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Saturday, August 27, 2011

Next Magazine Review - The Hurricane Club

The Hurricane Club
260 Park Avenue South (@ 26th St)

Set a course for adventure at The Hurricane Club! When my 16-year old niece came to New York for the first time, amidst a flurry of activity, I took her to the splashy, exotic supper club cum tiki bar then newly arrived, on Park Avenue South. Looking for something Manhattan-sized to show her, we certainly found it at this sprawling scene—and lady, can it ever get loud! The conceit proposes a modern retooling of glamorous watering holes like Trader Vic’s with such things as a tiki hut fashioned from glass beads presiding over the capacious bar as evidence.

We sought respite from the storm under towering palm fronds and while I tugged away at a #12 ($14), a beautiful cocktail, similar to a Mai Tai, comprised of Hurricane rum, lychees, and homemade orgeat, garnished with mint, pineapple, an orchid and an umbrella (‘natch), my niece sipped on something fruity and non-alcoholic.

The Imperial Pu Pu Platter ($33) for two featured our chosen selection of cunning chipotle-laced BBQ Cones, crispy Peking Duck with sriracha mayo, fresh Hamachi Poke with avocado, French breakfast radishes, sweet yuzu, and P.B. & Guava Jam with prosciutto and powerful Thai basil which I would just order for dessert.

A Table Salad of Tuna Carpaccio ($27) was well composed, with flowery red and green oak lettuces and avocado tossed with an unobtrusive lemony aioli miso.

When we dabbled with the Wok-Seared Filet ($31), a signature main offering of medium rare shaking beef and crisped watercress, my niece informed me it was the best steak she’d ever had! Ziran Paigu ($24) a.k.a. “stolen” Shanghai spareribs were really good, with the full, fragrant flavor of lemongrass riffling through the nose. Delicious Hawaiian Fried Rice ($16) served in a sizzling hot stone bowl is surely a must have as a side, with a soft fried egg on top and chunks of pineapple all mixed together tableside.

Desserts being part of the maelstrom, I suppose, good Chocolate Kill-Devil’s Food Cake ($14) is proportioned to be shared, with a showering of Valrhona chocolate pearls, awash in a caramel rum sauce.

First published in part in Next magazine.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Fried Green Tomatoes, While We May

There she sat in the crisper in all her gracious, green plump beauty, taunting, tempting me to have my way with her, aching to be consumed: the last Aunt Ruby's German Green Tomato from my friend's Secret Garden. But what to do? Pickles? Sweet relish, perhaps--or simply relish some fried green tomatoes. I dove into the latter and never looked back. I suggest going forth as well and make the most of these obscenely succulent wild fruits while the season is upon us. The recipe below is certainly quite suitable but I can hardly take any credit for the particular dish I served. I merely stepped aside and let nature in her simple, resplendent beauty astound.

Per usual, my comments are in italics.

Fried Green Tomatoes
Adapted from
1 cup cornmeal
1½ Tbsp. Cajun seasoning I used Old Bay seasoning to marvelous effect.
1 tsp. kosher salt, plus extra for sprinkling
¼ tsp. freshly ground black pepper
½ tsp. red pepper flakes
½ tsp. dried thyme
Canola oil for frying
3 medium-sized round green tomatoes, sliced ½-inch thick
Grated Parmesan cheese to taste (optional) Absolutely no need for this.

Shake the cornmeal and seasonings in a plastic bowl with a lid (or use a large plastic storage bag). Yes, just like Shake n' Bake.
Heat about 1/8-inch canola oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Who can measure that? Just coat the skillet with the oil, placing the tomatoes in when oil is just about smoking and then add more oil around them, just enough so oil reaches half of the tomatoes slices and aren't submerged when it's time to flip them.
Add 4 to 6 tomato slices to the breading mix and shake to coat.
Fry the slices in the hot oil until the cornmeal browns, turning once, about 2 to 3 minutes per side. I think it takes longer, so plan on that.
Remove from the oil, transfer to a paper towel-lined plate or baking tray, and sprinkle with salt while they are still hot. Great idea! And repeat with the rest of your tomatoes.
Top with grated cheese before serving, if desired. No! Don't strangle it!

