Thursday, April 28, 2011

buonasaera bistecca

            Buonasera bistecca. You should’ve seen my face dear reader, as I submerged the $4 King’s sirloin into the Extra Virgin Oil drizzled across a heavy duty paper plate. Oglio I whispered to myself, practicing,
enjoying the sound of Italian in my little 3rd floor kitchen. Reminiscing about the night before, where I’d attended my first round of Beginner’s Italian, my professor Sabina had silenced her “g” so that her “l” (s) rolled right off of her Italian-born tongue, prominent and perfect. Oglio, I mouthed again, making eyes at the breadcrumbs in the cabinet left haphazardly open above the stove. Broken Italian was one thing but where would this steak dinner be tonight without its beloved friend breadcrumbs?

            I made one of my absolute all-time favorite dinners tonight, steak with oil, breadcrumbs, and beefsteak tomatoes. It’s semplice (simple) as the Italians say, but to-die for nevertheless, and what’s more, this semplice dinner requires very little preparation. As a kid, countless times I watched my dad whip it up on a whim, the aroma of the yellow onion sautéing in an itty bitty skillet made more alluring by the promise of whatever veggie might accompany it. Mushrooms in a Santa Margherita “sauce,” with a pinch of salt and pepper and generous oil base paired effortlessly with the bistecca. 

Monday, April 11, 2011

Short-grain vs. cereal grain and the quest for the perfect risotto

             I like rice. I like rice more than most, so much so that I once told someone during our first date when probed that my favorite food is rice. Admittedly not exactly your run of the mill answer, and yet in the rice’s defense, it’s not exactly your everyday starch either. I still taste the subtle hint of light cream and crisp, fruit-focused Château St. Michelle Sauvignon Blanc pairing from tonight’s risotto romance.
             In the living room of my aunt’s house not too long ago, TV’s Lidia Bastianich hosted an episode on her show Lidia’s Italy in which she substituted Arborio rice for barley. Food writer extraordinaire Tenaya Darlington and I discuss over cappuccino on a Saturday the difference in consistency Lidia’s dish proposes.
            Madame Fromage, suggests that barley possesses a flavorful characteristic worth advocating in favor of. After poking around certain websites, I find out that barley isn't all bad. For one, it containts eight essential amino acids, even if it does goes against a "foodie's" predisposed disposition to cook up a delicate risotto with minced onion prepared to an al dente perfection.

            Tonight I chicken out of my willingness to substitute my beloved rice. With chicken broth and dry white wine, I execute a recipe I know all too well with a little help from my friends Judith Barrett and Norma Wasserman, whose cookbook Risotto: more than 120 recipes for the classic dish of northern italy, has become a staple in my Hoboken nook.

            The recipe Risotto con piselli, masterfully mingles sweet and dry so that your palette experiences a kind of comfort food conveyed through the creamy finish - compliments of the recipe’s inclusion of light cream. Tonight my fork nestles in my bowl, just as eager as I to put away this rice’s, firm, creamy, and chewy texture due to the higher amylopectin starch content.

Perhaps in the near future I will abandon my apprehension for barley and give it a go Tenaya!

Risotto con piselli

condimenti: 1 tbsp unsalted butter
                      1 cup of defrosted peas, not cooked
                      1/4 cup of light cream
                      1/3 cup of grated parmesan

brodo:          5 cups basic broth
                     1/2 cup of dry white wine

soffritto:       2 tbsp unsalted butter
                     1 tbsp oil
                     1/3 cup of minced onion
                     1 celery rib, finely minced

riso:             1 1/2 cups of arborio rice

- heat the butter in a small skillet over moderate heat. when it
begins to foam, add the peas and cook for 3 to 5 minutes, stirring
occasionally. turn off heath and set aside.

- bring the broth to a steady boil.

- heat the butter and oil in a heavy 4-quart casserole dish over
moderate heat. add the onion and celery and saute for 1 to 2min, until
the onion begins to soften, being careful not to brown it.

