I love to cook.  More than that, I love to eat.  So its very easy to make the jump of combining the two loves into one big fat delicious LOVE.  Here you will find some great recipes for dishes like Steamed Mussels, Chicken With 40 Cloves of Garlic, Pumpkin Soup, Roasted Fennel with Anchovies and Sambucca, Blueberry Pancakes.  You get the picture, good stuff!  You can post a recipe too and together we can be chefs of the city (or the country if that is where you live).  Also, I'll be telling you about some of my favorite restaurants around town.  So enjoy!   


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Urban Food

Sunday
Feb242013

Espresso!!

A sunny afternoon in the city is  the perfect time to enjoy the simple pleasure of a perfect cup of espresso.  Espresso is to coffee what NOS is to gasoline-similar but miles apart.  It is the cafine supercharger.  And a supercharged shot or double shot of espresso is exactly what one needs when the dregs of the afternoon makes the time begin to drag and energy begin to sag.  

   What exactly is espresso?  In short it is the highly concentrated brew resulting by the action of forced steam through an amount of finely ground coffee.  The steam extracts all the essential oils, flavor and caffeine from the coffee, producing a dark syrupy coffee with a 'cream' called 'crema' floating on top.  This isn't actual cream but is a light colored foam made of essential oils. What differentiates espresso from coffee is the intense flavor resulting from the concentration.  Enjoy the video!

Sunday
Feb102013

Beef Bourguignon!

Beef Bourguignon

 

Ingredients:

 

1/2 lb bacon coarsely chopped

3 lb well-trimmed boneless beef chuck cut into 1 1/2" cubes

1/3 cup all purpose flour

1 1/4 lb  peeled boiling onions

3/4 lb large carrots chopped into 1"pieces

12 large whole garlic cloves (peeled)

3 cups beef broth

1/2 cup Cognac or brandy

2 750-ml bottles red Burgundy wine

1 1/4 lb mushrooms

1/3 cup chopped fresh thyme  (reserve the stems)

1 tbsp dark brown sugar

1 tbsp tomato paste

1/2 cup chopped parsley (reserve the stems)

1tbsp whole peppercorns

2 tbsp cold butter

 

Preparation:

 

Preheat oven to 325°F. Sauté bacon in heavy large Dutch oven over high heat until brown and crisp, about 8 minutes. Using slotted spoon, transfer bacon to paper towels. Season beef generously with salt and pepper; coat with 1/3 c. flour.  Working in 3 batches, brown beef in same pot over high heat, about 5 minutes per batch. Transfer meat to large bowl. Add onions and carrots to same pot and sauté until light brown, about 6 minutes. Add a little olive oil to pot if there's not enough bacon fat to sauté the vegetables. Add garlic and sauté 1 minute. Transfer vegetables to bowl with beef.

 

Add cognac and 1 c beef broth gradually to pot scraping up browned bits from bottom of pot; boil until reduced to glaze consistency. Return meat and vegetables and their juices to pot. Add Add 2 bottles of wine, mushrooms, thyme, sugar, tomato paste and 2 cups broth. Bring to boil, stirring occasionally. Cover pot and place in oven. Cook until beef is tender, about 1 hour 20 minutes.

 

Ladle liquid from stew into large saucepan. Skim off excess fat. Add peppercorns and the reserved thyme and parsley stems to the liquid. Boil liquid until reduced to 2 3/4 cups, about 30 minutes. Season with salt and pepper to taste.  Add butter and stir until melted. Strain liquid through a medium mesh metal sieve and pour back over beef and vegetables.  Add chopped parsley.

Serve with potatoes, noodles or rice if desired. Or

 

Can be prepared 1 day ahead. Cover and chill. Rewarm over low heat before serving.

 

Enjoy!

Wednesday
Feb062013

My Favorite Coffee-part 2

      Coffee, everybody's morning friend.  The daily ritual to drive away the fogs of sleep with the steams of steep (or brew), and open the clear light of another glorious day.  Coffee being the portal to the glory.  The price of entrence so to speak.  But its more than that, its also a warm friend during the day or a 'pick-me-up' in the afternoon and for the hyper-active among us, a warm toddy to fall asleep with.  I have many different brews and companies that I like, however just lately, I've come across the most delicious brand in a long time.  And I've come across it in a most auspicious way, from clear across the country courtesy of my son who happens to be a roaster there.  The company is Java Love Coffee Roasting Co. Bethel, NY.  And their coffee is exquisite!

