Tuesday, June 09, 2009

Cafe Fledermaus at the Neue Gallerie

An Afternoon at the Neue Gallerie and Cafe Sabarsky

When I started this blog, it was a toss-up between focusing on food or books--I read nearly as much as I cook, if not more--Erin's Kitchen could have been Erin's Library.

However, graduate school not only severely curtailed my cooking, it also reduced my fiction reading to the occasional mystery novel over holiday breaks. Hence, after graduation a few weeks ago, my first move was to crack Roberto Bolano's 2666. Over the past two weeks I carted this 900-page book on the subway and to various coffee shops around New York, reveling in my newfound freedom.

One of my favorite stops was Cafe Fledermaus at the Neue Gallerie on the Upper East Side. Located in the basement of the museum, this lower-key sibling of the upstairs Cafe Sabarsky, is the perfect place to while a way an hour or two with a Wiener Mélange (espresso with steamed milk and foam) and a slice of sachertorte. The menu is the same in both cafes, but the basement cafe is less popular and therefore there's no pressure to give up your table--a perfect reading spot.

Cafe Fledermaus
Neue Gallerie
Thurs/Fri/Sat/Sun 12 noon-6 pm
Closed Mon/Tues/Wed
1048 5th Ave (entrance on 86th)
New York, NY

Monday, June 01, 2009

Mango Salsa & Jackson Heights Produce


Yesterday my friend Kat and I headed out to Jackson Heights, Queens for the $10 buffet at the Jackson Diner (home of made-to-order dosas). After lunch, we stopped at Patel Brothers, a huge Indian grocery store, packed with amazing fresh produce.

The first thing that caught my eye? Eight limes for $1. Unlike their shriveled, juiceless, more expensive brethren found at groceries in my neighborhood, these vibrant green orbs remind me of California produce. I also picked up fresh mint, cilantro, eggplants, baby cucumbers, a chunk of ginger, and ready-to-make mini-papads--all for the low price of $6.48. Is the produce local? I don't know. I do know it's much fresher, tastier and cheaper than most anything found in Manhattan.

Mango Salsa

In addition to this bounty, I bought a box of sweet mangoes from the mango guy outside the store. Another great deal--$6.99 for 7 large, fragrant fruits. Later that night, I diced one up, mixed it with chopped mint, cilantro, green onions and a few squeezes of lime juice. Served over roasted red snapper, it contributed to a delicious dinner.

Like my feast for $5.58 last summer, this meal was a reminder that ethnic markets pack a lot of bang for the buck--had I been in need of spices, rice, lentils or any other Indian staples, I could have stocked up at Patel Brothers for much less than a trip down Fairway or Whole Foods "ethnic" aisles. Sure, Jackson Heights is a long subway ride from the Upper West Side, but I always like to remind myself that there's more to New York living than Manhattan.

Friday, May 29, 2009

Fudgy Brownies and Chocolate Revel Bars

Revel Bars
Chocolate Revel Bars

Text from me to J around 3 pm on Wednesday:"If you buy eggs on your way home, I'll make brownies."

J got home around 7:00 pm, we made dinner, drank a bit of wine, ate some strawberries--suddenly brownie-baking sounded a lot less appealing than it had earlier in the afternoon. Well, J knows just what to say to get me going--"Really? No brownies? My mom could whip them up in thirty minutes. What's the big deal?" The boy was kidding--and commenting more on his Mom's baking insanity than my domestic skills--but it still spurred me to action. Of course, I required his help, and by 11:45 pm we were dunking warm, fudgy brownies in cold glasses of milk as a bedtime snack.

I used Martha Stewart's brownie recipe in her Baking Handbook--perfectly fudgy and dense, though perhaps a bit too much sugar. Good, but I imagine most people reading this blog already have a favorite brownie recipe of their own.

So...let me share with you a distant cousin of the brownie that J's mom is known for--Chocolate Revel Bars. A few years ago J and I visited his folks for Thanksgiving and the Wednesday before the holiday, J's mom tasked with baking these, ginger snaps and a few other cookies as "treats to have around" for the weekend. They were not for a specific dessert or day, but just for J and his two brothers to snack on. Baking insanity, indeed.

