Friday, February 25, 2011

For the Weekend :: Pancakes

...because every so often pancakes are absolutely worth the indulgence, particularly when they're from Clinton Street Baking Co. (in my opinion, the hands-down best brunch spot in the city).  And because they've made February "pancake month," featuring various delectable pancake combos for 28 days straight.  With just 4 days of Feb. remaining, go ahead and order up the special - chocolate chunk pancakes with fresh raspberries and raspberry-caramel sauce.  You could almost mistake them for dessert, so maybe consider sharing the order 3 or 4 ways and dive into one of their omelets...which not surprisingly, are also amazing.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Creamy Cauliflower Soup with Chives & Truffle Oil

Creamy, warm and hearty...the perfect mix on a chilled February evening.  I whipped this flavorful soup up earlier this week...smooth and luscious without any actual cream (that's the beauty of pureed cauliflower...and you get a solid dose of fiber and disease-fighting antioxidants as a bonus).  Take this seemingly simple soup up a notch with a sprinkle of chives and lemon zest, drizzle in some truffle oil and top it with a parmesan tuile and you've got a dressed up, deliciously light and satisfying dinner.

Cauliflower Soup with Chives & Truffle Oil
serves 4

for the parmesan tuiles 
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
1 tablespoon chives, minced
dash of cayenne pepper

for the soup
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 shallot, minced
1/2 onion, diced
1 head of cauliflower, trimmed and cut into florets
32 ounces of low-sodium or homemade chicken or vegetable stock/broth
2 cups water
salt to taste
dash of white pepper
dash of cayenne pepper
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg

for the garnish
zest of 1 lemon
1 to 2 tablespoons of chives, minced
truffle oil (go for a nice, light drizzle)

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.  In a stock pot saute garlic, shallot and onion in olive oil over medium heat for 2 to 3 minutes.  Add in cauliflower florets and saute another 3 to 4 minutes.  Add in stock, water and spices.  Bring heat up to medium-high, bring to a boil and then lower, simmering until cauliflower is soft, about 30 minutes.
While soup is simmering, mix Parmesan cheese, chives and cayenne pepper in a small bowl and place one to 2 tablespoons of the mixture onto a baking covered covered in wax paper.  You should get about 8 tuiles in total.  Bake in the oven for 4 minutes until lightly golden brown, remove and allow to cool and harden.
Serve soup with chives, a touch of lemon zest (about 1/4 teaspoon), a light drizzle of truffle oil and garnish with a parmesan tuile.

Monday, February 21, 2011

What I'm Craving...

...apparently a wardrobe change in my fridge!  Last week's shot of warmth on the east coast had me yearning for springtime sun and a new crop of seasonal ingredients to play with.  What's a gal to do?  Make the best of what the present has to offer.  I opted for a little bit of winter heartiness with lighter ingredients.  The result: a gorgeous steak salad with radicchio, mixed greens, blood oranges & scallions.  Topped with fresh pecorino romano and a light garlic vinaigrette.

winter-to-spring steak salad
serves 1 
4 ounces top sirloin (mine's from my favorite guys over at Dickson's Farmstand Meats in Chelsea Market)
1 blood orange, peeled and segmented (aka "supremed")
2 to 3 cups mixed greens and radicchio, chopped
2 scallions, chopped
2 Tbsp or so fresh grated pecorino romano (I use a vegetable peeler to get nice, broad but thin slices)

garlic vinaigrette (this is a riff off of one of my all-time favorite dressings--which is served up at Terroir Wine Bar in the East Village)
1 Tbsp champagne or white wine vinegar
3 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
1 egg
2 small cloves garlic, minced
1/2 teaspoon shallot, minced
dash of onion powder (I know it's sort of culinary blasphemy, but if the genius chefs at Terroir and Hearth do it, I'm happy to follow suit)
salt and freshly cracked pepper to taste
a good pinch or two of grated parmesan cheese

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.  In an oven-proof saute pan or cast iron pan, add a drop of olive oil over high heat.  Season steak with salt and pepper and cook about 3 to 4 minutes on each side.  Finish steak in oven, about 5 to 7 minutes for medium/medium rare.  Allow steak to rest for 5 minutes and slice.

For the vinaigrette, whisk ingredients together until well blended.  *Given that it calls for a raw egg, use dressing the day of (and if you're expecting, you may want to leave the egg out).  Toss mixed greens and radicchio with 1 to 2 tablespoons of dressing.  Arrange remaining salad ingredients with greens on a plate, top with sliced steak and serve.

*As a nutritional side note, my dear friend - and rockstar cardiologist - Lauren, informed me over the weekend of some new (though not shocking) research that gives eggs a little lift when it comes to the "cholesterol bad rap".  As reported in the Washington Post and LA Times among other publications, eggs may have 14 percent LESS cholesterol than previously thought, and 64 MORE vitamin D - and still are holding strong at 70 calories and just 6 grams of fat for a large egg. The verdict's still out on just how exactly dietary cholesterol, like that from eggs, impacts our blood cholesterol, so most definitely keep the yolk in there for greater nutrients and taste!