Thanks to for the image.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

The Secret Garden

How I loved reading Frances Hodgson Burnett's book The Secret Garden when I was growing up. I couldn't help but be reminded of it over the past weekend. Baby and I went to my hometown in NH to celebrate the wedding of my childhood friend. At the after-after-after party the next morning, we were invited for Bloody Mary's where we beheld a breathless, wondrous garden that was exuberantly, extraordinarily tended by our friends' neighbor next door. Once invited over, Baby and I went hog wild, plundering the wealth of vegetables and set to thinking immediately just what we would do with all of our shameless bounty! We knew we had to work quickly while everything was achingly fragrant and fresh. Relying mostly on our imagination, this is what we chopped, grilled, juiced and pureed.

Rosie Daley's Grilled Vegetables
This recipe was a perfect foil as it utilized so much of our finds, including sliced yellow squash, eggplant, red onions, and a chiffonade of basil.

Zucchini Bread Pudding with Whiskey Sauce
I love this zucchini bread recipe but I didn't use enough butter or flour or both in the pan and some of it stuck, so to make up for the mess I cut the bread up into cubes and covered it with the whiskey sauce so it would appear it was all quite deliberate and intentional. The friends and co-workers that we shared it with were none the wiser. I didn't have any walnuts as the recipe suggests, so I added some chocolate morsels to give it some body--it turned out to be a little sweet, so I appropriated Jamie Shannon's (Commander's Kitchen in New Orleans) whiskey sauce recipe on for balance. He uses 1 1/2 cups heavy cream, 2 teaspoons cornstarch, 2 tablespoons cold water with 1/3 cup sugar and 1/3 cup bourbon. As he writes, "bring the cream to a boil, combine the cornstarch and water, and add the mixture to the boiling cream, stirring constantly. Return to a boil, then reduce the heat and cook, stirring, for about 30 seconds, being careful not to burn the mixture. Add the sugar and bourbon, and stir. Let cool to room temperature." Then pour it over your pudding!

Cucumber Cocktail
We juiced a bunch of cucumbers for improvised soda which is perfect to serve with Hendrick's gin on the rocks. Boil a 2:1 ratio of water and sugar until combined. While this is happening, juice 4 or 5 kirby cukes or 2 medium sized cucumbers to yield about 3 cups of juice to make several cocktails. Each cocktail should have a decent amount of gin suited to your liking, with a TB of the simple syrup, 2 or 3 TBS of cucumber juice, a brisk spray of lemon or lime and a liberal splash of soda water. The simpler version is to just order a case of Mr. Q. Cumber's cucumber soda from and mix one 7 oz. bottle with a scant cup of Hendrick's gin; either way, the drink should be stirred with fervor and served on the rocks and or gently shaken and served straight up to slake the summer thirsts of two people.

Marinara Sauce
For our Eggplant Pizzas courtesy of the brand new iPhone app! While we sauteed a chopped onion, 2 crushed garlic cloves and a small green pepper in a little olive oil, we pureed ten cherry tomatoes, two beefsteaks, and a single yellow gem that were all bursting at the seams for sauce with a slice of a small hot red pepper for some heat. The yield was about 6 cups and we cooked down to 3 cups in a reduction pan and added a thread of chopped basil upon finishing before composing the eggplant dish with our sauce that tasted ripe off the vine. And did I mention we fried slices of a rotund green tomato (with outrageous orangey yellow innards) and poured the sauce over the beauty as well for good measure?

Purple Cabbage Salad
To pair with a Puerto Rican roasted pork (Pernil al Horno) that we were planning, we thinly sliced a beautiful head of cabbage, and tossed it with a simple dressing based on a Michael Lomonaco recipe: 1/4 cup red wine vinegar, 1 TB Dijon mustard, 1 TB sugar, several chopped shallots, 1/4 tsp salt, 1/4 tsp black pepper, 1/4 cup each (or so!) of blood orange olive oil and chipotle olive oil. Process all of the ingredients except for the oils, which are to be slowly drizzled in at the end until combined and silken. The dressing yields 1 cup.

Who says it ain't easy being green?

