Archive for June, 2008

A RECIPE: Egg & bacon potato salad

It is a common misconception that potato salad requires that the potatoes be smothered lavishly and heart-cloggingly in mayonnaise. It is also a common misconception that the only way to serve new potatoes is boiled with butter and chives. Whilst both scenarios can prove adequately tasty (the latter being the British favourite and the former being the American)- I fancy to suggest that there are other ways to serve the noble new potato.

You can open your eyes now- this really isn’t a scary concept; in fact it’s not anything new. It’s just that most of us resort to what seems easy and what they know best. When my family lived in Philadelphia we had a huge garden where my father grew potatoes, lettuces, tomatoes and as kids we would run out to the veg patch to dig some up for dinner. The excitement of digging them up far succeeded the joy of eating them. Of course they were delicious in their own right- things that come straight out of the ground generally are but it was eating them every night in the same way, as if they were simply a plate filler rather than a contributor to the overall meal that got to me. Boiled and tossed with butter and chives- it’s simple enough and sometimes it’s all a potato needs. Just not every time. Needless-to-say this approach to them rather put me off and I soon decided that I didn’t like new potatoes, avoiding them at all costs. They were boring. Rather like a side salad of iceberg lettuce.

Recently, however, I decided to revisit the boiled new potato- to start over, if you will.  Enter, the egg and bacon potato salad. If ever there is a way to improve a dish, it’s by adding two of your favourite ingredients into the pot- eggs and bacon happen to be two of mine. Don goes a little crazy when he smells bacon and does this strange sort of excited barking sound. He’s really very easy to please.

In trying to keep the salad somewhat healthy I decided to boost the flavours with the help of fresh flat leaf parsley, spring onions and garlic rather than adding any extra fat. Don agreed to not adding any extra fat, but he thought that it wouldn’t hurt to add a little extra bacon. Of course then it would have been the egg and potato bacon salad, and that wasn’t what I was going for- but feel free to go crazy on the bacon in your kitchen, excited barking sounds and all.

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Tomorrow, I promise.

They may be separated by an ocean, speak with a different accent, exchange with a different currency and prefer coffee over tea but it seems construction workers from London to New York are really all the same. You’re assured that the job can be done quickly, that they are the best contractors around, that they’re giving you the absolute best price and that they can do anything you want. Then they take 50% of their fee, do 50% of the work, leave all their equipment cluttering 1/3 of your apartment, a bed of dust on the floor so thick that even you swiffer mopper can’t cope and you spend weeks chasing them on the phone to complete the job.

The cabinets are in, the floor has been laid, the walls have had one coat of paint. Everything is in place. Except that the cabinets have no door knobs, the range has no gas, the dishwasher no connection, the sink no faucet, and that final coat of paint is yet to be completed. Did I mention that the counter tops have been measured three times now? Three times by “the best guy around” who I had to wait a week for to come out in the first place. Everything is “tomorrow, I promise” followed by a quiet “or at the latest, Monday next week”.

And so it is that I am still eating off of paper plates, washing up in the bathroom sink and rapidly despairing of microwaved meals. For the first time ever, I’m happy about the fact that I eat two meals a day at work- because that’s one less at home. In the meantime, I’m threatening to sell my contractors toolbox on ebay, tomorrow- I promise or at the latest, Monday next week.

CHEF’S TIP: Tenderising meat

Chef Todd Mark Miller of STK restaurant

Chef Todd launches the first in my new series on Chefs tips. So what’s his favourite tip? Ever wonder what use those black beady seeds in a papaya have? Chef Todd claims they work wonders at tenderising meat- so next time you find yourself scraping the seeds into the rubbish bin at breakfast, consider adding them to that marinade you’ve been concocting for your skirt steak dinner. Let me know how you get on…..

26 Little W 12th Street
New York, NY 10014
Phone: (646) 624-2444

A RECIPE: Cheats biscuits

I’m ashamed. This recipe is really such a con. Oh, I know that’s probably not the best way to introduce a recipe that I think everyone should try but it really is a recipe for cheaters. And there I was condemning Delia Smith for discarding her reputation as the woman who made everything perfectly from scratch by publishing her latest book. It’s not that I’m against cutting corners- I love simple recipes, I love taking the easy route but you’ll never find me serving a tart from the freezer aisle. Häagen Dazs ice cream, maybe.

