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Cooking with Fel – Ratatouille

August 1, 2011

By this point, you should know that you should never believe me when I say I’m going to blog more often. It’s just never going to happen.

No, I haven’t cooked anything from that William and Sonoma cookbook.
Yes, I know I said I was going to.
Yes, I said it was going to inspire me.
No, it didn’t.
Yes, I suck.

However, in the past week or so I have started cooking things that I actually WANT to blog about! Therefore, Cooking with Fel is back in action! At least, for now…

———-

I’ve had ratatouille on my mind for the past couple of weeks for multiple reasons. First off, it’s summer – if you haven’t noticed, there are crates of beautiful zucchini and squash and tomatoes floating around the markets. If you’re looking for a dish that fully embraces summer vegetables, look no further than ratatouille. Secondly, I recently bought a Japanese mandoline slicer and this baby can SLICE. Piles of paper-thin vegetables, with no effort at all!

Ample summer vegetables + a slice happy Felicia = a recipe for ratatouille.

Its presentation might look tricky but honestly, ratatouille is so very easy to make, especially if you have a good slicer. If you don’t have a mandoline, you really should think about getting one – my mandoline is easily one of my top 3 kitchen investments ever, behind my Global knives and tri-clad pans.

Just to note, I did make a couple modifications to the original recipe from Smitten Kitchen, which I’ve incorporated below. Rather than chopping the onions, I just sliced the onions extremely thinly on my mandoline (almost to the point of being transparent) and layered it into the sauce. (Really, I was just lazy and didn’t want to wash another knife, but it worked out pretty well!)  Additionally, since I was baking it in a very small casserole dish, I created three or four layers of vegetables, rather than just the single layer in the original recipe. (From a cross section, it almost looks like a vegetable lasagna rather than individual slices of squash.)

Plated over a some warm quinoa, this was a great vegetarian dish!

Ratatouille
Modified From: Ratatouille’s Ratatouille by Smitten Kitchen

Ingredients:

* 1/2 onion, very thinly sliced
* 2 garlic cloves, very thinly sliced
* 1 cup tomato puree
* 2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
* 1 small eggplant
* 1 smallish zucchini
* 1 smallish yellow squash
* Salt and pepper

 Directions:

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.

Pour tomato puree into bottom of a dish. Drop the sliced garlic cloves and sliced onion into the sauce, stir in one tablespoon of the olive oil and season the sauce generously with salt and pepper.

Trim the ends off the eggplant, zucchini and yellow squash. On a mandoline, adjustable-blade slicer or with a very sharp knife, cut the eggplant, zucchini and yellow squash into very thin slices, approximately 1/16-inch thick.

Atop the tomato sauce, arrange slices of prepared vegetables, overlapping so just a smidgen of each flat surface is visible, alternating vegetables. (You may have a handful leftover that do not fit.) Drizzle the remaining tablespoon olive oil over the vegetables and season them generously with salt and pepper. Cover dish with a piece of parchment paper cut to fit inside. 

Bake for approximately 45 to 55 minutes, until vegetables have released their liquid and are clearly cooked, but with some structure left so they are not totally limp. They should not be brown at the edges, and you should see that the tomato sauce is bubbling up around them.

Serve with a dab of soft goat cheese on top, alone, or with some crusty French bread, atop polenta, couscous, or your choice of grain.

Croxley’s (Manhattan, NY) – “What The $?*!”

July 29, 2011

Novelty burgers have a soft spot in my heart. Whether it be a high-end burger like Daniel Boulud’s sirloin burger stuffed with braised short ribs, foie gras and black truffles or a low-brow burger like the McGangBang, I love my novelty burgers. Thus, when Yvo of Feisty Foodie mentioned the existence of a grilled cheese burger, I knew I had to go.

Served at Croxley’s in the East Village, the “What the $?*!” Burger is a 1/2lb burger sandwiched between two grilled cheese sandwiches.  It doesn’t sound that bad on paper but it’s absolutely monstrous in person.

Now I’ve had big burgers before but this one took effort to eat, primarily because of the grilled cheese ends. Each sandwich was essentially two pieces of Texas toast with melted cheddar oozing out – easily a meal in and of itself. The beef wasn’t half bad – it was cooked medium rare (like I requested) and was relatively moist. However, I can’t comment on the flavor since I doused the whole thing in ketchup. (The bread was too dry for me, okay?!)

(Picture taken by Yvo of Feisty Foodie)

In the end, I actually demolished that baby. Pretty impressive considering the picture above is only me eating HALF of my burger.  Of the five of us who ordered it (me being the only female), I out-ate two of them. Not bad, if I may say so myself!