These are the ultimate Midwest church basement bar--straight out of the Better Homes and Gardens Cookbook, and ridiculously delicious. They are a favorite of J's, and when I want to surprise him, I dust off my copy of the book (which is actually a great repository of cookie, bar and dessert recipes) and bake them. You can find the recipe here; I usually halve the recipe, and omit the nuts. The only downside to halving the recipe is I never know what to do with a leftover half-can of sweetened condensed milk, but that's probably better than having a full batch (75!!) of these bars around to tempt me.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Tomato-Topped Herbed Wheat Shortcakes

Tomato-topped herbed shortcakes

Let me introduce you to what is destined to become a summer staple around these parts--a savory shortcake topped with fresh, bright vegetables. A variation on a panzanella, but with homemade biscuits instead of bread.

Alas, I cannot take credit for this innovation--that goes to food writer Shanna Masters. The San Francisco Chronicle Cookbook includes five different recipes by Masters for savory shortcake toppings, including grapefruit and avocado, muffaletta, red onion, and Greek salad. The shortcakes themselves come in different flavors too--herbed wheat, cornbread, lemon-herb.

Using Masters' tomato topping recipe as a rough guide, I substituted what I had on hand: cherry tomatoes, black olives, green onions, red bell pepper, chives, and thyme--all chopped and stirred with a bit of balsamic vinegar, olive oil, salt and pepper.

I followed the shortcake recipe more closely, but changed the dried herbs based on what I had in the cupboard. The recipe makes six smallish shortcakes; J and I ate two apiece for dinner, with a hefty tomato topping and a mixed green salad on the side.

Herbed Wheat Shortcakes
feel free to use whatever dried herbs you have on hand

1/2 c. whole-wheat flour
1/2 c. white flour
1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. dried oregano
1/2 tsp. nigella seeds
1/2 tsp. mixed "grill seasoning" (dried onions, garlic, hot pepper, etc)
2 tbsp. olive oil
1 tbsp. red wine vinegar
6 tbsp. milk

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Grease a baking sheet.

Combine all the dry ingredients in a medium bowl and stir. Make a well in the middle and add the wet ingredients. Stir quickly and gently, until all dry ingredients are moist.

Using a spoon, drop dough onto baking sheet into six equal mounds. Bake for 10-12 minutes, until tops are browned and a toothpick comes out clean.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Moules Marinieres

Mussels Aftermath

Steamed mussels are quite possibly the easiest, most delicious summer supper around, particularly if you buy well scrubbed ones (ours came from Fairway). Bring them home from the grocery as fast as you can, and store them in the fridge--make sure they are not suffocating in a sealed plastic bag--they're alive and need to breathe!


When it's time to eat, chop some shallots, mince some garlic, and wash a handful of thyme sprigs. Scrub the mussels in some running cold water, snipping their beards as you go (kitchen shears are perfect). Discard any that are open or feel extremely heavy (probably filled with sand). Heat a bit of olive oil or butter over medium heat in a heavy bottomed pan. Saute your shallots for a bit, until they begin to brown. Add the garlic and thyme, stir and let sit for a couple minutes. Gently add the mussels and about 1 cup of white wine for every 1 pound of mussels. Bring to a boil, cover, and let cook for about 5-7 minutes, until the mussels are all open (if any don't open, don't eat those).

Serve with a lot of crusty bread and a crisp white wine. Happy summer!

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Savory Ramp & Cheese Scones

Ramp & Cheese Scones

A Google search for ramps turns up an interesting mix of skateboard accessories, how-tos on making your home wheelchair accessible, and--the subject of this post--recipes for wild leeks. Food bloggers go wild for ramps in the spring, and in the midst of finals a few weeks ago, I stopped at the Morningside Heights Farmers' Market to pick up my first bunch. They stunk up my locker at school quite nicely, and after reading this post about ham and ramp biscuits, I knew they'd make their way into a baked good of some sort.

