Obsessed: Mile End Delicatessen

Thursday, January 27, 2011

I hesitate to even share this information with you. Last night three of my girlfriends and I went to Mile End Delicatessen for dinner, yes, dinner, and it was the best meal I have had in Brooklyn in a while. I'd only ever heard about the deli in regards to its cured meats and Montreal bagels, but my friend J., who lives just down the street, had raved about the dinner at Mile End, so we went. This place is amazing. It's the best foodie secret I've discovered in a long, long time.

To start we ate the chopped liver, which was served with their garlic-poppy flatbread and knish. We tried sides of shmaltzed radishes and the brussels sprouts with green apple with candied walnuts. For entrees we shared the special matzo ball-chicken-dumpling soup, smoked chicken with dried fruit stuffing and trout with horseradish cream and pickled beets. Everything was delicious with small surprises to each dish. My only complaint is that the wine list was quite quirky.

Also, funny fact: I spotted Lincoln Restler, who won the 50th assembly district Democratic leader race this fall, dining there last night.

I should also note that the interiors are really well-designed: Simple, classic and utilitarian. Check out a tour of the space on Remodelista.

Snow Day!

Here's a record of my morning walk in snowy Fort Greene after 15 inches of snow.

Admired: Daydreamer Settee at Urban Outfitters

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Take a gander at Urban Outfitters' Daydreamer Settee (in Charcoal). It's a handsome piece, no? At $579 + $75 shipping it totals a mere $654 for a pretty great looking piece of furniture. Plus, it's made in the U.S. and ships relatively quickly (3-4 weeks) two features my Jasper sofa did not offer. I think this would be a great addition to a living room as secondary seating or a good option for a tiny studio in lieu of a full-sized sofa. What do you think?

Rejoice: Everyday Food Index Online!

Dear Martha Stewart,

Thank you so, so much for finally putting a complete index of Everyday Food recipes online. I will remain eternally grateful for this invaluable resource. My only question is what took you so long? I've been hoping for a comprehensive index since 2006. I am sure your customer service representatives will be relieved not to have me calling every time I renew my subscription to request that they send me the latest index with my subscription. Cheers to technology!

Your ardent fan,
Laura Fenton

Adapted: Chicken and White Bean Soup with Herb Swirl

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

It was another soup night here on Lafayette Avenue--we eat a lot of soup in the winter. I took stock of what we had on-hand and went looking for a soup recipe that could make use of some cooked white beans and cooked chicken. A recipe for Chicken and White Bean Soup with Herb Swirl from Bon Appetit fit the bill.

I adapted the recipe slightly to accommodate my love of garlic and hot red pepper and to add some extra veggies in the form of a half of a carnival squash and some extra tomatoes. I also used different herbs because it was what we had -- though I love sage, which Bon Appetit had suggested. Next time, I'd add even more garlic and just a touch more red pepper.

Does anyone else seek out recipes this way? Do you look for dishes that use what you already have in the fridge? I'd be curious to hear how you plan your meals.

Chicken and White Bean Soup with Herb Swirl
From Bon Appetit (with adaptions)

8 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
6 teaspoons mixed chopped herbs (basil, thyme and rosemary)
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 pound skinless boneless chicken breasts, cut into 1-inch pieces or leftover cooked chicken
1 medium onion, chopped
3 garlic cloves chopped
1 medium carrots, halved lengthwise, cut crosswise into 1/4-inch pieces
1 large celery stalk, thinly sliced
1/4 t. red pepper flakes
1/2 carnival squash (or similar winter squash) cut into 1/4-inch pieces
1 cup chopped tomatoes in juices
4 cups low-salt chicken broth, plus1 cup water
2 15-ounce cans cannellini beans, drained or 2 1/3 c. cooked white beans
1/2 cup fresh Italian parsley leaves
1 bay leaf

1. Heat 4 tablespoons olive oil and next 4 ingredients in small skillet over medium heat until herbs are aromatic, about 1 1/2 minutes. Pour herb oil into bowl; cool.
2. Heat 2 tablespoons oil in large pot over medium heat. Sauté chicken 5 minutes. Using slotted spoon, transfer chicken to bowl. (If using cooked chicken, skip this step.)
3. Add 2 tablespoons oil to pot. Add onion, carrots and celery; sauté for 5 minutes. Add garlic and red pepper flaks and sauté until beginning to brown, about 10 minutes.
4. Mix in last six ingredients. Bring to boil. Reduce heat; simmer 15 minutes. Add chicken; simmer until cooked through, about 5 minutes. Season with salt and pepper.
5. Ladle soup into bowls. Gently swirl 1 teaspoon herb oil into center of each.

Jens Quistgaard Re-Issues at Crate & Barrel

Thursday, January 20, 2011

I was pleasantly surprised when I heard that Crate & Barrel had begun carrying re-issued Dansk peppermills designed by Jens Quistgaard. The original mills from the middle of the last century are highly collectible and seem to be more and more expensive every time I see them at flea markets and vintage shops. The new ones are made from a more earth-friendly wood than the original teak, but they look just as handsome

My Peugeot peppermill is an absolute hunk of junk--really, it is the worst grinder ever--so I might be in the market for a new mill myself. Has anyone else had problems with Peugeot mills? I thought they were meant to be the creme de la creme of grinders, but mine is really useless. How about the Crate & Barrel Dansk mills, has anyone tried one out?

