Red Clay & Rosé

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Tenez + Apéritif

The ochre shade of a red clay tennis court beams especially bright on summer days. In New York City we’re surrounded by so much silver, blue, and black that other colors seem to pop out of nowhere – like the red chile oil in Chinese food or the green meadows in Prospect Park. The Riverside Clay tennis courts on Manhattan’s Upper Westside provide a burst of orange that catches every runner, driver, and cyclist by surprise.

Saturday, June 10th was one of those bright summer days, and we both had red clay fever. The French Open was nearing its climax, with Rafael Nadal prepared to win his 10th title in Paris the next day. Hillary and I agreed it was the perfect occasion to visit the Riverside courts for an afternoon of tennis. Without passports or airfare, we transported ourselves to Paris via the C train to 96th Street.

Once on the court, Hillary smashed cross court forehands and I slid for drop shots at the net. We even were sprayed by a passing, five minute sun shower, as if we were in Paris for-real. We left the courts with ankles, socks, and shoes stained orange by the dirt.

Our Parisian afternoon wouldn’t be complete without an apéritif at White Gold Butchers – a combination restaurant + meat purveyor. We talked tennis over sips of rosé and bites of layered potato fries and summer squash. From the color of the courts to the decadent crispy, lard fried potatoes, our day felt like a getaway without having to leave the 212.

Bonne Maman Jar Gazpacho

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Not tomato juice, but chilled, drinkable soup

I’ve always been wary of gazpacho. Bad batches can end up tasting like salsa or tomato juice. Often, you have an urge to over spice it. Tomatoes, some mild veggies, a little bit of salt and vinegar – how could these ingredients be enough for a flavorful, satisfying soup? But if you start adding a little bit of heat or some extra garlic you begin to veer dangerously close to Bloody Mary sans vodka territory. No one wants a virgin Blood Mary.  Lots of Americanized recipes list bread chunks or croutons in their ingredients, in order to add a little bit of thickness and texture. Or worse, they leave the soup chunky. This is called salsa. And while it’s better than a virgin Blood Mary, you don’t want to sip on salsa.

Every time I make gazpacho I get nervous. Nervous that the nice farmer’s market tomatoes I paid a pretty penny for are going to go to waste. I could easily whip together bruschetta or a simple tomato salad instead. Perfectly ripe, local tomatoes are a summertime gem! And they should not be wasted. I was relieved to find that this gazpacho recipe by Julia Moskin, is not a waste. Trust in this recipe. So long as you buy quality ingredients and follow the directions you will end up with a soup that is creamy, refreshing, and full-flavored. Use some heirloom beauties to give your soup a lovely hue.

Ingredients:

  • Roughly 2 lbs ripe tomatoes, cored and cut into chunks
  • 1 cubanelle pepper (or another long, light green pepper), cored, seeded, and cut into chunks
  • 1 cucumber, peeled and cut into chunks
  • 1 small mild onion (red or white) peeled and cut into chunks
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 2 tsp sherry vinegar
  • salt, to taste
  • 1/2 cup olive oil + extra for drizzling

Directions

  1. Combine tomatoes, pepper, cucumber, onion, and garlic in a blender. You can also use an immersion/hand blender and do this is a deep bowl. Blend at high speed until very smooth, at least 2 minutes. Make sure to scrape down the sides as you blend.
  2. While blending, add the sherry vinegar and salt. Slowly drizzle in olive oil. The mixture should become emulsified, like a salad dressing. If the mixture still seems a little watery add more olive oil.
  3. Strain the mixture. You can do this through a food mill. We used a cheese cloth/colander combo, squeezing the mixture through a couple cheese clothes in batches. Throw out the solids. Transfer the mixture to a bowl or pitcher and refrigerate. It will taste best if you keep it in the fridge for at least 4-6 hours. Refrigerating in a metal container will cut the fridge time.
  4. When ready to enjoy, taste and adjust seasonings if necessary (more salt and/or vinegar). Serve in glasses. Drizzle quality olive oil for an extra nice touch and a little additional flavor.

Details: Makes 8-12 servings.

Aperol Spritz

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Simple, refreshing, summery

When the temperature starts to rise in New York, I ditch red wine for chilled rosé and mix margaritas more merrily and frequently (I drink margaritas year round, but summer makes this behavior 100% acceptable). The summer beverage Luke and I especially love is the Aperol Spritz. Sipping on our spritzes, I like to imagine sitting at a little bar somewhere in Rome or in Florence along the Arno, enjoying an aperitivo as the sun sets. Our vermillion drinks matching the faded, orangey hues, of the surrounding ancient buildings. How lovely does that sound??

Aperol is an Italian apéritif originally produced in 1919 in Padua, Italy.  Its closest relative is Campari, the apéritif that gives the Negroni its red coloring and acerbic flavor, though it is less bitter and has a lower alcohol content. Its flavor notes are orange rind, some spice, and a little bit of rhubarb. When mixed with prosecco the result is a bubbly, light, and bittersweet drink.

