Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Culinary Road Trip: Fairway in Red Hook

Hard to believe it's been a week since Mrs. Lindsay-Abaire and I took a road trip to the new Fairway in Red Hook. As much as I hate cars, I love parking in full view of the Statue of Liberty! I had lots of thoughts regarding Fairway's brocolli (wiggly), signage (excellent) and fig jam (who cares how much it costs?! lay that shit on me!), but before I could get around to interviewing myself, someone had the call to scoop me by getting in contact with Mrs. Lindsay-Abaire, who betrayed me by taking time out of her busy schedule, rehearsing what she's going to wear to the Tony Awards, to answer this media jackal's hard-hitting questions!

Hello, i'm a very important journalist researching a very important
article for a tremendously influential publication.

What's the best thing you bought at Fairway?
mmmm. . .My Thai young coconut perhaps? I was taken also with the Fairway Thai shrimp and scallop soup -- tho' I needed to add broth. The olive bar was a hit for me too, with those wee peppadew peppers. I have a hopeful feeling about those sorbets, too.

What do you regret not buying at Fairway?

That long-ass squash you were wielding in the produce aisle.

Can you tell us a little about the prices, Ma'am?

Honestly, hit and miss -- $2.50 organic milk is big draw and they had some stands devoted to super-low priced specials, But frankly how am I getting through 3 boxes of Raisin Bran for $5 with Mr. Smoothie and Mr. Egg-in-a-Nest under my roof?

I noticed you partook of some free samples, and even demanded a free
sample of something that had not been set out for the general public's
complimentary consumption. What items would you suggest making
available to Fairway shoppers as free samples?

To contextualize my admittedly edgy demeanor at the cheese counter: My only visit to the UWS outpost of Fairway included a stop at their "Cheese Cave" where it was routine practice for the cheese monger to offer a sample of any cheese even inquired about. I was caught off-guard by our mongers reticence and worried my pal Ayun would be sold hefty-price-tag blue (which I bullied her into considering) without the first taste for free.

I would love it if they would set out some free samples of the many different hummus-esque spreads and dips that are available -- each sounds great, but boy have I been burned by laying out the green for school-paste that I am then stuck with because I don't want to waste it by throwing it out, but can't bring myself to eat or foist it on guests.

Is there room for improvement at Fairway?
I'd love a place to buy a coffee at about the half-way point in my shopping journey. Also, I'd like to not have to double-back to get to the parts of the store I miss. They kind of present you with a road to Oz-esque fork situation.

Why come you took so long in the checkout line?
First of all, my receipt is longer than my arm, so personal consumption played a role. Also there were some produce identification issues which will probably resolve over time.

Thank you. I look forward to including your uncredited research under my byline.

In other news, the Dirty Sugar Cookies Virtual Book Tour commences tomorrow! Check back every day in June for a link to the blog du jour! Or better yet, sign up to have your daily reminders sent directly to you!

Sunday, May 28, 2006

Look at what this BITCH PEAR did to my basil plant!!!

Mothertrucker! I've had that plant for five years! Bitch Pear leapt off the window sash and landed on it! Stupid pear.

Monday, May 22, 2006

Baked Salmon with Shallots and Corn Salsa

Just because my union is celebrated in the The New York Times, doesn't mean I'm not a Pig Farm Widow. As far as dining en famille goes, we're down to Mondays, at least until the show officially opens on June 27. This being the case, we strive to make it a pleasant, non-complain-y affair, which is why I smiled and said, "why, no, not at all" when Greg asked if we could listen to Fleetwood Mac's "Rumours" album. (in the name of"theatrical research". (He'd already spun the platter once in its entirety, while I was cooking, and rather than appreciate my patience, had remarked, "Boy, Bill Clinton really runined this song.) When I suggested that, as long as we were scrapping our usual French-Afro-Cuban dinnertime fare, perhaps we should give The Pretenders's "Night in My Veins" a twirl, he shot me right down! That's the thanks I get for teaching him the phrase "good old-fashioned sweat-tittied bitches of rock n' roll"!?

Domestic strife not withstanding, the evening's entree felt good, alright, even if it was just the night in my veins.