Croxley’s Ale House
28 Ave B
New York, NY 10009
(212) 253-6140
Website: http://www.croxley.com/
Twitter: @croxleys

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Eleven Madison Park (Manhattan, NY) – The Gourmand Tasting

June 8, 2011

According to WordPress, I started writing this post on May 24, 2010. (I actually got started on it early!) However, like a lot of my posts of other breath-taking tasting menus, I got stuck halfway through and I’ve never bothered to complete it. (Yes, I’ve had writer’s block for more than a year, what can I say?!)

Sadly, since my meal at Eleven Madison Park (or, as I like to lovingly refer to it, “EMP”), the gourmand menu at is no more, replaced with a simple matrix of ingredients to be manipulated into full-fledged courses. However, I have no doubt that this new menu arrangement is just as good. A restaurant like EMP doesn’t just stop serving good food, and the fact that it won Outstanding Restaurant at the 2011 James Beard Awards only supports that. Dining at EMP will be an amazing experience, no matter what or when you try it.

Anyway, seeing that this review is now useless, I’m turning the post into a photo-blog. I mean, we all like photos, right…? (I know, total cop-out. But if I don’t post this now, I never will!)

Hors d’oeuvres

Course 1: Sterling Royal Caviar, Spheres of Smoked Sturgeon and Salmon Cream

Course 2: Santa Barbara Sea Urchin, Custard with Green Apple, Shellfish Ragout

Course 3: Garden Pea and Mint Lollipop

I will write something for this one: The above lollipop was the best single bite during my entire May 2010 NYC trip and the reason I considered EMP to be my favorite restaurant of 2010. Imagine the texture of a fudgsicle – that crisp, hard coating that, when bitten into, gives way to a cool, soft filling – but replace the chocolate taste with the brightest peas you’ve ever tasted. I felt like the temperature only enhanced the flavor, making it taste fresher, cleaner… I’ve been chasing the taste of peas ever since, hoping to find something similar to this bite.

Course 4: Spring Out of Winter – Variations of Asparagus with Jamon Iberico

Course 5: Foie Gras Torchon with Tete de Cochon, Pickled Spring Vegetables and Horseradish

Course 6: Atlantic Halibut Seared with Smoked Spring Garlic and Crayfish

Course 7: Nova Scotia Lobster Poached with Young Carrots, Ginger and Vadouvan Granola

Course 8: Earth and Ocean – Slow Cooked Poussin with Hawaiian Blue Prawns and Seaweed

Course 9: Colorado Lamb Herb Roasted with Sucrine Lettuce, Garden Peas and Oregon Morels

Fromage – A Selection of Artisanal Cheeses

Course 10: “Soda Pop” – Tangerine, Grapefruit, Pomelo and Lemon

Course 11: Milk and Chocolate – Variations of Flavor and Texture

Mignardises

Eleven Madison Park
11 Madison Ave
New York, NY 10010
(212) 889-0905
Website: http://www.elevenmadisonpark.com

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Boiling Crab (San Gabriel, CA) – It’s Got the Whole Shebang

June 3, 2011

If you have never had Boiling Crab, you haven’t lived.

…Okay, maybe I shouldn’t say that, especially since I now live on the East Coast, where fresh seafood is plentiful and there’s a crab/crawfish/seafood boil of some sort happening every other summer weekend. Yes, one bucket of shellfish here should be just as good (if not better) than a bag of shellfish in Los Angeles but when I compare these seafood-fests to Boiling Crab, I just feel like I’m missing something.

Maybe it’s those perfectly fried and seasoned Cajun fries that are crispy on the outside but tender on the inside. They’re so satisfying, you can’t help but smile (especially when you’re dipping them in ketchup happy faces drawn all over the wax-paper covered tables).

Maybe it’s the baskets of fried oysters; devour one basket and you’ll realize you’ll want to order another. The plump oysters are lightly battered so the oyster’s full briny flavor is present in every bite.

Maybe it’s the “whole shebang” infused in every piece of crawfish, shrimp, crab, sausage and corn. A concoction of lemon, pepper, garlic, butter and Cajun seasoning, the spice stains your fingertips and permeates your clothes with a smell that lingers long after you’ve finished eating.

Honestly though, it’s probably just the pure hunger and anticipation gnawing at inner linings of your stomach after waiting for a table for at least an hour (if not closer to two). However long the wait, it’s is worth the payoff – Boiling Crab is one of those things you just have to experience and god, it is good.

(Read my original review on Yelp.)