- add the rice to the soffritto; using a wooden spoon, stir for 1min.
add the wine and stir until completely absorbed. begin to add the
simmering broth, 1/2 cup at a time, stirring frequently. wait until
each addition is completely absorbed before adding the next 1/2 cup,
reserving about 1/4 cup to add at the end. ***
stir frequently to prevent sticking ***.

- after approx. 15min, when the rice is tender but still firm, add the
reserved broth and condimenti - peas,  cream, and parmesan, and stir
vigorously to combine with the rice.

- serve immediately* serves 4.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Parc Place

  I am channeling my inner Parisian on Sunday morning while sitting in Rittenhouse Square’s beautiful new addition to its square, Parc restaurant - Even the menu looks to be a work of art, offering savory HORS DíOEUVRES like oatmeal Brule and what quickly becomes my personal favorite, 
Breakfast Pastries.  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  . 10
Croissant, pain au chocolat, apple turnover,
Blueberry muffin, pumpkin spiced bread that I swoon over while the waiter gingerly approaches with my morning mimosa. Soon he will not be the only one smiling.

My family obliges my insistence that every good pastry is only as good as the cappuccino it’s submerged in. Saturated and unable to protest the coffee’s unadultering heat, the pain au chocolat scorns my simultaneous sip of mimosa. It thinks me gluttonous. More likely than not I look gluttonous while I shovel the croissant’s crusty exterior in what might as well be considered a trough of serendipitously scooped foam wonderland.

Soon after the pastries disappear, the waiter returns. This time he presents a piping onion soup gratinee .  .  .  .  .  .  .  . 10 My eyes light up. The cheese oozes like a science fair project and my spoon returns with only layers of Swiss – somewhere below, the small brown cauldron taunts me with its promise of beef bouillon and bay leaf.

Meanwhile, my brother, mom and best friend practically arm wrestle for final spoonfuls of the quiche Lorraine which they swear is just to-die-for but elsewhere from across the table, I make eyes at the lone apple turnover which sits beside a trio of jams and butters eager to be spread and dipped into my very patient cappuccino which sits atop its china doll white saucer. The Lorraine would have to wait.

Earlier in the morning my mother and I stand barefoot in the kitchen trading cautionary tales about what constitutes "creamer" in coffee. Mom suggests that since there is no milk, we should just bite the bullet and add good ol' Reddi Whip to the mix. My hesitance wins me an extra dollop of mom's makeshift remedy. Admittedly the whip tastes delicious, not out of place like I originally feared it would. Creamy and dissolvent, the Whip lulls me into a cup of joe rivaled only by Parc's customary sugar bowl and creamer with a side of mimosa - to wash it down. 

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Fat and Happy in Philly

            When I walked through the door of South Street’s little gem Supper on Saturday, I didn’t know what to expect. Wendy Kirby hosted a handful of us food writers upstairs for the first ever Philly Food & Drink Blogger Meet up, and I knew I was in good company when the hostess handed me a drink ticket and instructed me to order my complimentary mimosa after simply saying, “hello.” As Natalie Merchant said, these are the days.

            Natural light trickled in the windows of Supper as those of us assembled got to work meeting and greeting with mouths full.  Life imitated art while relative strangers became new acquaintances among company like Chef Mitch Presnky’s sinful red velvet waffles finished with prune and cream cheese.

            I chatted with host Wendy Kirby about the importance of food photography where blog writing is concerned – here is another candid, and if I’m being candid, there is nothing quite like fresh sauerkraut atop a deep fried pork shoulder with beer mustard to tickle the palette:

                The afternoon was a success. In between bites of crispy apple beignets with cinnamon and sugar, my new friends and I mulled over our next outing. Would we tour the bakeries or crash another 2nd floor establishment, bloody Mary’s in hand? Skies the limit we decided but for now, I’m still digesting the lovely company and cream cheese.