A recipe calling for a boxed cake mix or store bought cake ordinarily makes me cringe. I am a girl who makes her own trail mix for crying out loud! Having said that, I now believe that having spent over a year living with a New York sized kitchen and now entirely without, cheating is allowed. Life is too short to overly stress when it comes to cooking, or pairing matching socks; for that matter. I confess, I poached an egg in the microwave only last week- is that cheating or just cooking for survival?

But still I was bothered by this recipe and yet when I made them I was so excited to photograph their glossy chocolate coatings and even more thrilled to find them to be perfectly delicious straight out of the freezer. Don was less enthused to begin with-“peanut butter and apricot? This kitchen thing is really getting to you.” Yes, yes it is heaven knows I’ve been whining on about it for weeks now- and it’s been a long few weeks for me too, I’ll have you know. But, this combination works! Don came around to the idea and I had to hide the rest of the batch in the freezer ready for my next sugar craving attack.

Still, I debated long and hard about whether or not I should risk my integrity by publishing it. But sometimes the trashiest recipes are the best and if I do ever get around to writing The Kitchen Renovation Cookbook- Living Without, this will ultimately be amongst the other stove-free recipes. This one is the result of scouring through boxes of ingredients on my living room floor in desperation for something sweet. A simple square of chocolate was just not going to cut it. Who says living without a oven means you can’t have, dare I say it- semi-homemade biscuits? Apparently, cheaters do win. Sometimes.

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A weekend away

Don and I just dropped back to earth after a weekend getaway-from-the-kitchen-carnage (yes, it’s still going on). It also happened to be our minus one year wedding anniversary. We left work/school early on Thursday and hopped on one of only two daily Trailways buses up to Palenville in the Catskills. The bus felt like a journey back in time, complete with a driver born in 1900, unmarked bus stops and a glimpse at a world away from Starbucks and Duane Reade’s. Only two and a half hours outside Manhattan-who knew? Palenville isn’t so much of a town as a village, a village shop that doubles up as a garage station, a village pub serving 25¢ wings on Thursday nights (Irish, obviously), a small library, a church, a post office, n a family run restaurant and a B&B- for city types looking to get out of the city. We were very much out of the city. Oh, yes.

What a city type forgets, of course is that once you are out of the city- you’re out of the city. All of a sudden Starbucks and Duane Reade’s on every corner don’t hold the same negative connotations. In fact they seem positively bloody marvelous. Palenville, was more like three hours outside the city and we had to take a break for the driver in Rosendale so the romantic picnic I had planned for when we arrived was eaten on the bus with plastic forks and little paper sachets of iodized salt. That is all but the beer, which was by now luke warm. It was only a couscous salad, one of the few grains whose instant cooking nature lends itself well to cooks without a cooker. I tossed it with teeny cherry tomatoes, handfuls and handfuls of herbs (parsley, basil and mint) that I had blitzed in my mini food processor with garlic and lemon juice and zest and then folded through some rocket and crumbled goats cheese.

The B&B was delightful and Don’s six foot three frame wrangled us an upgrade to the ‘French Quarter’ complete with claw foot tub and guide books to Paris- which were much more enticing than the leaflets for Palenville. We were in decidedly good hands though. Michael, a fellow Brit and his French wife Christine were trained chefs from the Savoy in London and the Red Cat in NYC- breakfast alone was worth the trip. A perfectly cooked omelette filled with oozing goats cheese and crispy slices of chorizo served with a potato and bell pepper hash. The kind of feast one needed for hiking and that we wouldn’t be finding in the village shop/gas station that would provide lunch. The hike ( I use the word singularly because there was only one hiking trail, and we only did it once) was supposed to start out with a two hour climb. In fact nobody had ever completed it faster than two hours and though Don and I assured each other that we were going to take things easy and plod along at a normal pace we managed to do it in one hour and forty minutes- it must be that city-type sidewalk aggression in us.