Baked Salmon with Shallots and Corn Salsa

Lay a couple of salmon fillets on a large rectangle of aluminum foil. If you've seen Supersize me, and are a reformed (or current, and I'd imagine broke) smoker, you'll know exactly how big to make those fillets. (i.e., a quarter pound, but slightly bigger, because hell, you only live once.)

Season with salt, pepper and paprika.
Slice a shallot and layer that on too. Gave me a powerful hankering for onion rings, for some reason. Must be the season.
Melt two tablespoons of butter. Spoon that on. Keep hankering for onion rings.
Fold the foil up over the dressed fish to form a nice little packet, that will spend 20 minutes in a prerheated 350º oven, preferably yours.

Remember that you forgot to buy the g*d d*mn jalapano. Dash out to the corner bodega. Run into a neighbor who spontaneously offers to have the children sleep over the night that Pig Farm opens. G*d bless Jalap*no peppers.

Boil a cup of fresh or frozen corn until just done. I use Cascadian Farm brand frozen, even if they didn't come off so hot in that recent New Yorker article. Drain and cool. (Or in my case un-cool. Tasted just fine hot. Better even, not that I have anything to compare it to...)

Quicly now, like, simultaneously even, squeeze half a tablespoon's worth of lemon juice into a small bowl.
Follow that up with
Half a tablespoon of cider vinegar
salt & pepper to taste
1 tablespoon of chopped cilantro
1/2 teaspoon of dried red pepper flakes
and 1/2 a jalapeno of freshly purchased jalapeno.
Mix it all up, dump in the corn, and call it salsa.

Spoon the salsa over the shallot-topped salmon. Serve with a lemon wedge, if you're feeling fancy.

What would you say if I grabbed the kids and absconded to Dublin for a goodly portion of the summer?

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

We'll have a gay old swine!

You know all those things you keep meaning to do, but somehow never get around to doing and then it's too late and you've missed out entirely? Don't do that with Pig Farm. Keep food in Greg's children's mouths.

Mr. Johannsen’s Righteous, Righteous Yucatán Fish

I clipped this recipe out of the New York Times the summer that Finding Nemo hit the theaters. The flames of Nemo-mania were fanned with the bootleg tape I purchased in the back room of our corner bodega, just before the entire shop went out of business with no warning. Jeez, what if I inadvertently hipped the Feds to video speakeasy by writing about it in The East Village Inky? Well, anyway, as kid’s movies go, I think Nemo’s pretty righteous. The the only thing I felt critical of was the surfin’ sea turtle. If he’d have been toking away on a big old doobie, I would have loved him to pieces, but without some tasty bud to shore up his character, he was just annoying. (After ten or so viewings, I’ve made my peace with the bias against overt stoner references in children’s films and now look forward to the way Crush screams, “Righteous! Righteous!” when the East Australian Current grabs him.) Dang, if only every movie had such a memorable cast! Greg’s favorite is Bruce the Great White Shark, Inky has pledged allegiance to the seagulls, and Milo digs the nameless barracuda who eats Nemo’s mother and all of her eggs. As for me, I’ve got a special place in my heart for Mr. Johannsen, a flounder who’s pissed that the kids won’t stay out of his yard. He’s only in one scene, but I just love the idea of a character who’s doomed to a life of constant frustration because he’s only got eyes on one side of his head. Like, he always ends up looking the wrong way.

So, you can make this recipe with any flat fish– last night I used gray sole – but I named it in honor of Mr. Johannsen because the first time I made it, I used flounder. Look, children, we can extend our enjoyment of the movie even further, by eating the flesh of one of our favorite characters! Originally, the recipe called for cilantro and grape tomatoes, but I’m just laying down the basics because that Nemo anecdote puts me at risk for carpal tunnel.

Mr. Johannsen’s Righteous, Righteous Yucatán Fish

Slice 5 cloves of garlic and fry them in two tablespoons of canola oil in a heavy little skillet over medium-low heat. Everything will work out like it’s supposed to if you treat it like popcorn. Shake it back and forth, lift it off the burner every now and then, and the second you think it’s done, remove from the heat, and sprinkle with salt (and pepper, which is not very popcorn-y, unless you think of it as black salt.) Now that I think about it, there’s nothing to stop you from eating it like popcorn, though you’ll probably want more than five cloves. The finished product should be a nice, crispy Coppertone tan. Set it aside.

