Archive | August, 2011

How To Cook Chewy Chess

31 Aug

Several weeks ago, I went to my very first pop-up shop since moving to New York. Martha Stewart opened up a weekend pie and tart shop to celebrate the release of her new cookbook, Martha Stewart’s Pies & Tarts.

Sadly, there was a one-pie-per-person limit. There was a lot of pressure in making just the right choice. After no small amount of deliberation, I chose this Chewy Chess Tart.

Chess pie was my favorite pie for most of my childhood. I never had any idea what went into one. I just knew I liked it. Now that I consider myself somewhat of a baker, I am fascinated by this pie and its simplicity. How is it possible that sugar, butter, and eggs can evolve into something so amazingly good?

This pie tastes far more complex than its list of ingredients might lead you to believe. The baking of a custard-like pie, however, can be a bit tricky. While I tend to like underbaking by a smidge, that is not the way to go with this one. If it’s not baked long enough, you’ll end up with a gooey mess.

I am a big fan of this nontraditional (to me, at least) vanilla cookie crust. Honestly, if the pie doesn’t turn out just right, you could be content just eating that crust.

How To Cook Black-Bottom Cookie Bars

31 Aug

Having lived in the South all of my life until last year, summer has always meant unbearable heat and a few months of staying inside as much as possible. I won’t say that it doesn’t get plenty hot here in New York. It certainly does. Thankfully, though, it’s not quite as long-lived as all of the other summers I’ve known. As I write this in mid-August, it’s already feeling a little bit like fall outside.  A few weeks ago, the good folks over at Everyday Food were kind enough to send me a copy of their special summer issue. With my brand new summer attitude, I delved in and found several recipes to add to my seemingly insurmountable “to-try” pile.

These cookie bars called to me. They were practically begging to be made. So, make them I did. And a wise decision that was.

Imagine, if you will, a bar with a rich, chocolate-y bottom layer. There’s no cream cheese involved in the top layer, but the taste and texture are reminiscent of cheesecake. I can only describe it as the cousin that cheesecake actually likes. The total package is a soft, chewy, delicious treat not just for summer. This kind of goodness works in any season in my kitchen.

How To Cook Soft Boiled Eggs with Mushroom Salt and Truffle Oil

29 Aug

It’s been a while since I have been on my breakfast soapbox here, so allow me to once again wax evangelical about my favorite meal. You all know how breakfast is supposed to be the most important meal of the day, I am sure. It’s been a constant refrain of a million cereal commercials and mothers all around the world. So, I won’t bother repeating it…although it seems I just did.


I’m here to tell you that breakfast can be your best friend. It is exactly what you need at the beginning of your day, when the carnival of “the whole world” and all its demands/wonders/foibles has not yet made its way to you. It can be that rah-rah-rah that gets you going. It can be that comforting hug that tells you that this too shall pass. It can be the buttressing you need to get through an especially trying workday. It can be the elixir that lets you move mountains/change the world/answer 100 emails/do the laundry.

When I say breakfast, I don’t just mean what you eat, but also the time you take to eat it. Giving yourself a dedicated moment (no matter how long or short – I prefer long and luxurious, but I am aware that we do live in the real world majority of the time) to start your engine can be just as important as what you use to start it.

What’s that you say? You’re not a morning person? Well, let me tell you, with much resolution, neither am I. I hold a PhD in sleep and have, in the past, spent a good part of my life waking up at noon. But I can promise you, in all sincerity, that it is worth it. It really sets the tone for my day, gets me started confident and raring to go, instead of rushing forth blindly, blouse untucked, without plan or compass. It also keeps me from getting to lunch time starving, devouring the closest thing at hand, whether that be a week-old serving of Spam or 3 stale Krispy Kreme donuts.

Believe you me, breakfast is in all our best interests. Take the time to enjoy it. Here’s another way how.

Soft Boiled Eggs with Truffle Oil and Mushroom Salt (and toast soldiers)

2 eggs (the best you can find/afford)

A drizzle of truffle oil, to taste

A sprinkling of mushroom salt, to taste

Toast soldiers, to serve

– Cook your eggs soft boiled using your preferred soft-boiling method. I won’t claim to have the best or sure-fire way of doing this. It’s a much-debated topic that I won’t get into here. If you’d like to know though, this is how we do it: I place the 2 eggs in room temperature water in a small pan, then place on high heat for about 5-7 minutes. I like my soft boiled very soft…just-set whites and gloriously runny yolks-gone-wild!

– While your eggs are cooking, make your toast soldiers. Toast a slice of bread, and then cut lengthways into 4 strips. You can butter these if you wish, but I forwent the butter since I used truffle oil in the eggs. A moment of uncharacteristic restraint….who knew?

– When your eggs are done, peel the tops off gently and scoop the eggs into a small bowl or cup.

– Drizzle truffle oil over the eggs and sprinkle with mushroom salt. Mix and taste…adjust seasoning. Consume immediately!

You can dunk the soldiers in the eggs or, as I love to do, just toss the soldiers into the eggs and press them down until all the egg is absorbed and the bread is a soggy mess of truffle-mushroom egginess!

Although we would all benefit, both health-wise and in taste, from buying free range eggs, their rich flavorful yolks are most especially enjoyed in preparations like these. So do spring for them if you can! The mushroom salt I chanced upon at one of my favorite stores, owned and operated by friends who are passionate about all things local and sustainable. You can check it out here. If you are in Manila I highly recommend a visit…it’s a charming general store type gem offering all sorts of locally sourced goodies. Bring your own containers if you want to stock up on salt and rice. I love the subasta cacao, any of the sea salts, and the lemongrass hand wash.

I hope this has inspired you somewhat, even just a little bit, to go and set your alarm clock a smidgen earlier, and celebrate breakfast! Rise and shine everyone!

The Run-Up to Hurricane Irene in Food

28 Aug

Creative taping and window-boarding styles were evident at many restaurants — sometimes with a memorable slogan thrown in. In this case on Greenwich Avenue: “Missed You Irene Bet You Are a Hoot.”

If you’re one of those boulevardiers who prides herself in never touching a kitchen utensil, and eating every meal out, whose kitchen still looks like the day it was renovated, maybe you’re wondering, “Where the hell am I going to eat tonight and tomorrow?”

​Looking for a place to eat? Irish bars are a good bet, this one fortified, but still open for business as evening approached.

An informal survey of restaurants conducted by bicycle from the Upper West Side to the West Village between cloudbursts indicated that many restaurant chains (Subway, McDonald’s, Qdoba Grill) and upscale restaurant empires (Danny Meyer, David Chang) where completely shuttered by decree from the top, and so were bistro-level places, especially those that depend on hip waiters who live in Brooklyn.

Indeed, the places most likely to be open (and they were multiple, especially in commercial areas) as Saturday evening approached were:

1) Neighborhood Chinese restaurants

2) Irish bars with pub grub

3) Pizza parlors

4) Neighborhood delis

The places that had stayed open seemed to be doing three or four times their normal business.

At the corner of West 11th and Sixth Avenue, for example, Famous Ray’s, Sammy’s Noodles, and French Roast (a bistro, normally open 24 hours) were all wide open. A call placed to French Roast elicited the response: “We plan to stay open 24 hours throughout the storm.”