Friday, February 18, 2011

Spring Revival: Flora + Food

Whether it's color on your plate or in a brilliant bouquet of flowers, today's unseasonably warm weather has me dreaming of sun and the flowers and food of springtime.  A few floral images from my recent trip to France to make your holiday weekend a little brighter!

 from the marche au fleurs in Nice...

anemones in striking purples and pinks
 lush with texture
 i'd take them all home with me if i could!
 shopping the market in Paris
picture perfect renoncules
is it a flower or food? the castillo franco variety of radicchio (a fancy bitter chicory green) 
at Eataly in NYC.  GORGEOUS and edible, delicious in salads!

Thursday, February 17, 2011

On the Radar...

Two recent bites of nutrition news popped on my radar in the past few days and they're worth a quick share.

1. Mark Bittman's op-ed in yesterday New York Times asks the poignant question: "why aren't genetically modified foods labeled?"  Don't ask, and nothing will change.  It's a pretty scary notion when you sit down and consider it for a quick second.  Read through the article for Bittman's lengthier musings, but when you boil it down, we're putting food/fuel/nourishment in our bodies that's somehow been altered--by man and machines. The USDA now allows three different types of G.M.O's (alfalfa, a type of corn used to make ethanol and sugar beets) to be used in food production, yet has no regulatory position on labeling around it.  Scary?  Umm...without question.  There's fear of cross-pollination with non-G.M.O. crops and the risk of serious allergic reactions.   I'll leave you with this: Europe is so wary of genetically engineered foods that it rarely produces them and has actually banned their import.  Maybe we should think about following suit?

 2. The New York Times strikes twice...Jane Brody's Personal Health column yesterday lays out the new set of Dietary Guildelines released on Jan. 31st by the USDA and Health and Human Services.  Interesting that the vast majority of the guidelines sound quite familiar (it's like they took the very words right from my me, they didn't!).  What's most interesting is that new guidelines take us back to the very basics of wholesome, sensible eating -- finally!  They place emphasis on nutrient-dense foods and how to feasibly eat fewer calories without relinquishing all the pleasure out of delicious, healthful food.  Brody, similar to moi, highlights that moderation is the true secret to eating well and enjoying your food.  Here's a brief overview via Ms. Brody (and in turn, myself): 

  • Eat lots more vegetables and fruits, filling half your plate with them.
  • Choose lean meat and poultry, and replace some of them with seafood.
  • Consume mainly nonfat or low-fat milk and other dairy products.  (though I'm in full support of full-fat cheese -- in moderate quantities.  amazing flavor and taste translate to enjoyment and satisfaction via smaller amounts.  i will also make the disclaimer that i use whole milk in my coffee and my yogurt of choice is the local, organic *full-fat* brand, Maple Hill.)
  • Choose low-sodium products and use less salt and salty ingredients in food preparation.  (using a bit salt in cooking gets the green light in my book and is often key to bringing out an ingredient's flavor, but over-salting or adding extra salt after the food's been prepared is where we can hit the skids.) 
  • Eat more fiber-rich foods; replace most refined grains and grain-based foods with whole-grain versions.
  • Use vegetable oils like olive and canola oils instead of solid fats like butter and margarine, but remember that all fats have lots of calories.  (for baking, sometimes real butter is a must though...which just means that we can be a little thoughtful when slicing up that not-too-small, not-too-large, piece of pie.)
  • Eat out less; cook at home more often (a no-brainer and something I've been saying for years!)
  • Drink water, calorie-free beverages and 100 precent fruit juice (4 ounces is a serving of juice)
  • Bottom line: eat less, exercise more for a better-balanced outcome.

Fresh Fashion + Food

In the spirit of NYC fashion week as it comes to a close today, here's a peek at my latest post over at Rue's blog -- some foodie-fashionista inspiration from my recent trip to Paris and some of the spring trends featured in the current issue of Elle UK.

soft & feminine: drop-dead gorgeous sheer pleats and a taste of light and lovely meringue

 all laced up and looking just lovely 

 bold brights: total 70′s energy and a French-favorite, the macaron

 authentic clean lines: vintage cafe chic and long skirts…one of spring’s absolute must-haves

Monday, February 14, 2011

Valentine's Day...With A Cherry On Top

Want to send a little foodie love for Valentine's Day?  Check out these kitschy food-focused love notes from Kate Spade New York's BMine Gallery.

My personal Valentine's Day present came a bit early.  I had the amazing opportunity to attend the TEDx Manhattan event "Changing the Way We Eat" this past Saturday.