These scones make a lovely dinner when paired with a mixed green salad or a bowl of vegetable soup. They're best right out of the oven--overnight they lose their crisp exterior. I used this recipe for savory scones, with a few modifications. A medium sized bunch of ramps took the place of the green onions--I used both the white parts and the green leaves. Also, I used goat cheese in place of the feta, only because I didn't make a grocery list and thought that's what the recipe called for. A perfectly fine substitution nonetheless. Finally, for years now I've baked my scones on a pizza stone, and it really helps to crisp them up. Highly recommend it if you have one. Enjoy!

Wednesday, May 06, 2009

Edamame Yogurt Dip & Pantry-Cleanout Couscous

Spinach Edamame Yogurt Dip

Last week, the Health Services department at my university sent a note on "end of semester self care." It recommended satisfying your sweet tooth with a banana, orange, apple or melon. Huh? I love me some fruit, but after a few stressful days of papers and presentations? I head straight for the Twizzlers, followed by a doughnut and then a chocolate bar. Burp.

To balance the inevitable finals period junk food fest, I try to ensure that I get some veggies into my system. This edamame yogurt dip was dinner the other night. You take some thawed frozen edamame, frozen spinach, plain low-fat yogurt, lemon juice, garlic clove, salt, pepper and whirl it all in the cuisinart for a few minutes. Serve with some whole wheat pita, and the Health Services office would be proud. Beware the garlic cloves however--I started with one, tasted it, decided to add two more. Big mistake. Overnight, raw garlic quadruples in strength, and my leftover dip was inedible. Hat tip to Pink of Perfection for the dip inspiration!

Pantry-Cleanout Couscous

Tonight, after a week of dinners that included a burrito the size of my head, a grilled cheese, and approximately an entire package of crackers smeared with peanut butter, I decided another detox meal was in order. I cooked up the last of some spinach couscous, and stirred in the following treats found in my cupboards and fridge: black olives, parsley, raisins, cannelini beans, and some sauteed shallots and onions. Ahhhh. I feel almost healthy.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Lemon Cupcakes with Peeps

Lemon Cupcakes with Peeps

It's come to this. I sit in the library, trying to read about economic statecraft, but my mind drifts to the sugary marshmallow cuteness of Peeps. Specifically, the Peep-topped cupcakes of the Upper East Side's Glaser's Bake Shop, which I experienced at Easter-time a few years ago.

As my daydream continued, I realized there was no need for a cross-town bus trip--why not bake my own? Never mind that J was out of town, many of my friends were headed home for Easter, and I had exactly zero plans for group get-togethers where I could pawn off these sugar bombs. No, I left the library, bought not one but two Peep packages (just one color wouldn't do), and headed home for a Friday afternoon baking-fest.

Lemon Cupcakes with Peeps

I followed this reliable vanilla cupcake recipe, adding the zest of two lemons. The frosting is Martha's meringue buttercream, minus two of her three sticks of butter. And the Peeps? Aesthetic purposes only. I shamefully throw them away before eating the cupcake. What can I say? Being this close to grad school graduation is clouding my judgment.

Monday, April 06, 2009

Okonomi-yaki, Hiroshima and New York Style

My creation
Hiroshima okonomi-yaki on the right; New York (Village Yokocho) okonomi-yaki on the left

One of the best meals on my trip to Japan involved cooking my own okonomi-yaki (basically a Japanese pancake, topped with delicious-ness) in Hiroshima at Misasa. Wanting to relive the memory, I ordered okonomi-yaki at Village Yokocho, forgetting that the Hiroshima version of this comfort food differs from the style found in the rest of Japan. Don't get me wrong--they're both delicious. Yet the Hiroshima-style is comprised of a very thin, crepe-like pancake, topped with cabbage, pork, noodles and a fried egg, while the Yokocho version was a thick frittata, studded with shrimp, cabbage, and more. Fortunately, I received an okonomi-yaki "expert" certificate in Hiroshima and a bottle of the restaurant's special sauce, so I will soon recreate the Hiroshima version here in my own kitchen. Meanwhile, a step-by-step Hiroshima-style guide is below.