Exhausted from our five hour march we were in need of a hearty meal and Fernwood was our only option in walking distance and so there we headed. The walk took us over a suspension bridge with a sign “constructed by the people of Palenville” swaying over the top as we too swayed across the creek. The family run restaurant was located on a quiet cul-de-sac- the only business on the street and we dined in what appeared to be the family’s living room. The tables were covered with floral patterned tablecloths, the room garnished with a variety of family photos and kitch collectables and each diners chair was unique. The mother was the chef, the daughter the hostess/waitress and the son the bartender. Dad made the “made to order table side Caesar salads”. It was an unforgettable restaurant- if not for the food. Don ordered “Chicken Nicholas” for a pocket pinching $20 and I opted for the safe option and ordered the most basic thing on the menu: Tagliatelle with meat sauce. Don’s dish arrived as a whole chicken breast garnished with two shrimp and a creamy mustard sauce. On a side plate he was given eight green beans and three tablespoons of mashed potato. He cleaned the plate with gusto- but then that’s nothing unusual. The pasta was fine, the sauce on the soupy side- I finished the meal looking forward to another five star breakfast and I would not be disappointed.

Our weekend get-away was cut short by the looming storm front and we elected to head home on the early bus rather than stick it out in Palenville and the promise of another garage lunch. Pleased as I was to be heading back to civilization as the Manhattan skyline loomed in the distance I was reminded of laundry that needed to be done, unopened post and yet another inch of dust that would need to be brushed off every surface in the apartment. The French Quarter and Palenville were a long way away it was back to cooking porridge in the microwave and washing up in the bathroom sink. At least for the time being.

A RECIPE: Marinated tuna with avocado & black sesame seeds

Usually I verge away from writing lengthy recipe titles under the premise that lengthy titles = lengthy recipes; within recipes. Last week in the New York Times Dining In section there was an article about recipe deal breakers- and for me long recipes within recipes within recipes = turn the page and find another recipe. It’s not that I don’t like eating complex food or spending time over a recipe it’s that I don’t have the patience time to cook complex food. Having said that, there are so many great elements in these bite-sized beauties that it was a painstaking decision to not just go ahead and list everything involved in their making. But rest-assure these do not involve time-staking labour nor multiple bowls to wash-up in the sink- oh ye of little faith.

I made these at the charity cocktail party that I catered for United Way back in April (or was it March?) where they were gobbled up with such ferocity that I simply couldn’t keep up to speed in assembling them. The rapid flow of cocktail samples from the mixologist certainly did not aid my dexterity- and could arguably be the reason why the guests sought out the food so voraciously. And neither did it help that the party was supposed to take place across two apartments- one of which was a five minute cross-building, through the laundry room, elevator hop away from the other. Details that in hindsight I should have inquired about prior to the party. In any case, I soon rectified the problem- but only after the guests had become decidedly quite tiddled.

This was, however, a relatively simple situation to fix compared to other parties that I’ve catered for. Take, say the party where I forgot to load the car with all of my serving plates, and had to scramble in the clients cupboards to find platters. Or the party where I arrived at the clients house only to be told that her oven was broken and that I would have to use the neighbour’s- through the garden, two doors down. Or even worse the one where the client assumed that I was providing a wine waiter and I was bellowed at for having not provided one when the guests where twenty minutes away. This was also the day when I came to appreciate that Don really was my knight in shining armour- dashing out of a meeting, darting into Next to purchase black shoes and a white shirt he leapt into a cab and to my distraught rescue. He was the most hospitable management conultant wine waiter there ever was. There is never a dull moment when I cater- or rather should I say: there are enough stressful possibilities that await catering a party so the food shouldn’t be one of them. Plan accordingly.

Continue reading ‘A RECIPE: Marinated tuna with avocado & black sesame seeds’

The Sign of Good BBQ

There is a common misconception that all food stylists tamper and play with food so that it’s no longer fit for human consumption.

Au Contraire.

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