Oh and speaking of garlic, do try the garlic fries the next time you find yourself drinking beer at Mo Pitkins. You’ll never want to eat anything else.

Now put 2 more tablespoons of canola oil in a big heavy skillet and give it a second to heat up on medium high and it’s Adios, Senor Johannsen! A pound and a half ought to do you for four people. To save time, pick skinny fillets. They need to cook in a single layer, so you may just need two skillets. For god’s sake, it’s not a crime! Toss in a couple of dried red chilis and tend to your limes. Do not attempt to flip Mr. Johannsen. There’s nothing you can do for him now. Haven’t you done enough, already?

Actually, no you haven’t. Did you forget about your limes? Let’s go! Squeeze them! Both of them! (That’s right, both means two!) Pour all but a couple tablespoon’s worth over Mr. Johannsen and put that spatula down! There will be no flipping tonight. If you need something to occupy your hands, turn the flame down to medium, or toss in some grape tomatoes.

When the fish (I can’t bear to call him Mr. Johannsen any longer. All he wanted was to be left alone to live a quiet life with no dang kids in the yard.) is cooked through – you’ll be able to tell because the flesh will be white and depending on how thin it is, possibly even pulling apart, transfer it to the serving platter. You can put some cilantro in the pan juices before pouring them over, but no need to. Perhaps you don’t even like cilantro! Distribute the reserved lime juice and the crisp-fried garlic (unless you ate it all while you were watching Finding Nemo for the forty-zillionth time).

F*ck the DaVinci code! Like that guy doesn’t have enough publicity? My new book,
Dirty Sugar Cookies: Culinary Observations, Questionable Taste snuck onto the shelves this week. If it hasn’t hit your local indie bookstore yet, by all means request a copy (or ten)! Why should Amazon hog it all to themselves? Speaking of Amazon, a popular question seems to be, “Where should I buy the book in order to give you the most benefit?” My answer is, you buy it where you want to, and then, if you like it, please take a moment to post a positive customer review on Amazon. Come on, I know you know how to use a computer, I think you know how to read, and it’s only a matter of time until the folks who considered No Touch Monkey! And Other Travel Lessons Learned Too Late a blight upon our country’s reputation figure out that I’ve got a new baby for them to bash!

And furthermore!
Looking for Friends With Benefits? Or maybe just someone who can help you navigate modern high school sexual mores? My friend, Mrs. Lindsay-Abaire is only TOO happy to help! Tune into Law & Order SUV, excuse me, SVU, tonight to see her strut her stuff as school pyschologist, Barbara Collins. That's a pocket warmer in her pocket, by the way, though I'm sure she would have been happy to see you, had she noticed you ogling her from the other side of the tube.

Sunday, May 07, 2006

Sexy Mushroom

Dare to be Heinie!

It's a girl...

I'll endeavor to post the recipe tomorrow. Until then, let us join this sexy mushroom in wishing Mrs. Lindsay-Abaire a very happy birthday.

Friday, May 05, 2006

Campbell’s Cream of Poblano

Okay, not really. It’s a purely reflexive modifier, owing almost entirely to my upbringing. No way I would have touched this stuff in 1970's Indiana, but you can take that as an indication of how good it is.


Cream of Poblano Soup

Blister the hell out three poblano peppers. If you’ve got gas burners, you can lay them right on top, though best to alert the household what’s up, or someone’s likely to call the fire department. Those things pop! I guess I would to, if someone tried to lay me on a gas burner. Good luck to you, if yours is an electric stove. You’ll probably have to build a bonfire or something. When they’re charred all to hell and back, seal ‘em up in a paper bag, and forget about them for 20 minutes.

Chop 1/2 a red onion nice and fine. You call that fine!? Mince me up a clove of garlic, Private, and when I say fine, I’m talking Chantilly lace!!!!

Melt 2 tablespoons of butter over low heat, add the onion and the garlic, and for pity’s sake, try not to subject them to the same cruel fate as the poblanos. They like a man with a slow hand, capiche? They like a lover with an easy touch. Three minutes and they’ll be eating out of the palm of your hand, provided you don’t eat them first.

