30 August 2012

croque madames

no calorie counting, no regrets
Last week I had the pleasure of dining with a very dear friend who I've known my entire existence.  You see, Lizzie B and Cathy grew up together with a bunch of other super awesome ladies and have remained dear friends since their teenage days (not that any of them are a day over 25!)  Cathy and her lovely family not-so-recently moved up to the city from the Jerz and I finally made the trip to the UES to have a visit with her.  Since both her girls are grown and out of the house and her hubby was away on business, we had the perfect excuse (not that we needed one,) to embrace our inner-fabulousness and go out as ladies who lunch.  After a few late afternoon hours of playing dress-up (thanks for the new wardrobe!) and getting all misty eyed over the pictures from kid sister's wedding (more on that in an upcoming post,) we headed a little further south to Matisse where we completely disregarded any kind of recommended daily calorie intake and indulged in a couple of croque monsieurs.  Now, most normal people would consider simply ordering and eating a croque monsieur an indulgence.  I mean, for heaven's sake it is fancy French grilled cheese - thick slices of white French bread smeared with loads of bechamel sauce, topped with thickly sliced ham and gooey Swiss cheese all melted together and served open-faced alongside fries and a 'petit' salad.  Not exactly part of a balanced diet but hey, it isn't every day I get to hang out with my longtime gal pal!  And because we were celebrating seeing one another, we may have gone a little overboard and ordered extra bechamel sauce and a side of homemade mayo with our fries.  Whatever, we got plenty of exercise by walking the 11 blocks to get there!  No judgement allowed.

my head looks so big! maybe that's where all the bechamel sauce went

It was an absolutely lovely day and I so enjoyed spending that time with my friend and hearing the funny stories she had about my mom and the gals when they were young.  It's also great just to hang out with another lady who's been through a completely different life than my own and who has the wisdom of a woman my mom's age but provides a different level of comfort... kind of like an aunt who likes to treat me like a fancy lady (I am so fortunate to have a few of those!)  I can't wait to get together again soon because I really do love a good lady lunch date.  Now if only we could get a few more of the original crew together so I could hear ALL the gossip about my wild child mom!  And maybe next time I'll convince Cathy to take a trip over the bridge into my borough... you hear that, Cathy?  Get your butt to Brooklyn!!!

24 August 2012

happy national waffle day!

It seems that each and every day is national something day, doesn't it?  One day it's national macaron day and the next it's hamburger day... how's a girl to keep up?  Well, there is a pretty comprehensive list over at The Nibble, but I prefer to just wing it.  I am usually informed of the holiday by another food blogger, my kid sister (how she knows about everything, always I'll never know,) or a news piece on some marvelous munchies and then I end up frantically rushing around to find said tasty treat or buy all the ingredients to make it all on my own.  And in my usual fashion, I found out about National Waffle day after breakfast and without anyone to share all those perfect little squares with!  Fortunately though, on an extremely long trek through the suburbia that is Queens, I stumbled upon this little gem -  

Holy cow, that must be the oldest carvel in the world!  Well, according to this ancient article from Gothamist, it isn't.  But according to the very sweet gals behind the counter, it's been around since at least the 1960s.  Now, while I did not celebrate the holiday with chicken and waffles or Waffle House or even Waffle & Wolf, I did celebrate it in a way that would make my daddy-o proud - with some vanilla ice cream in a waffle cone.  My dad loves Carvel.  I mean LOVES Carvel!  We used to drive nearly thirty minutes to go get flying saucers and soft serve cones when I was a kid.  And though it's true that waffle cones are better suited to scoop-able ice cream, the soft serve did just the trick on a celebratory hot and sweaty Friday afternoon.  So a happy holiday to you all!  Tomorrow morning will bring actual waffles (a day late and a silver dollar pancake short, but appropriate nonetheless,) my waffle maker is in need of some usage since I'm pretty sure I've only used it once since I got it for Christmas three years ago.  Yikes!  But celebrate we will and while we're at it, let's celebrate my daddy-o, too!

21 August 2012

peppery, buttery simplicity

I was cleaning out the fridge tonight and noticed that I had a big bundle of beautiful radishes that were in danger of going bad.  I hate to see good food go to waste and I wasn't about to just sit and eat a bunch of radishes at 9:30 in the evening, so I headed to the internerd to see what magic it could show me.  Being that I am a librarian, I like to think that I'm pretty good at searching for things but, despite my best efforts, a wide variety of radish recipes is not so easy to come by... especially when you're working with pretty bare cupboards, a very tight budget, and late-night laziness (don't judge me for thinking 9:30PM is late, I'm getting old!)  Of course there were beautiful, colorful summer salads with peas and Boston lettuce an bleu cheese.  There were hot and cold pasta salads with radish tops and seafood and parmesan.  And you mustn't forget the myriad recipes for pickled radishes; so many pickled radishes!  But it was too late for a meal and even if I were to save it for tomorrow, it would require a pricey trip to the grocery store and if I'm going to start pickling (which, heaven knows, I'd love to try,) I'd rather do it with good, old-fashioned cukes.  So what to do, what to do?