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Tea Total

Suitably stunning for summer-stuffed coolers, I'd like to present a few beachy recipes featuring the new line of 100% Natural Lipton Iced Teas. Teetotalers are welcome to try naturally, but with the inclusion of some boozy goodness, these invigorating refreshers are at least a different view on what Grandmama used to sip back in the day—and whether or not she added liquor to her iced tea was entirely her own business!

White Citrus Sangria

Serves 4
1 bottle Lipton 100% Natural Diet Green Tea with Citrus
1-3/4 cups white grape juice (or try a crisp and fruity white wine!)
1/4 cup orange juice 1 evenly sliced orange, lemon, and lime

Pour Lipton 100% Natural Diet Green Tea with Citrus and grape juice or wine in a large pitcher. Toss in the fruit and stir it around with a cocktail spoon of choice. Chill at least two hours before guests arrive and serve in chilly glasses filled with ice.

Watermelon-Cucumber Refresher

Serves 3
1/2 cup grated cucumber (use a microplaner for this or simply puree a peeled and seeded cuke)
1 bottle Lipton 100% Natural Diet Green Tea with Watermelon

Combine Lipton 100% Natural Diet Green Tea with Watermelon and cucumber in a 1-quart glass measuring cup or pitcher. Strain after 30 minutes, once the mixture has acclimated to room temperature. Refrigerate until the spirit moves you. Serve in frosty ice-filled glasses and complete the cocktail with slices of cucumber and fresh mint leaves after perhaps throwing some vodka into the mix.

Pina Tea-La Da
Serves 3
1 bottle Lipton 100% Natural Iced Tea with Lemon
1/2 cup pineapple juice (a can of Dole will do)
1/4 cup cream of coconut, such as Coco Lopez fresh pineapple wedges (optional)

Put all of the ingredients in a blender until smooth. Pull out a few tall glasses and serve over ice. Consider garnishing with wedges of pineapple freshly pulled from a tree. Light rum would be a natural enhancer here with a dark rum floater.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Dog Days of Summer

LinkPut on the dog as you continue to pursue your barbecue with a few recipes to serve along with your hot dogs, adapted from Bark in Brooklyn. I sniffed ‘em out and promise they won’t bite!

474 Bergen Street, Brooklyn

To make a really top dog, this is a great topping.

New York Style Sweet & Sour Onions
Serves 20-25 hot dogs
4 large white onions, thinly sliced
1 tsp. vegetable oil
½ tsp. salt
1 12 oz. can of whole peeled San Marzano tomatoes
¼ cup plus 2 T. red wine vinegar ¾ cup white sugar 1 T. salt, to taste, with 1 T. on reserve

Heat a large wide pan over medium heat and add oil. When just smoking, add onions and salt and cook them until softened. While the onions are cooking, puree the tomato, vinegar, sugar, and add additional 1 T. salt in a blender until smooth. Add this mixture to onions and cook down until completely dry, about 25 minutes over low heat. Let cool overnight.

Who doesn’t love a side of slaw?

Bark Cole Slaw Dressing
2 ¼ cup mayonnaise
2 T. cider vinegar
¾ cup pickle juice
1 tsp. sugar
1 tsp. salt
½ tsp. celery seed

Mix all ingredients together in a bowl and set aside.

Slaw Ingredients
3 cups cabbage, thinly sliced
½ cup carrot, shredded
1 tsp. salt
¼ tsp. sugar
½ cup cole slaw dressing

Mix the carrot and cabbage together and toss with 1 tsp. salt and ¼ tsp. sugar. Let sit for at least 4 hours, then drain and squeeze out liquid. Mix the dressing and drained vegetables together and serve.

Thanks to for the photo!

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Tonight's Menu - Saffron Risotto with Sea Urchin

It all started because Baby brought home a cunning container of sea urchin with saffron spread from O & Co. one day. As he was soon to have a birthday, I decided to start a pre-celebration incorporating the unique, subtly briny, caramel colored paste into a pasta dish using Todd English's sea urchin sauce as a road map. He even tosses in lobster! Choosing not to venture outside and not having lobster on hand I went a simpler route. I looked to the cupboard and found a packet of Knorr risotto with saffron looking back at me--if you cannot find this prepackaged, just toss in a few crumbled saffron threads yourself. Risotto is not as difficult to make as you might imagine and these packets make it even easier when following the ready-made directions on the back. Simmer this arborio rice in the appropriate amount of water required to cook and do look after it but once the rice is al dente (or tender according to your preference) it is ready to be served.

