IT SEEMED APPROPRIATE to break fast with breakfast. Mint was observing Yom Kippur and had not eaten since yesterday at sundown so the choice was hers; a big fan of the crepes we made last week, her choice was no surprise. The filling? Raspberries, blueberries and a little Chambord:
1 1/2 cup raspberries 1 cup blueberries 3 tbsp Chambord liqueur 1/3 cup tangerine juice 1 1/2 tsp water 1 1/2 tsp cornstarch 1 tbsp lemon juice
In a small bowl or measuring cup, mix cornstarch and water. Combine Chambord and juice in saucepan and bring to a simmer. Slowly add cornstarch mixture and mix or whisk well. Allow to simmer for one minute. Add lemon juice and remove from heat. Add berries, mix, and allow to sit while you make the crepes.
Spoon into crepes, fold, and decorate as desired
Substitute to your heart's content. Orange juice for tangerine juice, blackberries for blueberries, brandy for Chambord--this or that for whatever combination your looking for. Apples, cranberries and brandy would be a good idea; bananas, nuts and amaretto would be tasty too. Oh, the combinations are endless.
DoSirak 13 E. 13th Street New York, NY 10003 (212) 366-9299
JEANIE AND JEFF were in the mood for Korean food, and I could hardly complain. This modest kitchen just below Union Square turned out a tasty dolsut bibimbap with grilled eel and addictive kimchi pajeon, spicy pickled cabbage in a rice flour pancake. But getting back to the bibimbap, the mashup of spouts, zucchini, carrots, egg and hot sauce is easily enough reproduced, but I really need to get me a proper stone pot to cook me up some crispy rice at home. So tasty.
MIKE EATS NEXT TIME: Union Square can be suspiciously void of good food at times--DoSirak is absolutely worth a visit.
Anyhow, this little update is merited: The TONY Award-nominated spot, since its humble brunch beginnings, has expanded on its sandwich and breakfast menu to include a dinner menu with hot dogs, burgers, roasted chicken, mussels, and everybody's favorite: mac and cheese. The Basil Mac, a pile of gooey pesto-green spirals with fresh tomatoes and basil, lives up to expectation. (There's a new website too.)
MIKE EATS NEXT TIME: Of course--there's classic Old Mac to be had.
Empire 2642 Broadway New York, NY 10025 (212) 663-6004
ANOTHER DAY, ANOTHER brunch, another Street Fair.
My mom and I wove our ways through the sea of white tents and tube socks towards the promise of The City Grill and another brunch of bellinis and Bloody Marys. We were again rewarded for our efforts. And it was a reprise of smoked salmon as well, this time wrapped in egg whites with chives and cream cheese. Filling, similarly priced, but far from the nearly flawless display of egg excellence at Serafina.
We then spent our afternoon wandering the halls of the American Museum of Natural History. The Museum's featured exhibit of the moment, Mythic Creatures: Dragons, Unicorns & Mermaids, was a sprawling survey of tall tales from the around the globe, the buzzkill of debunking tempered by a kind spinning of the stories into accepted traditions. And, of course, we didn't miss the dinosaurs, meteors or every schoolchild's dream: exquisitely crafted agricultural dioramas.
Pink unicorn, shiny rocks, space rocks, and some sweet, sweet diorama action
Mint and her Dad joined us a little later and a little further uptown for dinner at Empire. The Chinese-Japanese joint serves all the standard fare you'd expect at such a spot, perhaps with just a bit more panache, and an array of vegetarian mock-meat dishes. The home style bean curd is worth trying, and the salt and pepper shrimp is light and perfectly peppery. The service is generally miserable.
Of course, no visit to the Upper West Side would be complete without a Steph sighting, so we swung by Dive 75 for a few drink with Steph and a round of her favorite game, Apple to Apples. A lot of days end with drinks and good times, but this City reminds you it's okay to start with them too.