An entire day moderated by Laurie David and filled with inspiring ideas and foodie and sustainable agriculture innovators.  Among the most intriguing among them - Elizabeth Meltz, who's leading the charge to make all of Mario Batali's restaurants green and sustainable, and Dr. William Li, who's leading up some pretty incredible research on foods that actually protect against and even prevent cancer before it starts.  I'll be doing a whole write up on Li's research and his Eat to Defeat Cancer campaign later this month on  Stay tuned and happy Valentine's Day! 

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Love + A Little Chocolate

Ask me my opinion about Valentine's Day and you may receive a brief rant about the "Hallmark holiday," but I'll never pass up an invitation to indulge in divinely good chocolate and enjoy the company of a loved one to share it with, no matter what day of the year.  These pretty pics are from Dude, Sweet Chocolate, a Dallas-based chocolatier that I'm lucky to have stumbled upon earlier this week thanks to the wonders of the web--perfect timing right?  Hand-made, artisan confections using the world's best chocolate and a mix of ingredients that I'm fairly certain, will leave you screaming for more.   
A sampling to wet your taste-buds..savory flavors like Marakesh (fresh dates & ras el hanout), Parique (Louisiana tobacco & cognac)...and sweet - Tahitian (passionfruit & ginger salt), Hill Country (Zip Code honey, lavender, Dallas Co. goat crema) Indian (rosepetal jam & marzipan).   
Above you've got a rich dark chocolate bark studded with salted and candied whole hazelnuts, almonds and macadamia nuts, aptly named "Crack in a Box".  Other options to tempt your lover with...chocolate covered marshmallows, fudge, popcorn, nuts rolled in white and dark chocolate and a love-inducing potion of chocolate sauce if you're really intent on celebrating Vday.  Sadly, I'm left to order these lovelies online straight from Dallas, unless some secret crush out there surprises me come Monday!  Happy hearted weekend all!

toffee with hints of porcini mushrooms, adorned with crunchy pumpkin seeds (that happen to be a great source of healthy omega-3 fats!)

so chic, you almost don't want to eat them...almost

Thursday, February 10, 2011 Paris

If you're on the hunt for a stunning meal, a stellar atmosphere and the added bonus of fine food products, look no further than Spring, ex-pat Daniel Rose's seasonally-focused restaurant.  The restaurant recently reopened in a larger space in the 1st arrondissement near the Louvre  (it was formerly an extremely-cozy 16 seater) , and added a fine foods boutique/wine store just down the street.  Garnering a reservation at the restaurant is still quite a feat, unless you're lucky enough to have time for a leisurely 3-course lunch.  All meals are based on set multi-course menus, the design is contemporary and the new kitchen remains as open and inviting as it was the original space.   They've even added wine pairing classes on Thursday evenings - taught in both English and French.  Sadly, I only had the chance to discover the gastronomic finds at the boutique, but even with a simple lunch of soup and baguette, it was quite possibly the best meal of my trip.  And on a cold day like today (at least in NYC), nothing sounds better than a warm bowl of rich saucisse de canard.  

 lunch: lovely, light & full of warmth
saucisse de canard epeautre e legumes (translates to: a rich soup/stew of duck sausage, duck leg, stock, onion, celery, carrot, barley, diced potato & turnip, garnished w/orange zest & parsley).  olive oil samples stand tall in the background.   
 oh yeah, it was good.  and how amazing is the vintage spoon it's served with
simple yet refined. and something i'll definitely attempt to recreate at home.

 a sampling of the boutique's carefully selected products -- from local French olive oils, to vinegars, honeys, jams and of course wine

 the interior of the boutique: wines to the left, fine foods to the right, cured meats, cheeses, mini pastries and a single lunch option to the back

 a glimpse of the full restaurant...from the outside looking in.  i'm in love with the open kitchen!

Monday, February 7, 2011

A Taste of Paris

I'm back and fresh off a food and culture-filled, whirlwind week in France.   I've got a number of Francophile posts to share this week, but I thought I'd start off with a few of my favorite sights, smells and scenes from the city of light.
an adorable flower shop in my favorite neighborhood, the Marais (4th arrondissement)

Merce & the Muse: a hip coffee shop in the Marais founded by an ex-pat that made me feel right at home - thanks to the tres Parisian chic Tiffany Iung for introducing me!  

because what would France be without a crumbly, fresh baguette and...

...a bit of unbelievably rich cheese?

Au Petit Fer A Cheval - quite possibly the epitome of a picturesque Parisian cafe.  And as luck would have it, it was right around the corner from me.  The best cafe creme (cappuccino) and simple bistro fare you'll stumble on

the bright blur of an entire wall full of Kumsi tea, a French staple

an outside peek at Spring Boutique, the wine and fine foods shop of Spring fantastic it deserves it's own post (later this week!)

gorgeous dark purple anemones - rich and regal flowers for a city rich with culture and history

a peaceful Parisian street, and the perfect end to a post!