Warm Smoked Salmon with Potato Gnocchi and Balsamic Glaze (FLC)

This may seem like a ridiculous statement to make, but I honestly believe that The French Laundry Cookbook is the most educational cookbook I own.

FLC and Bedell Cellars Gallery

My favorie cokbook and one of my favorite bottles of wine – Bedell Cellars’ “Gallery” white

As a home cook who is pretty comfortable with a wide range of cooking techniques and ingredients and who is (I think) relatively skilled in the kitchen, I don’t generally look at cookbooks as learning tools, but as inspirational ones – if I’m looking for meal ideas, the cookbook shelf is one of the favorite places to look. And of course, the FLC has inspiring recipes in spades. But for me, the greatest value in cooking out of this book is the wealth of information, techniques, and advice from master Chef Thomas Keller that allow me to hone and perfect the skills I already have and bump my cooking up to the next level. Continue reading

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Project Balcony Garden: Starting with Seeds

The growing season in my area runs from approximately mid/late-April through early/mid-November; because our last frost date is relatively late in the year, it means that some  plants need to be sprouted indoors to give them enough time to grow to harvesting/fruiting size. That means that to make my garden work, I’d need to start few plants from seed nearly two-months before our frost date: the tomatoes, peppers, basil and cilantro are all heat-loving and long-growing plants and need that head start.I was both incredibly excited and incredibly nervous to get my seeds started – this is the first test of my previously-absent green thumb, and if my seeds don’t germinate or if  I don’t handle them properly and they die, I won’t have enough time to start over from scratch. Continue reading

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Project Balcony Garden: First Steps

So, since my camera died and I can’t really afford to replace it right now, its going to be difficult to post food photos and recipes for awhile. Luckily, I’ve got my garden project to keep me busy and keep you entertained!

In my first post about this project I talked about the excellent guidebook I’d been reading to learn all the ins and outs of growing edible plants in containers. One of the first (and probably most important) pieces of advice in the book is that in order to be successful gardening in a small space, you’ve got to plan, and plan intelligently. Luckily, I’ve got a bit of an OCD streak and I adore this sort of thing, so once I’d gotten through the parts of the book that were relevant to my interests (skipped most of the sections on edible flowers and fruit – not in the cards right now) I pulled out the graph paper and tape measure and got to planning. Continue reading

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New York Wine Expo 2011 and a Bowl of Duck Pho

This year for Un-Valentine’s Day (I’ll explain later) Justin surprised me with tickets to the New York Wine Expo at the Javits Center in Manhattan. Pretty cool, right? We’ve been suffering a sad lack of good wine in the house over the past 6 months due to some tight financial conditions, so an opportunity to get out and try a whole bunch of good wine, all of it new to us, was quite a treat. Plus, I’ve never been to the Javits Center, which seems bizarre considering I’ve been living in NY for over 10 years now (eek!). So, on Saturday (2/26) we bundled ourselves onto an LIRR train and headed into the city for fun, wine-centric afternoon. Continue reading

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Coffee-Rubbed London Broil and a Defense of Bobby Flay

I will come out and admit right up front that I am no longer much of a fan of The Food Network. Where it used to be the default destination on my cable remote, I now feel that I’ve mostly outgrown their rapidly declining programming. At most I’ll turn on Iron Chef America (which has also gone downhill somewhat but which I still enjoy a great deal) Good Eats (if I can ever manage to catch it), or Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives (don’t judge, I love me some triple-D). The cooking shows have, as a general rule, fallen off.

Coffee-Rubbed London Broil, Smoked Red Pepper Sauce, Succotash

Coffee-Rubbed London Broil, Smoked Red Pepper Sauce, Succotash

However, it was through The Food Network that I was first introduced to Bobby Flay and his intensely-seasoned, chile-laden southwestern style of cooking. I know many people take issue with Chef Flay due to his somewhat arrogant bearing on tv and his apparent inability to cook anything well that doesn’t match up with his usual M.O. And I can understand why those people feel that way – he annoyed me for a long time too, and I was unimpressed by the casual way in which he tossed around chipotle peppers and his single-minded devotion to all things grilled.

I was annoyed, until I tasted his food for the first time. All it took was one meal at Mesa Grill New York and I was a fan for life. Continue reading

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A new challenge

One of my lifelong goals is to be as self-sufficient as possible when it comes to food acquisition,production and preparation. To my mind, the first step along that road is learning to garden; specifically, to learn to grow edible plants in containers.

The container part of the equation is mostly out of necessity – at the moment I’m living in a 2nd floor apartment with no in-the-ground garden space, and have to make do with growing things on our balcony. However, after doing a fair amount of reading about container gardening,  it seems to me that containers have a lot of advantages over a traditional garden: portability, flexibility, a lack of pests and soil-born disease, and complete control over soil quality. These seem like good reasons to keep planting in containers even when I have space for a real garden, if only on a supplementary scale, and I think that having these skills will help me for the rest of my life. Continue reading

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Classic Meatloaf, Peas and Carrots

Lets take a break from all the diet-friendly, light-and-healthy stuff for a minute and take a brief, delicious detour into comfort-food-land.

I don’t know about the rest of you, but here in New York we’ve been buried under over a foot of snow since Christmas, with major winter storms battering the tri-state almost every week. They’re saying its the worst winter in at least 6 years, and that January 2011 was the snowiest month in New York’s history (or at least as long as they’ve been keeping track of such things).  Its certainly the worst winter I can remember since I was a kid, and all this snow, ice, and frigid cold absolutely necessitates hot, hearty, and homey meals.

Classic Meatloaf w/Peas and Carrots

Classic Meatloaf w/Peas and Carrots

Enter the meatloaf. This isn’t something we make often, but a recent feature in Fine Cooking’s February/March 2011 issue on this classic favorite inspired me. Continue reading

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