MOM'S FLIGHT LANDED in Queens around 10:00 a.m., by 11:00 she was in Brooklyn, and by 1:00 p.m. we were in Manhattan sitting at the Dream Hotel's glittery Serafina restaurant, perusing the brunch menu. The whirlwind was calmed by the brunch-included Bloody Marys. And the Salmon Benedict was pretty alright too--perfectly poached clouds of egg whites and running yolk piled atop smoked salmon.
Dining with the glitterati at Serafina
Brunch at Serafina, aside from being delicious, is just a short walk down Broadway to a matinee, which was our plan for the afternoon. Kathy and Frank came down from Connecticut for the occasion, and we were joined by a few of my ma's YSU cohorts who flew out for Wicked and the weekend. Afterwards, we wandered around a nearby Street Fair before taking the subway uptown to the excellent Bello Giardino.
The hole-in-the-wall Italian join was packed this time around, and our "just in case" phone call a few hours before to make dinner reservations for seven in the garden proved prophetic. Bello Giardino's informal atmosphere rightly attracts diners reveling in its superbly fresh pastas; my tri-color gnocchi with shitake mushrooms and goat cheese was a wonderful take on the doughy Italian favorite.
MIKE EATS NEXT TIME: Serafina is an enjoyably showy spot to take visiting friends; Bello Giardino is fast becoming a favorite.
THE ORIGINAL RECIPE called for artichokes, but Mint does not eat artichokes. So, spinach it is! No complaint here. Please do buy the spinach fresh, though, and blanch it in some boiling water rather than resorting to the canned stuff if at all possible. These make a quirky dinner and (being delicious and very portable cold) a pretty good breakfast too. Also, this was my first attempt both making crepes and cooking with leeks--I look forward to doing both again. You will want to assemble:
1 cup all-purpose flour 1 1/4 cup milk 1 egg Pinch of Salt Vegetable oil 1-2 cups cooked spinach 1 large leek 1/4 cup margarine 2 tbsp flour 2 tablespoons milk 5 oz. goat cheese 2 eggs, separated Nutmeg + Salt + Black Pepper
First, the crepes: Blend flour, milk, egg, and salt in a food processor or blender (if you do not have such a machine, whisk very, very well by hand--the batter should be quite runny). Brush a medium-sized frying pan with a thin layer of vegetable oil and bring to medium-high heat. Drop less than 1/4 cup of batter into pan with one hand; with free hand, quickly swirl batter around to coat the pan as thinly as possible. Cook both sides briefly to light brown. Set aside under a moist, clean towel and keep warm.
For the filling: If you buy fresh spinach, blanch the leaves by dropping them into a pot with a few inches of boiling water and simmer until just tender. Drain well, chop. Then, cook spinach with thinly sliced leek in butter over low heat for approximately 12 minutes. Mash with the back of a spoon and season well. Stir in flour and cook for one minute. Remove from heat and add milk, cheese and nutmeg. Cool and add egg yolks. In stainless steel bowl, whisk egg whites until they form soft peaks and carefully fold into spinach mixture.
Fold crepes in half twice and spoon spinach mixture into crepe pocket. Set filled crepes into lightly greased baking dish and bake for about 15 minutes in oven at 375-degrees. Serve hot.
SWEET AND SPICY, these fried yam fritters are a delicious side dish or appetizer. Add some crushed red pepper or a few extra chilies if you want more than a hint of hotness. And be sure to let the batter cool quite a bit before attempting to form into small patties with your hands--the mixture will be very soft. You'll need the following:
4 medium yams 2 eggs 1 tomato, chopped 3 tbsp scallions, chopped 2 green chilies, chopped 1 shallot, chopped Milk Salt + Pepper Garlic Powder Bread Crumbs Flour Vegetable Oil
Peel yams and cut into chunks. Boil in salted water for 20-30 minutes until tender. Drain and mash with a small amount of milk and two tablespoons of beaten eggs. Add tomato, scallions, chilies, and shallot. Season well, mix thoroughly. With well-floured hands, form mixture into small round fritters. Dip fritter entirely in beaten eggs and coat with bread crumbs. Fry about 4-5 minutes until golden brown.
