Author Archives: Andres

New York’s best coffee

-By Andrés

The New York Times has a map of the best coffee places in the city according to Oliver Strand and Matthew Bloch.

I’ve tried most of the places in Manhattan and, except for Gimme! Coffee, they are all pretty good.  My favorite espressos are at Ninth Street and Cafe Grumpy.  I love the macchiato at Joe.

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Di Fara pizza

-By Andrés

We finally made it to Di Fara.  We’ve been wanting to go for a while, but have always feared the long lines.  So on Sunday we decided to go and wait there before they even opened.  After more than an hour ride in the subway we got to Avenue J on the Q line and stood in line at Di Fara.

Domenico DeMarco, a Neapolitan immigrant, opened this pizza joint in 1964 and has continued to make his pizza, single-handedly ever since then.  He is 75 years old now and still going strong.

After waiting for around half an hour for our pie to be ready, we were rewarded with a delicious pizza with mozzarella and parmesan cheese, sprinkled with fresh basil and olive oil.  It was really good.  One of my favorite pizzas in the city.

Birthday celebration cake

Andrés

This past weekend we went to my cousin Lana’s birthday brunch.  There was a lot of good food, including Cremont, a great goat and cow-milk cheese from Vermont that was recently reviewed in the Times.  Among the many desserts, we contributed a birthday cake.  Having recently learned that Lana likes chocolate, we headed to Alice Medrich’s recipe collection.

Instead of making a more traditional and easy birthday cake, this time we wanted a big challenge, so we decided to bake Medrich’s strawberry birthday celebration cake from her Bittersweet book.  This is a two layer chocolate génoise with whipped mascarpone and strawberries in between.  Alice Medrich does not usually emphasize the difficulty of her recipes and yet she mentioned that several steps in this recipe were hard to master, so we were both excited and afraid to attempt to bake this cake.  The intricacies of the recipe include its artistic design and difficult techniques at almost every step in the creation of the cake.  You can see Alice Medrich baking a very similar version of this cake with Julia Child 14 years ago, here.

We started by making an external chocolate coating, which was not that difficult.

A génoise cake is a type of sponge cake that gets its volume from whipped eggs, without the use of any leavening agent.  It is the basis of many baked goods.  Baking the génoise was fun and easy, but not so much cutting the cake horizontally in two halves.  After some juggling, we managed to put one of the layers inside the coating, then added the whipped mascarpone, placed the strawberries, covered them with more mascarpone and then put the other half of the génoise on top.

We then covered the cake with a chocolate – cream glacé and finally with chocolate cones, instead of the more difficult to make fans.  Making the cones was difficult, as it involves melting chocolate, pouring it over the back of a warm baking sheet, letting it cool down and then scraping parts of the chocolate off with an offset spatula.

In the end, it was worth the effort.  Everybody was very impressed.

Yiddish food

-By Andrés


Some of my happiest and most vivid memories are of eating certain things as a child.  I remember the exact place and context when I was around 6 years old and I had a piece of spoiled pineapple that was so astringent and sour that I didn’t want to eat pineapple for years afterwards.  I also remember with a lot of pleasure the food I used to eat at my grandmother’s house.  She was such a great cook.  And now that I cook myself, I go to great lengths to try to replicate the flavors, smells, and images from my memories of the food she cooked.  So far I’ve successfully reproduced her celery soup, her potato chips, her kokletn, and her chicken milanese.  Others are getting closer.

The Lithuanian party about which Sarah posted a while ago was basically an excuse to try more of both of my grandmothers’ recipes.  I made a lokshn (noodle) kugl, veal kokletn, gehakte leber, cold borscht, and pickles.  Here are some of the recipes.

Kokletn
(Serves 6)

2 lbs. ground veal or chicken
4 large eggs
1 large onion, chopped in 1/4 inch pieces
2 tsp. chicken bouillon
Vegetable oil for frying
1/3 cup hot water
1/3 cup bread crumbs
2 tsp. salt
2 tsp. fresh ground black pepper

Fry onion over medium high heat in 1 tbsp of oil until golden brown and slightly blackened.  Dissolve the chicken bouillon in the water.  Puree the fried onions with the water in a blender.  Mix the blended onions with the ground meet, eggs, salt, and pepper in a bowl.  Add a spoonful of the bread crumbs to the bowl and mix. Keep adding bread crumbs by the spoonfuls and mix until the mixture is of a consistency enough to form a ball that will hold its shape.
Pour oil in a frying pan to a height of 1/8th inch and heat at medium high heat.  Make large egg-shaped balls (about 2-3 size the volume of a large egg) with the meat mixture and fry.  Fry about 3 minutes per side.  Transfer to a plate with paper towels and serve.