   According to their website, Java Love was founded as a result of a quest for a good cup of coffee in Bethel (the site of the Woodstock Festival) by 2 women, Jodie Dawson and Kristine Petrik.  Apparently they acquired a classic Dietrich IR-12 roaster (the state of the art in the art of roasting), which also came with a business in a nearby town.  They moved the roaster and the business to Bethel and are now moving full speed ahead roasting beans from all over the world and shipping all over the world.  Their commitment is to 'Coffee with Integrity'. They use only the very best Organic (O), Fair Trade (FT), Naturally Farmed (NF) and Rainforest Alliance (RA) coffee beans,  that are produced with respect for the environment and the coffee farmers.  This I find very intriguing and progressive.  And exactly the opposite of 'Big Coffee'.  And trust me, where the rubber meets the ground (pardon the pun), is in the taste!

      My son sent me as a Christmas gift, 3 beautiful packages of beans that of course, he hand roasted himself, packaged in a very cool burlap bag that had the feel of 1940's South America.  Now since they are beans, they must of course be ground.  The beans lock the flavor inside until released at the last moment by a bath of very hot, not quite boiling, water.  I use a French Press which I have found to be a very effective way of delivering terrific tasting caffeine.  The 3 blends a were: French Roast, Ethopian Yirgacheffe, and Ethopian Sidamo.  Though I love all three, my favorite is the Sidamo.  It is roasted with the berries and so retain a sweet berry-like flavor.  There is no bitterness in this coffee, no after bite. And I have found that the flavor actually improves as the cup cools down a bit-ariates-much like a fine wine.

   A word on the coffee bush itself.  Its unique as a crop in that the bush contains all at once, flowers, unripe berries and ripe berries.  What that means is that coffee must be hand picked.  And since the best coffee grows on steep hillsides in inaccessible places, the work is labor intensive.  Just like the grapes that make up the many varietals of fine (and not so fine) wine, coffee is influenced by the terroir, the climate or micro-climate and the time of picking.  And also like wine, these natural factors can be manipulated by man in the picking, roasting, grinding and finally by water temperature in the brewing.  And of course if you add milk, cream or sugar!  Its interesting to note by the way, that though most people think that French Roast, due to its dark color and fragrance, contains the most caffeine, the fact is that it doesn't.  The intense roasting actually leeches out the potency.

   If you love coffee, I highly recommend this brand, its made with integrity, love, and environmental consciousness-AND it tastes dang good!!  You can get this fine coffee from Head Roaster, Travis Rivera, at  http://javaloveroasters.com/ and it will be shipped to you pronto and fresh, just the way you like it!  

Saturday
Dec012012

Chicken With 40 Cloves of Garlic!

   It's a Rainy Sunday night, the month is December, the fire's on-what's the first thing that comes to mind for dinner?  Well, that's easy, roast chicken. There are many ways to make it but far and above my favorite is Chicken With 40 cloves of Garlic. Poulet Aux Quarante Gousses D'Ail. This is a classic bistro style French dish that I promise will make garlic lover's mouth water until NEXT Sunday!  Chicken, over everything else , is the most common dish cooked in France, arguably the gastronomy capital of the world, so perhaps the humble chicken should be given a bit more, if not respect, then appreciation.  And then there's garlic. 
   In Provence, where this recipe originated, garlic, Gousses D'Ail, is considered the Poor man's truffle. And so it is!  If it is roasted en chemise (in its shirt-unpeeled), the clove inside becomes soft, creamy, butter like, who's essence seeps into the bird imparting a savory wonderland, and also can be squeezed onto slices of crusty baguette like butter. Garlic butter.  Paired with a crisp Chablis or Sancerre, who's tartness and minerality cuts through the fats and juices of the chicken and the creamy butter of the garlic, and you have a match made in heaven!
   I would like to say something about cast iron.  In my opinion, there is no better cooking pot, pan, skillet, or griddle, then cast iron.  It heats up better and hotter than anything else.  If taken care of and seasoned properly, they last forever.  I have one that I inherited from my mother that has been in use for 60 years!  Le Creuset makes fine cast iron covered in enamel which I love as well.  To cook this dish properly, you must use cast iron.
 
   This is a meal ment to satisfy. Not haute cuisine or nouveau French, this is something mom's made.  Something you'd find on the table of a country cottage or warm little bistro in Paris. The chicken roasting in its juices along with olive oil, fresh herbs and the ever present garlic, emitting aromas almost Holy in its essential goodness, and then finally emerging from its cast iron crucible, is almost art if not alchemy. Here's how to do it!

1 large chicken
About 40 cloves of garlic
3 shallots
4 sprigs each, thyme, sage, rosemary, flat leaf parsley. 
Olive oil
Salt/ fresh ground pepper
1/4 stick of butter

  Rinse chicken inside and out. Dry. Set at room temperature for 1 hour. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Take 3 large bulges of garlic and remove the cloves, knocking off the excess paper, making aprox. 40 cloves.  Remove the skin from the shallots and leave whole.  Place the chicken into a cast iron pot or cast iron skillet with lid. Salt the chicken with sea salt inside and out. Drizzle with olive oil on both sides, rubbing on to coat. Crush 2 sprigs of each of the herbs and insert into the bird.  Take about 5 of the cloves and put into the chicken. Arrange the rest of the garlic, herbs and shallots around and on top of chicken. Cut butter into pats and place on chicken. Last, crush coarse ground pepper over bird. 

