recipe adapted from Suzanne Goin's Sunday Suppers at Lucques)
serves 6

1 sheet frozen all-butter puff pastry
2 extra large egg yolks
1/2 pound slab smoked bacon (preferably applewood smoked)
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 cups diced spring onions
1 tablespoon thyme leaves
1/2 cup diagonally sliced spring onion tops
1/2 cup whole milk ricotta
1/4 cup creme fraiche
1/3 pound thinly sliced Gruyere or Comte
12-16 ounces baby arugula
1/2 lemon for juice
kosher salt
fresh ground pepper

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Defrost the puff pastry slightly and unroll it onto a parchment lined baking sheet.  Use a knife to score a 1/4" border around the edge of the pastry.  Make and egg wash with whisked egg yolk and a splash of water.  Brush the border with the egg wash.  Return the pastry to the freezer until ready to use it.

Slice the bacon into 3/8" thick slices, stack and cut crosswise into 3/8" cubes.  Heat a saute pan over high heat for 2 minutes, add 1 tablespoon oil and heat for another minute.  Add the bacon and saute over medium-high heat for 4-5 minutes.  Reduce heat to low, toss in onions, thyme, and 1/2 teaspoon salt.  Stir together until the onions are just wilted, toss in the onion tops and remove to a platter to cool.

Place the ricotta, remaining egg yolk and remaining tablespoon olive oil in the food processor.  Puree until smooth, transfer to a bowl and gently fold in creme fraiche.  Season with salt and pepper.  Spread the ricotta mixture on the puff pastry within the border.  Lay the Gruyere over and arrange the cooled bacon-onion mixture on top.

Bake for 20-25 minutes until the crust is golden brown.  Make sure the crust is cooked through by checking the underside of the tart.  Toss the salad ingredients together with lemon and oil, salt and pepper, and serve with wedges of tart.  The tart can be assembled and stored in the fridge until you are ready to bake it.

Bay Scallops with Chanterelles, Sherry, and Parsley Breadcrumbs
(recipe from Sunday Supper at Lucques)
serves 6

1 cup fresh breadcrumbs
1 tablespoon olive oil
3 tablespoons chopped flat-leaf parsley
8 tablespoons unsalted butter
3/4 pound chanterelle mushrooms, cleaned
2 teaspoons thyme leaves
1 cup sliced spring onions
48 bay scallops, live, in the shell
1 cup Amontillado sherry
1 cup chicken stock
1/2 cup heavy cream
kosher salt
fresh ground black pepper

Preheat the oven to 375.  Toss the breadcrumbs with olive oil and 1 tablespoon parsley .  Spread on a baking sheet and toast for 8-10 minutes until golden brown.  Heat two saute pans or dutch ovens on high heat for 2 minutes.  Add 3 tablespoons butter to each pan.  As it foams, add the mushrooms, thyme, salt and pepper in equal parts to each pan.  Stir continually for 6-8 minutes until tender.  Turn the heat down to medium and add another tablespoon of butter to each pan.  Put half the spring onions in each pan, season with salt and pepper and cook 2-3 minutes.  Divide the scallops between the pans , stir to coat with butter.  After 2 minutes add sherry to each pan.  After 30 seconds add chicken stock to each pan.  Turn the heat back up to high and cover both pans.  Let the scallops steam open, covered, for about 5 minutes.  Once they have opened, add the cream, stir.  Toss remaining parsley and transfer contents of both pots to a large bowl.  Sprinkle with breadcrumbs and serve.

Braised Beef Short Ribs with Whipped Potatoes, Swiss Chard, and Horseradish Cream
(recipe adapted from Sunday Suppers at Lucques)
serves 6

6 beef short ribs, 14-16 ounces each
1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon thyme leaves, and 4 whole sprigs of thyme
1 tablespoon freshly cracked black pepper
3 dozen small pearl onions
1/2 cup olive oil
1 cup diced onions
1/3 cup diced celery
1/3 cup diced carrot
2 bay leaves
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1-1/2 cups port wine
2-1/2 cups red wine
6 cups beef stock
4 sprigs flat leaf parsley
2 bunches Swiss chard, cleaned, center ribs removed
1-1/2 pounds russet potatoes
1-1/2 pounds Yukon Gold potatoes
3/4 cup heavy cream
3/4 cup whole milk
2 sticks unsalted butter cut into chunks
kosher salt
3/4 cup creme fraiche
1 tablespoon prepared horseradish

Season the short ribs with 1 tablespoon thyme and cracked black pepper.  Coat each rib well, cover and refrigerate overnight.  Take the ribs out an hour before cooking, and after 30 minutes season generously with salt.  Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.

Toss the pearl onions with 2 tablespoons olive oil, 1 teaspoon thyme, 3/4 teaspoon salt, and a pinch of pepper.  Spread them on a baking sheet and roast for 15 minutes.  Take them out and once they have cooled, slip off the skins.  Turn the oven down to 325 degrees.

Heat a large saute pan over high heat for 3 minutes.  Pour 3 tablespoons olive oil and wait for a minute or two until the pan is very hot, almost smoking.  Place the short ribs in the pan and sear until they are nicely browned on all three meaty sides.  Take your time and do it in batches.  Transfer the ribs to the braising pan, bones standing up.

Turn the heat down to medium and add onion, carrot, celery, thyme sprigs and bay leaves to the pan.  Stir and scrape the crusty parts from the bottom of the pan.  Cook 6-8 minutes until the vegetables begin to caramelize.  Add balsamic vinegar, port, and red wine.  Turn up the heat to high and reduce the liquid by half.  Add the stock and bring to a boil.  Pout the liquid over the short ribs.  The stock mixture should almost cover the ribs.  Tuck the parsley sprigs around the meat.  Cover tightly with aluminum foil and braise for about 3 hours.