I needed to use a cucumber that was lurking in the fridge and as I love the crunchy cucumber summer salad addressed below, I thought that would be a good starter; incorporating ingredients such as ginger, rice wine vinegar, and sesame oil that are used in seaweed salads seemed an ideal preface to the sea urchin risotto. The idea of such exotica led me to concoct an old world Bamboo Cocktail first created in Japan to get the party underway--and we continued on to celebrate Baby's birthday for an entire week!

Bamboo Cocktail
Adapted from Saveur magazine
Makes 1
"This elegant drink was created in the 1890s by Louis Eppinger, the manager of the Grand Hotel in Yokohama, Japan, to slake the thirst of visiting dignitaries. Two kinds of bitters, orange and Angostura, add an aromatic dimension to the sherry."
1 1⁄2 oz. dry amontillado sherry
1 1⁄2 oz. Noilly Prat dry vermouth
2 dashes orange bitters
1 dash Angostura bitters
Twist of lemon
1. In a mixing glass, combine sherry, vermouth, bitters, and cracked ice. Stir ingredients for 20–30 seconds until well chilled and strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Add a twist of lemon and serve.

Smashed Cucumbers with Ginger
Adapted from Saveur magazine
Serves 4
4 kirby cucumbers
Kosher salt
1 1" piece fresh ginger, peeled
1 tbsp. sugar
1 1⁄2 tbsp. rice wine vinegar
1 tsp. sesame oil
2 garlic cloves, roughly chopped

Cut cucumbers into irregular chunks about 2" long and 1⁄4" thick. Transfer cucumber slices to a medium bowl, sprinkle with 2 tsp. of kosher salt, mix, and set aside at room temperature to extract excess liquid and let them soften, about 1 hour. Meanwhile, julienne ginger; transfer to a medium bowl and set aside. Drain and gently squeeze cucumbers to extract more liquid, then pat dry with a towel. Add cucumbers to the bowl of ginger along with sugar, vinegar, sesame oil, and garlic. Toss to combine and season with kosher salt, to taste. Let rest at room temperature for at least 15 minutes before serving to allow the flavors to come together.

Sea Urchin Sauce
Recipe Courtesy of Todd English; translated into English by me
2 tablespoons shallots, minced (about 2)
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 teaspoon (pinch) crushed hot pepper flakes
1 teaspoon of dry oregano
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 cup of sweet vermouth (a perky white wine is preferable)
1/2 cup chicken stock
4 ounces sea urchin (12 to 18 whole urchins)
1/2 cup butter, cut into chunks
1 tablespoon chopped parsley
Salt and ground black pepper to taste
1/2 pound shucked and cooked lobster meat

In a 9-inch saute pan over medium-high heat sweat shallots, garlic, hot pepper and oregano in the olive oil. About 2 minutes, until limp. Add vermouth and chicken stock, reduce this by half. Add sea urchin, cooking for 30 seconds. Whisk in butter, chunk at a time, breaking up urchins as you mix. Add parsley. Season with salt and pepper. Add lobster at the last minute. Toss in sauce, and the pour over spaghetti. Toss with spaghetti.

I used this recipe, making adjustments here and there for what was already in the house. So: Make risotto, add saffron if need be--follow sauce recipe, adding in two or three TBS of the surprisingly sweet sea urchin spread in the sauce instead of actual sea urchins listed. At end, add sauce to risotto a few minutes before risotto is done and let it all get acquainted, throw in an extra pinch of pepper flakes and 1 TB of spread and blend just before serving for a really good balance of flavors.

Scoops of Sharon's Mango Sorbet followed for dessert.

Thanks to for the image!

Soundtrack: Charles Mingus, Mingus Ah Um; Frances Faye, The Capitol Years; Lennie Tristano Collection, disc three

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Shouldn't You Just...?

Sprinkle kosher salt over sliced cucumbers for about an hour before wringing out their liquid with a fine flour sack towel in anticipation of cooking dinner? Reserve the cucumbers as you will while the fragrant, damp towels serve to refresh your hands as well as your cutlery.

Modern advice on etiquette for the not-so-new millennium.