Add 2 cups of milk and 1 cup of vegetable broth and by vegetable broth, I mean a little brown lozenge the size of a cough drop, dissolved in 8 ounces of water. (Remember 1974, how the powers that be insisted that it was only a matter of time before our system of weights and measures became obsolete? My poor parent’s were riddled with anxiety about it! I was like, “Don’t worry, Daddy, it’s all divisible by ten. I can show you what a centimeter is!” Talk about a tempest in a teapot. Or maybe it’s just a very slow implementation. Give the old people time to get used to answering machines and automatic tellers before we spring the deciliters on ‘em.

Whisk half a tablespoon of cornstarch into a half-cup of heavy cream. If you’re watching your waistline, I feel it’s my civic duty to inform you that that “light” cream is only 20 calories less per tablespoon (teaspoon, whatever) and no doubt goes to the same aerobics class as that hideous low-fat cream cheese that makes me want to run screaming into the arms of Dr. Atkins.

When your milk soup has attained a gentle simmer, dribble in the cornstarch mixture, whisking all the while, and if you could use a good hand job joke about now, scroll down to the homemade mayonnaise I made earlier in the week, because I only work blue when I’m in the mood.

Release the poblanos from their papery prison and slice them fine (I’m counting on you to know what that means by now.) Add them to the soup, along with:
1/2 cup of fresh or frozen corn kernels (I favor me the Cascadian Farm brand)
1/2 teaspoon of salt
& some fresh ground pepper

You know your kitchen's too dang small when you start storing honeydews on your burners.

Let it simmer for 15 minutes, before bowling it on up with some crumbled feta and chopped cilantro.

Finicky children will be punished with strawberries.

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Free Mangosteens!

My pals over at Perceptive Travel, would like to treat you to a Dirty Sugar Mangosteen with an optional side of Monkey Brains.

If you're down with the juicy flavor you'll find there, you can pre-order another couple hundred pages worth, in anticipation of the Dirty Sugar Cookies Virtual Book Tour, coming to a blog near you this June!

Monday, May 01, 2006

Asparagus and Smoked Fish in Homemade Mayonnaise

I discovered the maiden issue of Edible Brooklyn in a drop box on Atlantic Avenue last week. Apparently, Brooklyn is but the latest entry in a whole slew of edible cities (and peninsulas). I’m not sure if features on the contents of John Flansburgh’s refrigerator will turn many low-budget hipsters into subscribers at $28 for four issues, but I’m hooked, and will continue to pick it up as long as they keep dumping complimentary copies on the corner of Court and Atlantic. (This neighborhood is a veritable cornucopia of free reading material! Lately, there’s been a gratis stack of Paper Magazine amid the piles of Cobble Hill Couriers and Brooklyn-Queens Parents littering the windowsill at tatty old Met Foods. Back in the day, it seemed to pride itself on exclusivity. I applaud the circulation department’s brave decision to bring a Max’s Kansas City sensibility to the proletariat and live in hope that soon, amyl nitrate will be available for purchase in the gumball machines, so the produce boys and I can fully experience the glam lifestyle.)

Speaking of insiders, Edible Brooklyn’s editrix is on the payroll of NYC’s Greenmarkets, which is good news for organic farmers, neighboring beekeepers, makers of artisan cheese, stalwart seltzer sellers and (who knew?) a smokehouse in Greenpoint, all of whom received favorable mention alongside, if not actually in, Herr Flansburgh’s fridge. Those looking for recipes should visit some of the blogs listed at right, because Edible Brooklyn keeps them to a skimpy two pages. The three they do publish look pretty tasty, though Neanderthal that I am, I had to ask my friend, Mrs. Lindsay-Abaire what “green garlic” is and she said, “Oh, it’s some kind of garlic you can get it at the farmer’s market around this time of year.”

For shame, Edible Brooklyn! How many free fiddleheads is that organic garlic farmer slipping in your string bag, to get you to compromise your journalistic integrity with such glaring product placement? I was like, “You know what? No. I’ll try your recipe but I’m using regular garlic." For all I know, that daffodil-like stem that's beginning to shoot up from the head I bought last week is green garlic! Also, I used way more smoked fish than recommended, an inadvisable amount of sage and cooked my supposed-to-be-raw asparagus because I know my husband’s limits. And I’d do it again, if only to guzzle some homemade mayo that didn't quite set up right! To get Edible Brooklyn’s take on things, you can subscribe, or drag your carcass to one of their designated drop-off locations.