Enjoying an Aperol Spritz in our balmy Brooklyn apartment is certainly not as nice as enjoying one in Italy. But the drink has transportive and transformative powers. Though the spritz is especially drinkable, you’ll find yourself slipping slowly, relaxed and in no rush to eat dinner. The air begins to feel a little cooler. Perhaps a little plate prosciutto and cheese will magically appear. I often begin belting out Fausto Leali’s A Chi. Much like the color of your spritz, life begins to take on a rosier hue.

Ingredients:

  • Prosecco
  • Aperol
  • Seltzer
  • Orange – regular or blood orange

Directions:

You can actually find the directions on the back label of the Aperol bottle. Quite simply, they are: 3 parts prosecco, 2 parts Aperol, 1 splash soda, ice + orange slice. Here’s how we do it:

  1. Fill a wine glass about half way with ice (~3 cubes).
  2. Pour in 1/2 inch of aperol.  Add prosecco until 2/3 of the glass is full.
  3. Splash some seltzer and garnish with an orange slice or peel.
  4. Stir or not – we prefer to stir everything together, but some like it undisturbed.

Salute!

Cherry Clafoutis

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In France, they say ‘cerise’

Cherry Clafoutis is a dessert that’s easier to make than properly pronounce. My mom’s directions for making clafoutis are as follows: “pour palačinke batter over cherries and put it in the oven.” The only messy part of this recipe is pitting the cherries – a task I didn’t particularly enjoy as a 5 year old child. I realize now why my mother’s directions for clafoutis are so straight-forward. She leaves out the part where I do all the grunt work and end up covered in cherry juices.

Because Hillary and I are too structured of people to actually follow the palačinke batter + cherries advice, we use Mimi Thorisson’s recipe from A Kitchen in France. Mimi actually doesn’t pit her cherries, which is something my pre-k self would have been very happy about. If you’d rather not throw caution to the wind, try these pitting methods or pick up a special pitter.

Ingredients:

  • 3 1/2 TBS unsalted butter, melted and cooled + extra butter for cake pan
  • 1 LB cherries, pits removed
  • 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/3 cup granulated sugar
  • pinch of salt
  • 1 vanilla bean, split lengthwise and seeds scraped
  •  3/4 cup + 1 TBS whole milk
  • 4 eggs
  • Powdered sugar for *dusting*

Directions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 400°F.
  2. Pit the cherries either with a pitting tool or using a chopstick.
  3. Butter a 9 inch round cake pan. Arrange the cherries in the bottom of the pan.
  4. In a large mixing bowl, mix together the flour, sugar, salt, and vanilla bean seeds.
  5. Whisking gently, add the milk and then eggs (one by one). Add the melted butter and whisk until the batter is nice and smooth. Pour the batter over the cherries.
  6. Bake for 15 minutes. Lower the oven temperature to 350°F and bake for another 30ish minutes.
  7. Place the pan on a rack and let cool for at least 1 hour.
  8. Dust with powdered sugar before serving.

Walnut Pesto

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Maybe better than OG pesto…

I learned something new while preparing to write this post. I learned that Jody Williams has another restaurant in the West Village. A restaurant that somehow I had never heard of (whaaaat). I knew about Buvette, which has previously inspired some home cooked meals, and Via Carota, her collaboration with Rita Sodi. Somehow I missed Gottino, the oldest of the bunch and quite possibly the most understated. It has a cute patio and a long spacious bar. It looks very appetizing compared to the squished “bistro” seating I’ve endured at Buvette, all for the sake of their delicious tartinettes.

There are few foods items I enjoy more than tartinettes (also known as crostinis) – a crusty piece of toast topped with a creative combination of cheese, meat, and/or vegetables. This walnut pesto is one such creation and comes originally from Gottino, but is now served at Buvette as well. Having it at Buvette for the first time, I knew I would love it forever. The rendition Luke and I make at home is very nearly as good. If I could I would eat this for dinner often – several large spoonfuls on crispy toasts with just a simple mixed green salad. Unfortunately, Luke doesn’t consider walnut pesto tartinettes substantial enough for dinner. I encourage you to enjoy walnut pesto for lunch, happy hour, dinner, maybe even breakfast. Our recipe comes from Deb Perelman. I also love this succinct recipe writeup from The New York Times in 2008, which omits ingredient measurements. Jody Williams has been serving walnut pesto for nearly ten years! That is the strongest endorsement of this recipe’s deliciousness.