Lokshn (noodle) kugl

1 lb egg noodles (or penne)
4 tbsp butter
5 large eggs
16 oz cream cheese
1/2 lb ricotta cheese
1 lb cottage cheese
4 tbsp sour cream
1 tbsp salt
2 tsp freshly ground black pepepr

Pre-heat the oven to 300 ºF.  Cook pasta in salted water.  Drain saving 1/2 a cup of the water in which the pasta was cooked.  Mix the cooked pasta with the saved water and the rest of the ingredients in a large bowl.  Transfer to a (DIMENSIONS) pyrex and bake for ~1.5 hours until all the liquid has been absorbed and the top gets browned and crispy.  Cut in squares and serve.

Andalucía… on the road again

By Andrés

I love Spain.  I love its history, its ancient towns, its art, its culture, its architecture, and its wine.  But above all, I love its food.  The only thing they usually can’t make decently are salads which, among other defects, always contain an animal product.

Two weeks ago I visited Andalucía and I had to try some of the restaurants featured in Spain, on the road again, the culinary travel show through Spain in which Mario Batali, Gwyneth Paltrow, Mark Bitman, and Claudia Basols embarked.  Last year I tried some of the restaurants they visited in Cataluña and Valencia, which were great and a topic for a future blog.

The quality of the restaurants they visited in Granada was more mixed.  At El Rincón de la Aurora at the Albaycín, the old and charming city of Granada, I had a great (room temperature) appetizer of fava beans with olive oil and jamón serrano, which was as good as at Casa Pepe in Barcelona.  I then had a Plato Alpujareño, which is a huge dish consisting of a grilled pork solomillo (tenderloin), longaniza (a type of sausage), morcilla (blood sausage), jamón serrano, a fried egg, and patatas a lo pobre (baked potato slices with green and red peppers, onion, and a little bit of white vinegar).  I confess I substituted more longaniza for the morcilla, which I’ve never had the guts (mood?) to eat.  It was pretty good and really filling.

The food at Mirador de Morayma, the other Spain-on-the-road-again restaurant, was not that good.  The restaurant sits in the slopes of the Albaycín and features great views of La Alhambra, the moorish palaces.  Like at El Rincón de la Aurora, they had pretty good fava beans with olive oil and jamón serrano and it was equally tasty.  A lubina al limón (sea bass with a lemon sauce), however, was bland.  Fortunately, I accompanied with a good bottle of Alhambra Reserva 1925, the best beer I tried in the region.

In Marbella, on the coast of Andalucía, I had the best meal at the fisher’s dock in a restaurant called La Taberna del Puerto.  The pulpos (octopus) a la Gallega, thinly sliced with olive oil, paprika, and coarse salt, where exquisite.  And so were the grilled shrimp.

Making yogurt

By Andrés

I never thought making yogurt was so easy.  And it’s great to watch bacteria at work making something useful (and delicious).  I started making yogurt after reading Harold McGee’s article in the NY Times.  Ever since, I’ve been making it religiously (well, not really religiously, but regularly), every other week.  First time you make it use your favorite yogurt (flavored or not).  The following times, you can use the last of your previous home-made yogurt.  Here’s how you do it.

1 quart (4 cups) of milk (regular or reduced-fat milk; keep in mind that not all reduced-fat milk brands work well for yogurt)

2 tablespoons yogurt

A 1 quart container (preferably glass)

Heat the milk to 180-190 F, or to the point when it starts to steam and form bubbles. This denatures the whey proteins and is necessary for a good yogurt texture.

Turn off the heat and let cool to 120 F, or when it is very hot, but not burning. If the milk is too hot, the bacteria will die. If it is too cold, they will take longer to grow and “make” the yogurt.

While the milk is cooling, put the old yogurt in a small bowl. When the milk reaches 120 F, add a couple tablespoons to the yogurt and mix to dissolve. Add this mixture to the container and mix with the rest of the milk.

Cover the container with kitchen towels to keep warm. After 4 to 5 hours, the yogurt will be set and you can transfer to the fridge.  If you want greek-style yogurt, strain it with a cheese cloth.

My Gotham birthday

By Andrés

My mom was here for my birthday and she invited Maki and me to the Gotham Bar and Grill. It was outstanding. Would definitely go back again.

This is what we had. Like always, we shared everything.

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