Asparagus and Smoked Fish in Homemade Mayonnaise

Mince a couple cloves of regular old garlic, unless the green garlic lobby has you by the short & curlies, in which case, one stalk will allegedly do you.

Mince one scallion. (Is that the same as a spring onion? Maybe I’d know, if I was in the pocket of Big Organics! As it is, I'm having difficulty distinguishing between scallions and green garlic, as pictured above.)

Combine the garlic and the scallion with a lemon’s worth of lemon juice in a ceramic or glass bowl.

Add 2 tablespoons of water and 3 egg yolks, reserving the whites for some other purpose. (Like scrambling for a low-cal breakfast the next morning. Slather ‘em up with a heaping helping of that leftover homemade mayo and you’re in for a treat!) Whisk only to combine. Preserve your wrist strength for the next step, the one that made me think of that lover’s lane hand job scene in Animal House,where Babs, the icy sorority girl, ("Greg, honey, is it supposed to be this soft?") peels off her rubber gloves with an audible snap. (Or maybe you have a food processor.)

Add olive oil, one drop at a time, whisking all the while. How much olive oil? Fuck if I know, Babs. I ran through a fifth of a bottle or so, and never quite achieved that Hellman’s like consistency, though as viscous sauces go, my semi-solid mayo ruled. It did drive home just how fattening the stuff is, but I try not to dwell on such matters.

When you can’t whisk no more, add salt and stick it in the fridge.

Go into the wild, catch a trout, smoke him (or deliver him unto Greenpoint), remove the bones, skin & head, and chop the meat into whatever size chunks you like to eat with asparagus and homemade mayonnaise. Alternatively, my friends at Fish Tales will fix you up with a pre-killed, pre-smoked speciment that’ll eliminate most of the grunt work for a mere six bucks.

Steam a bunch of asparagus. Greg got a pained look on his face, asking “Al dente? in such a piteous tone of voice I couldn’t help but return them to the steamer until they were still bright emerald, but lacking in crunch. When they’re cool enough to handle, cut them into bite-size segments and put them in a bowl with the trout. Dress with as much mayo as you see fit.

Grate a radish. (I swear to god, I have no idea what to do with the other dozen radishes I was forced to buy to get this one. If I weren’t such a dunce with the digital camera, I could try my hand at recreating the cover of Robyn Hitchcock’s Invisible Hitchcock) Salt it, dress it up with some sliced fresh herbs (I used half a smallish bunch of sage, which I incorrectly thought wouldn’t be too much, as long as I fried it in olive oil, forgetting that every last drop of olive oil had gone into the mayo. Moderation is key here. Maybe skip the radish and herbs all together, but if you can’t bear the thought of that, mix ‘em up with a spoonful of mayo and use this to decorate the top of the delightfully still-warmish salad.

Following my cholesterol-rich breakfast the next day, I figured I’d better see about putting myself on a leash, given my desire to not entirely disgrace myself in my tail, come the Mermaid Parade . Accordingly, I both emailed and phoned Mrs. Lindsay-Abaire to see if I could lay some leftover homemade mayo on her when we picked the boys up from kindergarten, but damn her hide, she’d gone incommunicado on me. No matter. As the kids were getting their after school ya yas out, pushing each other down the slide, I found myself engaged in a pleasant chat with a neighbor woman I’d heretofore exchanged only garden variety pleasantries with, and after about fifteen minutes, I decided to offer her the precious gift of my leftover mayonnaise. She was only to happy to accept, once she’d ascertained that my reasons for wanting to rid myself of it had nothing to do with spoilage. Of course, I ran into Mrs. Lindsay-Abaire as I was exiting the schoolyard. I informed her of the terrible cost of her inaccessibility, and she retaliated by ringing my doorbell with these exquisite leftover Portabello enchiladas! Despite the professional packaging (also leftover), these babies were home cooked and you bet that was some good eatin’, Girlie Sue. I’ll have to write Gourmet to see if they might be able to persuade the chef to share her recipe. In the meantime, let's indulge in a fantasy whereby everybody cooks up a storm on Monday, then earns a busman’s holiday by exchanging leftovers on Tuesday.

PS - The beautiful cartoon at the top of this post comes to us courtesy of Natalie Dee! All rights reserved, as well they should be.