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup shelled walnuts (optional: toast and let cool)
  • 1/4 cup grated parm
  • 1 clove garlic, peeled and crushed or grated
  • fresh thyme (strip a few sprigs and give ’em rough chop)
  • salt, to taste
  • splash of red wine or sherry vinegar
  •  1/3 cup olive oil
  • 2 TBS minced sun dried tomato (oil packed or dry will work, if using oil packed can go a little lighter on the olive oil)
  • sliced baguette

Directions:

  1. Using a mortar and pestle or food processor, grind walnuts, cheese, garlic, thyme, salt, and vinegar. Stir in olive oil and tomatoes.
  2. Toast your baguette slices (cut fairly thin, 1/2 inch or so). Heap a generous spoonful of pesto onto your warm slices and enjoy immediately.
  3. Pesto can be stored at room temp for up to a week.

Grainy Mustard-Glazed Pork Loin

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Mmmmmmm meat juices

Dijon mustard is one of the most versatile ingredients in your fridge. Sadly, the small Maille or Grey Poupon jar often sits in condiment asylum with months-old bottles of ketchup, mayonnaise, and salsa. It’s time to break your mustard loose from hot dog hell. The world of marinades, dressings, glazes, slaws, and sauces awaits! A grainy Dijon mustard plays a starring role in this roasted pork loin recipe. Used along with brown sugar and herbs, the mustard glaze gives the meat amazing flavor and texture. To double-down on the Dijon, make a quick side salad of arugula dressed with a mustard vinaigrette. Previously unused and unappreciated, your jar of Dijon will definitely be feeling itself after this meal.

This marinade comes from Marian Burros of the NYT. The overnight marinating is not mandatory but definitely recommended. We opted for pork loin instead of pork tenderloin, as called for in the original recipe, and modified the cooking time. But this works really well for pork tenderloin too! And if you’re curious about the difference, read more here.

Ingredients:

  • 2 lb pork loin
  • 3 TBS brown sugar
  • 2 TBS grainy Dijon mustard (if you don’t have grainy Dijon, smooth Dijon will suffice, you’ll just lose some of the texture)
  • 2 tsp rosemary and/or thyme, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 TBS cooking sherry or red wine vinegar

Directions:

  1. Make the marinade. In a small mixing bowl, combine brown sugar, mustard, rosemary, thyme, garlic, and sherry/vinegar.
  2. Place pork loin in a plastic bag or shallow bowl. Pour the marinade over the meat and turn to coat well. Let the pork loin marinate in the fridge overnight. If you’re pressed for time, you can marinate for as little as 30 minutes.
  3. Preheat oven to 400°F. Line a medium-sized baking sheet with foil. Place the loin fat side down unto the baking sheet. This can also be done in a well oiled cast-iron skillet.
  4. Roast for 25 minutes. The fat side will have developed a nice crust. Turn fat side up and roasted for another 25 to 30 minutes. To test doneness, you can insert a thermometer into the center of the loin. The internal temperature should read 155°F.
  5. Remove from oven and let loin sit for 10 minutes. Cut crosswise into thin slices.

A simple pan-sauce can be made by deglazing the meat juices in a skillet or saucepan. Luke’s special recommendation: use leftover meat to make a classic roast pork sandwich the next day.

Details: Serves 4 or 2 for dinner plus 2 for lunch sandwich leftovers.

Traveling & Eating

korean + japanese food

I took a big trip recently. Two weeks to Seoul, Kyoto, Hakone, and Tokyo. My first time traveling to Asia and my first time traveling abroad since college . The two weeks went by surprisingly quickly, as they always do. And now I’ve been back in New York for two weeks neglecting Pig n’ Pie (and all of our loyal fans!) and still reflecting on my trip. It’s taken me so long to sit down and write something because 1) we don’t actually have oodles of loyal fans patiently waiting (if you are reading this, thank you) and 2) I’ve been ashamed to admit that I made some blunders and embarrassing decisions while traveling. I ate western food more than once. I went to Starbucks (but not McDonald’s, never that). I only had one meal devoted solely to sushi. Navigating the foodscape in Korea and Japan was hard! I didn’t anticipate the struggle. And I’m not always the best dealing with the unexpected.

In the past, not being able to find that restaurant on the 8th floor of an unmarked building in Shinjiku would drive me crazy. I’d be wandering past many totally acceptable dining establishments, moronically set on finding the restaurant I read about in the guidebook. I didn’t do that this time.

I let go a little bit and I let Korea and Japan humble me. You can’t fully experience Korean and Japanese cuisine in your first visit! That’s crazy talk. Both of these countries have incredibly rich, thoughtful, and historical approaches to food. So maybe I’ll pull a Dev alla Master of None, but instead of Italy move to Tokyo to master the art of sushi making. But more seriously, I am going to take more risks cooking, without cursing myself when the results are subpar. And I’m going to make kimchi! Very unoriginal of me to choose the archetypal example of Korean food, but I’m starting with the classics. Plus, I’ve already listened to a podcast, which in millennial speak means I’m basically an expert.