TOFU CREAM CHEESE is not usually a product about which I find myself having much to say. Mostly, the stuff stinks. Not for a minute do I believe I am eating cream cheese while attempting to enjoy a bagel laced with a Tofutti impostor, and its bland taste and suspect texture belie its healthier reputation. Except for this: Tofu Gourmet Spread. Mint found it at a market in Brooklyn Heights. Not only does it manage to approximate the sweet flavor of real cream cheese, it maintains its healthy status and I don't find myself wincing when I bite into it. Vegans and lactose-challenged of the world, unite!
Of greater immediate importance, however, is the goat cheese on this pizza at Prohibition. Not that the pizza was really all that remarkable, but it was had in the company of Steph and friends gathered to celebrate Ms. Steph's birthday. If you missed the event you might atone by heading out to Long Island in mid-October to catch the one-and-the-same Steph appearing in a regional production of Jeckell & Hyde. Further bulletins as events warrant.
MY FIRST EXPERIENCE with rice and beans, and perhaps my most memorable, was on Spring Break in Mallorca, of all places. My roommate, Derek, from Texas, the both of us studying in Madrid at the time, and our two traveling compatriots were all staying on the Spanish island for a week and continually played chess with our budget lines attempting to keep ourselves properly full of wine and/or food, whichever was more important that day. This usually skewed in favor of wine, as beans, rice and produce could be even more cheaply procured than our favorite 2-euro boxes of vino.
We returned one evening from driving around the Mediterranean coast and Derek dropped into a large pot with some olive oil the black beans he had soaked overnight, some garlic, onions, green peppers, chilies and a few tomatoes, adding a bit of salt and pepper (since traveling with cumin and paprika hadn't really occurred to us). This was simmered for quite some time and piled atop plenty of soft rice and our feast was complete. Beans 'n' rice was instantly a favorite meal of mine and I found it often during the rest of my Spanish stay, frequently listed on menus there as cristianos y moros--Christians and Moors. The Spanish are never much concerned with political correctness.
It's been some time since I last made the dish, and I'll admit the leftovers from Saturday's late-night Mamá Mexico binge were its inspiration. The ingredients and technique, however, are mostly the same as Derek's original recipe, with a few additions:
8 oz. black beans 2-3 small tomatoes 2 green chilies 2 cloves garlic 2 small shallots 3 scallions salt, pepper 1 tbsp ground cumin 1/2 tbsp cayenne pepper 1/2 tbsp paprika 1 c. basmati rice olive oil aged cheddar cheese
Soak beans overnight. In a large pot, add enough olive oil to coat well the shallots and garlic. Fry over medium heat for 3-4 minutes. Add cumin, cayenne pepper and paprika, continue to cook for 60 seconds. Add beans and just enough water to cover. Chop tomatoes and scallions, reserving a handful of the scallions; add to simmering beans. Make sure there is just enough water to keep the beans simmering and let sit for at least 20 minutes. Taste, season, and add water as necessary.
Simmer down, now.
To cook the rice: Rinse rice well. If you have time, allow rice to soak for up to 3o minutes; drain. Add 1 cup of rice and 1 1/2 cups of water to saucepan with just a pinch of salt. Bring to a boil. Lower heat to a simmer and cover tightly. Let sit--read: do NOT lift lid--for twelve minutes. Immediately remove from heat. Let sit for at least five minutes before removing lid.
Fluff rice with fork. Grate cheese. Grab a handful of scallions. Take a large scoop of rice, heap on black beans, and throw scallions and grated cheese over top. Pick up fork. Give thanks to God, Allah, or Whomever, but it's nice to see the two faiths coming together in rich, spicy harmony over a flour tortilla.