Among my search results were a lot of sandwich ideas.  Nearly all of them listed butter and salt among the ingredients to mix up with the pretty pink radishes.  Most of them simply said 'lightly toast brown bread, spread with butter, top with thinly sliced radishes and sprinkle with salt.'  That's it?!  I was dumbstruck by the simple beauty of this apparently widespread variety of tea sandwich.  And I was intrigued by the combination of peppery radish, creamy butter and salty salt.  But it seemed to me that those final three steps of the recipe could be narrowed down to one simple spread of a knife if the butter, salt and radishes were already combined.  Yes, I'm a genius!  So I broke out the food processor, pulsed the heck out of those radishes, creamed them with the butter and added some very course sea salt.  The pops of magenta in the creamy yellow of the butter look really lovely and, even more importantly, the burst of flavor in my mouth was so balanced and beautiful.  I can't wait to try this out as a sandwich spread - I'm imagining hearty pumpernickle bread, thinly sliced rare roast beef, and maybe some crisp English cucumbers.  Mmm now that's a tea sandwich I could get down with!  Maybe my next project will be to bake some bread, who knows?  No matter, I'll let you know what I end up doing with the mix so stay tuned!

radish butter
a big bundle of radishes (I used 7 pretty large radishes)
1 stick unsalted butter, room temp
about 1 tbsp very course sea salt
1. Rinse radishes and cut into pretty small bits.  Toss them into the food processor and pulsate until they've gotten teeny tiny but not mushy.  Wrap in a few layers of paper towel and wring them out really well to get rid of all the excess moisture.
2. In a medium sized bowl, cream the radishes with the butter (cut up in tablespoons) until well mixed and there are no large chunks of butter.  You want it all to be one beautiful, creamy spreadable blend.  Stir in the salt.
3. Scoop into an airtight container (I used my good old-fashioned mason jar) and refrigerate.  I'm guessing this will stay good for awhile but I'll let you know the specifics as I figure them out.  I may also end up freezing some because a whole stick of butter and that many radishes made more than I think I was expecting.

bakin' potatoes bakin' in the sun!

Not that Summer is anywhere near to wrapping up (I refuse to believe people who are starting to write up their 'What I did this Summer' posts,) but I wish I hadn't gone my entire beach season without this amazing piece of beach gear.  Don't get me wrong, I love my Coney Island mermaid beach towel, but this one has not just any lobster, but a B52s Rock Lobster!  I think I need to immediately get this for my last few beach trips this year... that, or I need to move to the Southern Hemisphere so I can have a whole Summer with it.

I can just imagine lounging around in the Rockaways, blasting oldies from my tiny transistor radio and praying that I have on enough SPF 50 so as not to feel like a lobster once the sun goes down.  I am way overdue for a beach trip... this weekend for shore!

I also think a good old-fashioned clambake is in order before we put our bikinis and beach bags away for the year.  A proper Frankie and Annette kind of event!  Oooo the theme party ideas are already overwhelming my Summer brain.

17 August 2012

we're going on a picnic and i'm bringing...

lobster rolls!  My summer is winding down and I came to the realization that I hadn't been on a single picnic this season.  How could that be true?  I have a beautiful picnic basket, a head full of fantastic seasonal recipes, and a pretty well-stocked kitchen.  So, on this beautiful, warm and sunny day, I packed up some snacks and trekked up to midtown for an afternoon lunch break with my honey.  Into the basket went dark russet potato chips, whiskey sour pickles, avocado and heirloom tomato salad, classic sodas, fresh berries, and whoopie pies!  Oh yeah, and buttery, toasty buns jam-packed with chunks of lobster dressed to perfection in mayo.  It was as if we were transported from the crowded, steamy streets of New York to a quaint little beachfront town in New England.  What a perfect way to start the weekend... why haven't we been doing this all summer long?  And why haven't I been blogging?  Well, I'm not quite sure why I took such a sudden hiatus but I'm back and I hope you're still here with me, beloved readers.  Check out my lovely luncheon and come back later on for some recipes and more detailed updates (oh yeah, and how about some back-posts?)  I've missed you all so much.  Let's dig in!