Place the potatoes, whole and unpeeled, in a large stockpot with 2 tablespoons salt and water.  Bring to a boil over high heat, then turn down heat and simmer for 40-45 minutes until tender.  Strain the cooked potatoes and let cool, then peel.  Mash the peeled potatoes well, then place in a heavy bottomed pan.  Heat over medium heat for a few minutes to dry them out a bit, then slowly add chunks of butter, stirring continually.  Season to taste.  At the same time, warm cream and milk in a small pot.  Once all the butter has been incorporated, slowly add the warmed cream/milk and continue to stir over a low heat.  You can let the potatoes cool and reheat just before serving, adding a bit of cream if necessary.  Once the potatoes are finished, combine the creme fraiche and horseradish in a small bowl.  Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Once the ribs are done, remove them from the oven and let sit for 10-15 minutes with the foil removed.  Be careful of the steam and check if ribs are done with a knife if necessary.  Turn the oven up to 400 degrees.  Place the short ribs in the oven for 10-15 minutes to brown.  Strain the broth into a sauce pan and turn up to a high heat to reduce, skimming fat off the top as necessary.  Season to taste.

Heat a large saute pan over high heat for 2 minutes.  Tear the Swiss chard into large pieces.  Add 3 tablespoons olive oil to the pan and cook for a minute or two to wilt the chard until tender.  Add salt and pepper while cooking and add the roasted pearl onions.  Place the chard on a platter, arrange the short ribs on top, and pour juices over the whole mix.  Serve with whipped potatoes and horseradish cream.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010


In honor of the Academy Awards, a friend and I made up some potato latkes with creme fraiche and a special treat of caviar.

Potato Latkes with Creme Fraiche and Caviar
serves 2 or 3

2 large russet potatoes
1 large egg, whisked
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1/2 shallot
3 tablespoons clarified butter
1-1/2 teaspoon sea salt
fresh ground black pepper
1/4 cup creme fraiche
1 ounce good caviar

Peel the potatoes and grate lengthwise.  Place in a kitchen towel and squeeze out the excess liquid.  Combine in a bowl with grated shallot, egg, flour, salt and pepper.

Melt the clarified butter in a skillet over medium heat, drop a spoonful of the mixture into the pan and flatten with a spatula.  Cook for 2 minutes, turn and flatten again, then cook for another 2 minutes.  Serve hot from the skillet with a dollop of creme fraiche and teaspoon of caviar.

I got my (absolutely tiny) can of caviar from New York's oldest and best purveyor of domestic caviar, Russ and Daughters, on Houston Street.

The inside hasn't changed much in nearly 100 years.

Here is my teeny, tiny 1 oz can of American Osteria caviar.

We also whipped up a quick spinach salad to go along.

The helpful clerk at Uva Wines recommended this "natural" champagne, which was grassy and delicious.  We enjoyed our treats while The Hurt Locker cleaned up the awards show.  It was a fun, mellow evening.

Friday, March 5, 2010


In honor of wild Friday nights... on a more typical not-so-wild Friday night, I am celebrating with a classic 70's and 80's musical genius, Giorgio Moroder.  Giorgio produced some of the biggest hits of the day, including I Feel Love by Donna Summer and the theme song, Chase, from Midnight Express.  He also created the score to Top Gun.  Who can forget Berlin's Take My Breath Away?  In many ways he pioneered electronic music, and I love seeing and hearing his synthesized sound feel so fresh.

The video for 1977's From Here to Eternity in amazing in itself.  I know it is a bit repetitive, but how can you not love a video with a twirling disco maven who dances under her own tossed glitter?  Party time!

If you commit you'll also get to enjoy snippets of Moroder making his own slow strobe affect, a young Willi Ninja (I think) and a crazy half nude Amazon woman twisting around into a zoom effect.  To have lived in 1977...

Thursday, March 4, 2010


It was my own big 3-0 last week... but the real fun was getting to attend my close friend Elizabeth's birthday party in Oakland, California.  She put on a beautiful little cocktail party with great food and drink, and I got to help set up and then enjoy some fun east bay shops, food and treats the day after.

The ham was my boyfriend's idea.  It was popular.

Delicious chocolate dipped potato chips.

Elizabeth served special cocktails mixed up by a local bartending legend from Oliveto... one of the area's best restaurants.

A popcorn machine rental added some fun.

Here is a gorgeous Victorian in the hostess' hometown of Oakland.  I walked around the place several times in order to fully appreciate the interesting landscape design.

Speaking of landscape design, on a tour of the area we stopped in on housewares store Lola, and I bought a great book on the work of Northern California based landscape architect Andrea Cochran.  Cochran sites some of her strongest influences as Luis Barragan and Robert Irwin, two of my favorite architects/artists, and she has does some great work herself.  Her favorite project of mine is Stone Edge Vineyard in Sonoma.

Lola was a fantastic shop.  The entrance had a copper screen door... something I would like to see more of on all the world's windows and doors.

One of my favorite home stores: Tail of the Yak.

Even more charming deliciousness at Ici ice cream shop

THE best ice cream I have ever had, with the most interesting flavor combinations.  Candied tangerine and lime!  Yum!

And, of course, the crowning glory of the east bay food scene... Oliveto.  I had my departing meal here before boarding a red eye back to New York.  Lamb crudo, an insane hen ragu, and wild boar sausage.  It did not disappoint.  Happy Birthday Elizabeth!