Making the Pancake

Our instructor making the thin crepe-like pancake.


After the pancake cooks for a few minutes, top it with cabbage and bean sprouts.


Then, add the pork and a bit more pancake batter before you flip it.

Time to Flip

With two spatulas and a steady hand, carefully flip your pancake to cook down your cabbage until sweet and soft, full of porky goodness.

A Successful Flip

A successful flip.

Breaking the Yolk

Frying the egg. You break the yolk with the spatula, then move your pancake on top of the egg, flip, and you're almost ready to eat.

The Finished Product

Top the pancake with the sweet okonomi-yaki sauce, bonito flakes and seaweed powder. Enjoy!

Thursday, April 02, 2009

Meyer Lemon Layer Cake

Meyer Lemon Layer Cake

The only downside to my Japan trip was missing J's birthday. Fortunately, his friends took good care of him, and he and I were able to celebrate before we left.

Juicing and Zesting

J loves all things lemon, so when I handed him the Martha Stewart Baking Handbook and told him to pick his birthday cake, it didn't take him long to settle on this one. I subbed Meyer lemons for regular ones, adding a soft, aromatic touch to the tartness of the curd. The cake itself is also lemon-riffic, studded with bright bits of zest.

Bright Bowls for a Bright Cake

My major departure from Martha's recipe was in the frosting, a meringue buttercream. She calls for THREE sticks of butter--I used one and a quarter, which was plenty. The frosting perhaps tasted a bit more meringue-y and marshmallow-y than buttery, but that's how I like it. The only downside to making this glorious cake was that I flew to Tokyo the next morning, so I only had one slice!

Jon Turns 31

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Tsujiki Fish Market, Tokyo Japan

Tuna Auction at Tsujiki Fish Market

Well hello there


In the summer of 2007, I read an article in Vanity Fair by Nick Tosches about the largest fish market in the world, Tsujiki in Tokyo. The market moves more than 2000 tons of fish every day, occupies over 2 million square feet, and employs nearly 60,000 people. When I finished the extensive piece, I added Tsujiki to the ever-growing list of exotic places I'd love to visit but probably won't get to for years to come. Little did I know, less than two years later, I'd be in Tokyo and up at 4:30 AM to tour Tsujiki.


Serious Squid

No perfume, no flash photography, no getting in the way: these are the Tsujiki rules. The motorized carts driven by cigarette-smoking, heavy-lidded dudes stop for no one, certainly not gawking western tourists. One highlight was catching the end of the tuna auction, where bidders compete for the huge frozen tuna pictured above. Another was talking with the propriator of Hicho, a tuna stand in the market that's been around for 150 years. They sell only Yellowfin and Bluefin, primarily fresh. And finally, the morning was topped off by a 7 am sushi breakfast around the corner from the market.

Live eel shopping, Tsujiki Market

Itty Bitty Squids

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Oishii Japan

I had the ridiculously good luck to go to Japan over Spring Break, on a trip organized by Japanese students at my graduate school. We spent a week visiting Toyko, Hiroshima and Kyoto, and of course, I ate so many delicious (oishii) treats, I'm not sure where to begin. I've spent my years in New York missing Los Angeles sushi (Hama and Saito to be precise), but LA has nothing on Tokyo sushi at 7 am right outside the Tsujiki Fish Market, the largest in the world (more on that in an upcoming post).

Another favorite was nisshin soba--buckwheat noodles topped with mackerel--a specialty of Kyoto. I was able to slurp a whole bowl down in minutes (slurping is ok in Japan fyi), despite my tight kimono. Later that same afternoon, I had the pleasure of attending a tea ceremony (chanoyu) at Kankyuan, the center of the Mushakouji Senke tea school. Our tea was prepared by Futessai Sen Soushu, the 14th Grand Master of this school of tea. He will be in New York demonstrating a tea ceremony at the Metropolitan Museum of Art on April 8, 2009 at 2 pm.