   Transfer the chicken into the oven with the lid on. Cook for approximately 1 3/4 hours. I leave the top on for the first hour and remove it the last 45 minutes, but that is optional. If you do remove the lid, you must baste the bird a couple times. Chicken is done when internal temp is 170 degrees. 
   
   Remove chicken to serving bowl, arrange the garlic, shallots and burnt herbs around it. Serve with crusty or toasted slices of baguette or French bread and a dry wine. 

   Just writing about this savory dish is making me wish I had one in the oven right now!  It's so good and so simple to prepare, I promise you, you will make this dish again and again!  Bon Appetit! 
   

 

 

Saturday
Nov172012

Awesome Pumpkin Soup!

Its a cold, rainy night sometime between Halloween and Thanksgiving and you're wondering what to have for dinner.  How about something hot, spicy, creamy, baconey, scrumptious?  How about some curried pumpkin soup?  After all, you might have an uncarved pumpkin laying around somewhere, or you've been to the market and you see all these cans of pumpkin ment for pumpkin pie in the isles and it planted a seed (a pumpkin seed?) in your mind.  So I'm going to show you how to make a delicious pumpkin soup from scratch.  

   First of all, lets touch on for a minute, the history of the pumpkin.  Pumpkins are in the squash family and are in fact, winter squash.  They are planted in Spring and are harvested in the fall.  The arrival of pumpkins is a sure sign of changing weather, the colors of Fall and Halloween.  As far as is known, pumpkins originated in Mexico and pumpkin seeds have been carbon dated as far back as 5,000 BC.  Who knew that 7,000 years later we would be using them to carve funny faces, make pies and chuck them out of catapults? They also make a fabulous soup and the seeds can be roasted in butter, olive oil, spices and salt.  

   Now you don't need to use fresh pumpkins to make pumpkin soup, you can simply use canned pumpkin.  However, there is something rustic and satisfing to fire up the oven and roast fresh pumpkin. And the roasting gives it a toasty flavor that adds another dimension to the soup.  So here is how to do it.

                                                Curried Pumpkin Soup: 

1 medium pumpkin

1 can pumpkin 

4 cans low sodium chicken broth

5 slices bacon

2 teaspoons curry powder

1/2 cup heavy cream

1 yellow onion

1 large shallot

2 cloves garlic

salt and coarse ground pepper to taste

                                                           Roasted Pumpkin Seeds:

The seeds from medium pumpkin

1/4 stick of butter

drizzled olive oil

sprinkled curry powder and salt to taste

   Remove the seeds from a small to medium sized pumpkin and put aside.  Cut it half and split the one half into 8 chunks.  Heat the oven to 400 degrees.  I would recommend microwaving the chunks until somewhat soft.  Place on cookie sheet and into the oven.  If microwaved, bake for a hour or until tops brown.  Meanwhile chop the onion, shallot and garlic medium fine and put aside.  Remove the pumpkin from the oven and using a glove to hold them, scrape the meat into a large pot.  Turn heat to medium.

   Place pumpkin seeds on cookie sheet and slice butter on top, drizzle olive oil, and sprinkle salt and curry powder on top.  Place into oven and roast until brown.

   In a pan, cook the bacon until it begins to crisp and put aside.  Add the chopped onion, shallot and garlic and sauté in the bacon drippings.  When just brown, add to the pot of pumpkin.  Add 1 can of pureed pumpkin.  Add 4 strips of bacon, saving the last one to garnish the bowls.  Pour in 4 cans of low sodium chicken broth, add salt and pepper and stir.  At this point you either blend it in a blender, or using an immersion blender, or wand blender, puree the mixture until smooth.  Bring to a boil, stirring frequently.  At the very end, pour 1/2 cup of heavy cream and stir, turning the heat down.  Turn heat off after 1 minute.  Do NOT boil the soup after adding the cream or it will curdle.  Ladle into bowls and top with roasted pumpkin seeds and crushed bacon, sprigs of Italian parsley or basil.  Serve with chunks of French bread or baguette and a crisp fruit forward wine like a Sauvignon Blanc.  Or if you prefer on a cold night, a nice mellow Merlot.  Recipe serves 10 or of course can be saved and enjoyed for a few nights or frozen for later.   

   Pumpkin soup is a delicious and satisifing crisp Autume night's dinner.  Enjoy!