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Sunday, February 24, 2013

A Dinner to Die(t) For

As Baby was away on business for three weeks and rigorously dieting all the while, I wanted to create a celebratory dinner for him upon his return; one that was delicious but also mindful, regarding pounds and ounces. I had read an article in New York magazine about the influence of cauliflower in terms of the city's tables--I was instantly intrigued as it set my mind to work on what was to be the centerpiece of our dinner--cauliflower steaks! This cruciferous vegetable has been blanched, sliced and griddled all over town apparently as of late. I was drawn to a particular description of the cauliflower first being "milk-pickled" at Blue Hill in Greenwich Village before being cooked sous vide and then seared. For a number of hours, I thought to let our halved head of cauliflower sit refrigerated in low-fat milk with a few tablespoons from a tin of buttermilk brining powder we had bought at Williams-Sonoma, shaking the mix about now and then. The cauliflower was then ready for a sear in a cast iron skillet. I wasn't sure if the whole thing would fall apart but it didn't, clinging firmly to its leaves at the base, which added a fine flavor. I think our veggie friend could have even withstood more time in the pan for an even markedly deeper char.

Garlicky kale from Fresh Direct was a great side and we absolutely fell in love with our easy-to-make, beautiful summer squash salad so fresh and full of flavor from basil and parsley with crunchy red quinoa and complementing walnuts from

Rosie Daley, Oprah Winfrey's spa chef from years ago, provided a recipe for Chocolate Tofu Cake from In The Kitchen With Rosie for a wonderful dessert! Tofu, cocoa powder, cinnamon, maple syrup, low-fat ricotta cheese and cream cheese, a few tablespoons of Godiva chocolate liqueur and Patron coffee liqueur were first all whipped up and then chilled (no crust!) to lead us to a most satisfying, guilt-free conclusion! 

Friday, February 15, 2013

Shrimp Fried Rice

I do seem to be in a shrimpy mood this week! So to further our fishy friends, here's a recipe for Shrimp Fried Rice to elevate as well as celebrate the Chinese New Year, courtesy of Jo's in Nolita delivered by chef Andrew Pressler--where else would you wish to be?

Shrimp Fried Rice
Serves Four
4 cups Jasmine rice, cooked
4 oz vegetable oil
2 Tbsp ginger, minced
2 Tbsp garlic, minced
½ Tbsp Thai chili, sliced thin
2 Tbsp scallion whites, sliced thin
¼ cup carrots, finely shredded
1/8 cup red Chinese finger chilies
¼ cup Chinese long beans, sliced thin
2 oz sweet soy
2 oz dark soy
8 oz medium shrimp, chopped
2 whole eggs, beaten

1. Lay cooked rice to dry on a cookie sheet the day before. Leave uncovered in refrigerator overnight.
2. Remove dried rice from refrigerator and crumble between your hands to break up the larger chunks.
3. Heat wok on high heat and add vegetable oil. When the oil smokes, add minced ginger, garlic, scallion whites and Thai chili.
4. Stir and cook the aromatics until fragrant.
5. Add the Chinese finger chilies, carrots and long bean. Cook until they just begin to soften and add your rice and shrimp.
6. Toss wok repeatedly to heat the rice and cook the shrimp.
7. Add the egg by drizzling on the upper sides of the wok and then stirring into the rice.
8. Add the two soy sauces and salt if needed. Scoop into bowls and garnish with scallion greens. Now eat!

Jo’s is located at 264 Elizabeth St (btwn Prince/Houston Sts). Visit for more info. 

First published in part in Next magazine.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Date Night - Whole Grain Pasta with Shrimp

I have a small confession to make. On Monday nights, Baby and I cross the hall and watch The Bachelor with our neighbors. The Mrs. is completed obsessed with the show and insists on total silence during it but her Mr. couldn't care less, even though he still watches. Baby and I however just like getting together with our friends to witness the witless parade of mewling girls fawning over the ideal, hopeful husband-to-be. There is a certain escapist sense about it, tuning in for the two whole hours every week, anticipating who will receive a rose--and who will be most grievously jilted.

Sometimes the lot of us will order in sushi together or just eat on our own before sitting down to watch. This week I offered to cook, as we had a pound of Colossal Shrimp from Trader Joe's tucked away in the freezer next to some bacon. With some sturdy whole grain spaghetti, a touch of white wine from a recently opened bottle, a few other ingredients and a little ingenuity, I made a great meal that easily satisfied four and certainly deserved a rose!

P.S. Speaking of romance and since love is in the air, this recipe could be easily reduced for just two--an ideal meal to create an intimate Valentine's Day dinner--served with a celebratory bottle of wine, perhaps. It's very quick to make, which leaves time for...other investments.