Of course, I brought home many treats as well, including Kyoto's famous cinnamon-spiked yatsuhashi, plum wine, Japanese whiskey, and more funny sour, sweet and gummy candies than my bag could hold.

Tuesday, March 03, 2009

Comfort Cakes: Pear Spiced Bundt and Raspberry Vanilla

Pear Spice Cake

Oh March. In like a lion indeed. Had your foot of snow come in late November, I'd have been delighted. But this week? Now? I'm despondent. And cold!

Yesterday my friend Emily briefly considered saying goodbye to the cruel snowy world by throwing herself in front of the plow. What saved her? Brownies. She baked, and life was better. I can relate. A cozy apartment, a warm cake right out of the oven--almost enough to make me forget this wicked weather.

For Valentine's Day, J. and I once again stayed home and cooked together, finishing late in the evening with the Pear Spice Bundt Cake above. It's from Martha Stewart's Baking Handbook, made moist and fragrant by a homemade carmel-y pear sauce. It got better throughout the week as the spices mellowed throughout the entire cake. For the full recipe, click here and scroll down.

Raspberry Cake

This dessert, a simple raspberry vanilla cake, was whipped up last Friday for a dinner with friends. Of course, that night it wasn't snowing, but raining (also depressing). However, a warm cake on your lap while you take the cross-town bus makes the weather a bit more bearable. The golden raspberries came from my favorite neighborhood grocery store, Barzini's, and the recipe came from Epicurious. The original called for marsala and a side of creme fraiche. I substituted Patron Citronge for the sweet wine, and skipped the sides. I also used a smaller pan than called for, which wasn't ideal, but our hosts didn't seem to mind the dark brown edges. After all, at least we weren't out in the rain.

Thursday, January 08, 2009

Beet and Citrus Salad and Bourbon Chocolate Bundt Cake

Bourbon Chocolate Bundt Cake

One of the keys to fabulous dinner party? A knockout dessert--it sends your guests home happy, erasing the memory of any misses on the rest of the menu. This Bourbon Chocolate Bundt Cake--found at Orangette--is just such a dessert, rich and dense and fragrant. Even better, it's not fussy--no frosting, no last-minute messiness, just a one-pan delight. Maker's Mark was my poison of choice--as Orangette recommends, you should use quality booze because you're definitely going to taste it, but I'd save your priciest bourbons for sipping since you need a whole cup of the stuff.

Citrus Salad and Swiss Chard Tart

To be honest, the only memory of last night's dinner party that I hope the cake erased was that of the middling carrot dip, a recipe from the New York Times. The rest of the meal was just divine (if I do say so myself). A homemade rosemary focaccia, a swiss chard tart, and a seasonal salad of clementines, blood oranges, beets, blue cheese and arugula. I roasted the beets the night before, left them in their skins in the fridge, and peeled them right before I made the salad. I dressed it with a lemony champagne vinaigrette, a little salt, a little pepper.

Now if you'll excuse me, I have some leftover cake to eat.

Monday, January 05, 2009

Squash, Chickpea and Couscous Salad

Butternut Squash, Chickpea and Couscous Salad
Before adding the dressing and mixing it all together.

After an epic two week holiday vacation visiting family and friends in Wisconsin and Iowa, it's time for me to step away from the cookie plate and back to the vegetable aisle. J is off to glorious California for work, so I've packed this week's menu with the vegetable he loves to hate--winter squash.

Tonight's dish was a version of this salad from one of my favorite foodblogs, The Kitchn. I ditched the goat cheese and the walnuts, added fresh spinach and used spinach couscous. I also roasted my squash with some curry powder, salt and pepper--not included in the original recipe. And finally--I changed the name; in my opinion, the squash is the star, and in my version, the chickpeas outnumbered the cranberries. Truth be told, I may not need another squash recipe all week--I have more than enough of this delicious concoction to feed me until J returns from sunnier climes.