Boiling Crab
742 W Valley Blvd
Alhambra, CA 91803
(626) 576-9368
Website: http://www.theboilingcrab.com/

Boiling Crab on Urbanspoon

Del Posto (Manhattan, NY) – Happy Birthday to Me!

June 1, 2011

For the past 3 years, April 5th was primarily associated with one major event: It was the day we got numbers from my client.  Nevermind that it also happens to be the day of my birth – I worked in public accounting and April 5th was still part of busy season. Sure, on the day of, we’d eat a slice of cake and someone would sing me a song, but at the end of the day you’d still find me crunching numbers til 3AM.

This year was different though. You know why? ‘Cause I ain’t in public accounting anymore. No deadlines, no numbers – I took the entire day off and treated myself to lunch at Del Posto.

It had been a while since I’ve had a really nice meal out so I really wanted to go somewhere spectacular for my birthday. Out of all the places that came to mind, I couldn’t think of any place I wanted to try more than Del Posto. Recently awarded 1 star by the Michelin Guide and 4 stars by the NY Times (the first Italian restaurant in 36 years to receive such an honor), this was a restaurant worthy of the occasion.

Considering its reputation, it’s surprising how relatively affordable the place is. Del Posto offers a three-course lunch prix fixe for $29 with the option of an additional pasta course for only $10 more. Add on a free glass of prosecco thanks to foursquare (be sure to check in!) and you’ve got a four-course, 4-star meal for $40, before tax and tip.

Bread with butter and smoked whipped lardo

Some people believe that you can tell how good a restaurant is based on its bread basket alone. If I followed that rule, this meal was going to be extraordinary. C’mon – I had a whole basket of baguettes, olive rolls and focaccia and a dish of whipped lardo, JUST FOR ME.

Like most great meals, this one started with an amuse bouche…or three to be exact. Crispy Roman-style saffron risotto balls, choux pastry filled with pureed mortadella and a small shotglass of Roman-style chicken eggdrop soup were presented on a platter before my first course. (Of course, I polished off the soup before realizing I hadn’t taken a picture of the platter as a whole. My bad.)

Course 1: Zampone with Lentil Vinaigrette & Salsa Verde

A zampone is a stuffed pig’s trotter – think of a ground sausage type interior surrounded by the original pig’s own fatty skin. Exactly as you’d expect, it was a very meaty dish; the lentils and salsa verde barely held their own against the porkiness of the zampone. In retrospect, this may have been too heavy a dish to start; however, I enjoyed it nonetheless.

Course 2: Whole Wheat Tonnarelli with Spicy Cicerchie, Fried Rosemary & Shaved Bonito

I ordered the whole wheat tonnarelli for two reasons, one of which being the whole wheat pasta and the other being the use of bonito. After tasting the dish, I realized why both were a necessary component to this course. The whole wheat gave the tender pasta texture and toothiness, and the vegetable broth in which the pasta was served was thoroughly enhanced by the umami of the bonito.

Course 3: Arctic Char with Watercress, Black Truffles and Chestnuts

If it wasn’t for Danny of Kung Food Panda and his recommendation of the arctic char, I may have not have gotten an extra course. Therefore I have to thank him for this one; his choice was spot on. That fish was fatty and flaky and absolutely delectable. The nutty chestnuts and earthy truffles were a wonderful complement to the hearty fish.

Course 4: Sfera di Caprino with Celery & Fig Agrodolce & Celery Sorbetto

Finally came the course I had been waiting for: Dessert. Going into the meal, the one thing I knew I was going to order was the dessert with the celery sorbetto. It’s actually quite funny that this, of all things, caught my eye because I’m not a fan of celery at all. I’m the kind of person who smothers a celery stick in peanut butter and then only eats the peanut butter.

However, dislike of celery aside, I absolutely adored this dessert. Yes, the sorbetto still tasted of celery but it was tempered with the flavor of sugar and limes – the typically bland, watery flavor was now citric and robust! And when I paired that refreshing celery with the creaminess of the bread crumb encrusted goat cheese and the syrupy sweetness of the figs, I tasted my favorite course of the entire meal (and quite possibly my favorite course of 2011 thus far!).

Considering all of its outstanding reviews and the weight I was placing on them due to the occasion, it’s amazing that Del Posto was not only able to meet but even exceeded my expectations. The food was amazing (as you now know) and the service was delightful. (They even played “Happy Birthday” on the piano for me!) And during the entire meal, one particular thought kept reappearing in my mind: “I might be the happiest girl in the world right now. Happy birthday to me!”

Del Posto
85 10th Ave
New York, NY 10011
(212) 497-8090
Website: http://www.delposto.com/
Twitter: @DelPosto

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