Whole Grain Pasta with Shrimp
1/4 lb bacon, cut into roughly 3" strips (I used Oscar Mayer Hardwood Smoked--delicious!)
6 or so cloves of garlic, coarsely chopped
A big splash of white wine 
1 lb deveined, tailed thawed shrimp, the bigger the better
1 lb whole grain pasta
2 TB anchovy paste 
2-3 TB butter
2-3TB olive oil, the best you can find
1 TB Lemon rock salt, or Kosher salt
Fresh cracked pepper
Grated Parmesan cheese

Fill a large pot with water and get it simmering, ready to boil quickly. On medium high heat, start cooking the bacon in a frying pan, and grind your pepper over it with abandon, flipping occasionally until nicely browned and peppery on both sides. Remove with tongs and place on a plate lined with two paper towels. Drain about half of the fat and toss in the garlic. The pan will be hot, so douse the almost immediately with a judicious splash of wine (about 1/2 cup) and remove from heat. Stir in a TB of the anchovy paste to your froth and gently simmer on low heat for a few minutes and secure the sauce in a vessel that can stand up to heat. Bring your water to a full boil, add salt and pasta and cook for 7-8 minutes. Strain when done to your liking. As the boiling process transpires, use your frying pan again for the shrimp. Melt butter, add olive oil and the other TB of anchovy paste before adding the shrimp. The shrimp cooks quickly, about 3 minutes per side. While the shrimp turns a blithely orange-pink on both sides and has become just opaque (do not overcook!), strain your pasta, which should be done by now and place into a large bowl. Toss with the garlicky-anchovy-wine froth. Incorporate your cooked shrimp evenly along with the bubbly sauce in which it has been sauteed, crumble the bacon into the mix with lots of Parmesan cheese and more cracked pepper, if you like.

Behold the bubbling bacon below--which could hardly hold still to take a decent picture!

Friday, February 8, 2013

Shouldn't You Just...?

Concoct the pale cosmo that was served at Flaming Saddles during the book launch party for my equally bracing novel, the pale of memory? The basic ingredients and method are below, but less cranberry juice is used so the cocktail appears...paler.

the pale cosmo
1 1/4 oz thrilling vodka
1/4 oz memorable Cointreau or Grand Marnier
1/4 oz shocking lime juice
The faintest trickle of cranberry juice
An insinuating wedge of lime for garnish

Pour liquids over some rocks in a mindful mixing glass. Give it a few good shakes and strain into a chilling martini glass. After a throttling the lime, throw it in at the end and do enjoy!

Flaming Saddles is located at 793 Ninth Ave (btwn 52nd/53rd Sts), 212-713-0481, Flaming

Monday, February 4, 2013

Next Magazine - Hudson Lodge Review

Hudson Lodge 
356 W 58th St, btwn Eighth/Ninth Aves, 212-554-6217, Hudson Lodge

Though the weather outside is…well, indecisive at best, one thing is certain: it snows every night promptly at 8 o’clock in Hudson Lodge, the seasonal pop-up at the glorious Hudson Hotel’s outdoor park. Gusts of artificial snowflakes propelled from several strategically placed snow blowers gently float down to make a miracle on 58th Street. Under a thumping DJ beat, garden vines extend from the grand lobby to discover roughly paneled wood planks on the walls and trophy animals, both real and imagined, filling them—heads of gazelles, boars, stags and wildebeests look on with fanciful ceramic deer for neighbors. Vintage sporting goods such as toboggans, snowshoes and ski boots thrown about add to the wintry whimsy. Should you not wish to participate in the après-ski atmosphere, you may leave your earmuffs, mufflers and mittens at the door; this lodge is tented and heated.
My fella and I met up with a few friends for cocktails and nibbles. Hudson Lodge is self-service, so we found our selections from the charming bar and food stands attended by men clad in patterned sweaters and knitted caps. Although it sounded fun, we thought better of bottle service, with Belvedere frozen in a block of ice for $150 bucks--Veuve Clicquot in a drift of SnoPowder over a bucket of ice was a better bargain at $65, but we went for cocktails instead. The Snow Cone with shaved ice was an easy decision for me. It was definitely drinkable but was so flooded with lemon juice that the elements of clementine, grapefruit and apricot juices with chamomile were difficult to discern. The Winter Holiday Cooler with pisco and bitters had exciting inclusions of fig jam and maple syrup, but was dominated by the flavor of ginger beer. On the warmer side of things, the Chocolate Bonbon looked quite a treat. It was a great sensation to discover—underneath the delicious cold cream topping the mug—tequila, Grand Marnier and hot chocolate hibernating below! Ultimately we decided a simple order of Bulleit bourbon whiskey was the best answer to the cold.
The menu is limited, with savory and sweet options. And there are no plates, just napkins—chalet style. We dipped lots of olive oil-slathered slivers of toasted country bread into a steaming tub of fondue with its pervasive hint of green chilis licking the gooey strings of Gruyère, Comté and Appenzeller cheeses as well as Brooklyn Lager, burnt garlic and chunks of well-braised pork. Wonderful chili served in red-and-white plaid cardboard snack trays was their version of a classic Frito pie, I supposed, with chipotle brisket, white cheddar cheese, onions, a dollop of sour cream and of course, Fritos.
Balk and question as you may, the S’more Grilled Cheese with ricotta, Gruyère, and cheddar cheeses laced with Nutella was a wondrous melding of flavors. I don’t know how it worked or why, but spread out between two slices of pressed, grilled bread, it was heaven. 
Homemade cookies with chocolate, peanut butter, caramel and cinnamon were made to order and shockingly good—they were still warm when they came to the table! A light dusting of crushed rock salt brought out the balance of flavors even further. Whatever the weather outside may be, inside the Hudson Lodge it’s so delightful. Let it snow!
Short Order: Pots of fondue and hot toddies are among the tasties on the tiny après-ski menu at this urban lodge. 
Peter's Picks: Chocolate Bonbon cocktail; green chili fondue; grilled cheese; made-to-order cookie
Peter's Pans: The idiotic woman who complained about the blasts of fake snow.
Prices: Appetizers:  $9-$20; Alcohol:  wine, beer, full bar, specialty cocktails.
First published in part in Next magazine