Above: Henrik Salt Pepper Mill, $40, Crate & Barrel

Jesper Salt-Pepper Mill, $40, Crate & Barrel

Lisbet Salt-Pepper Mill, $40, Crate & Barrel

Leftover Lentil Pasta

One of my greatest talents is my ability to use up leftovers in creative and tasty ways. It is very, very rare that we throw out food at our house: Everything gets eaten. That doesn't mean we're eating sad, tired leftovers. Instead, I try to think of ways to reinvent and revive what remains from a previous meal.

For example, last night I looked in the fridge to see what we had and I noted we had lentils leftover from Monday night (I cooked them as a side using a simple recipe from How To Cook Everything Vegetarian.) I also knew we had a ton of dry pasta on hand, so I logged onto epicurious.com to see if there might be a pasta recipe that featured lentils. Sure enough, there were several options. I decided to create a version of the Orecchiette with Lentils, Onions, and Spinach from Gourmet magazine circa 2003, as we also had some baby spinach in the fridge. The results were pretty darn good, give it a try.

Orecchiette with Lentils, Onions, and Spinach

Adapted from Gourmet

• 1/4 cup olive oil
• 1 1/2 large onions, thinly sliced
• 2 garlic cloves, chopped
• 1/8 teaspoon salt
• several grinds of fresh black pepper
• 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
• 1 bay leaf
• 2 cups cooked lentils lentils*
• 8 oz. pound orecchiette
• 5 oz. baby spinach
• 1/2 cup finely grated Parmigiano-Reggiano

1. Heat oil in a 12-inch heavy skillet over moderate heat until hot but not smoking, then stir in onions and bay leaf; cook on high heat stirring the whole time for several minutes.
2. Reduce heat to moderately low add garlic, salt, pepper and red pepper and cook, stirring occasionally, until onions are very tender and golden, 20 minutes. Discard bay leaf. Add spinach to pan to wilt. Add lentils to pan.
3. Cook pasta in salted water according to package directions.. Reserve 1/2 cup cooking water, then drain pasta in a colander and return pasta to pot.
4. Add onions, lentil, spinach mixture to pasta, then toss with just enough reserved cooking water to wilt spinach and moisten pasta. Add cheese and salt and pepper to taste, tossing to combine.

* If you don't have cooked lentils on-hand, you can cook lentils for this recipe: Cover 1/2 cup lentils with water by 1 inch in a 1 1/2- to 2-quart saucepan and boil over moderate heat, covered, until lentils are just tender and most of water is absorbed, 15 to 20 minutes. Season with salt and pepper and let stand, covered, until ready to use.

Photo: Romolu Yanes, Gourmet

Admired: West Elm's Industrial Pendant

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

West Elm's latest catalog held lots of appealing products and some refreshingly textured styling work. I was particularly drawn to the Industrial Pendant for its clean lines, fresh color palette and customization options (you can mix and match cord sets and shades). The fixtures are affordably priced at $19 to $149 and are currently 20% off. Personally, I think this fixture would be an excellent choice in a kitchen or work space.

Real Simple's Ideas for Crostini

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

For the past few months, I have been admiring Real Simple's new "10 Ideas For..." features. In the recurring column, the magazine presents super-simple suggestions all for one type of food, like cupcakes, leftover Thanksgiving turkey or crostini. They're not really recipes so much as clever ways to dress up a particular item. The recent suggestions for crostini were so inviting I tore the pages out of the magazine. Wouldn't a whole party centered around crostini be a fun idea? I look forward to seeing what Real Simple tackles in the column in the coming months.

Clockwise from top left above: Smoked Salmon Crostini, Ricotta and Roasted Tomato Crostini, Artichoke and Olive Crostini and Roasted Cauliflower and Raisin Crostini.

Bookshelf: How to Cook Everything Vegetarian

Monday, January 17, 2011

I received a copy of Mark Bittman's How to Cook Everything Vegetarian: Simple Meatless Recipes for Great Food for Christmas this year, and it's already in heavy rotation. This book can act as a home cook's go-to guide for how to prepare an exhaustive array of vegetables; the suggestions for cooking grains are many and deeply appreciated. Wondering what to do with the beets you bought at the farmers' market? Bittman has several simple methods for cooking them and a handful of recipe suggestions, including a beet and goat cheese gratin that sounds delicious.

What I love most about this book isn't the individual recipes, but rather how Bittman wants to shape your thinking about cooking. Instead of a recipe for a Pear, Gorgonzola and Walnut salad, Bittman offers Greens with Fruit, Cheese and Nuts, noting that "all sort of trios are possible, ranging from an all-American mix of apples, chessa and hazelnuts to the borderline wildness of cherries, goat cheese and pistachios." He then offers a basic recipe and 10 suggestions for fruit, cheese and nut combos. It's a freeing way to think about recipes and a wonderful resource. if you don't already have a copy of this veggie cooking tome, I'd highly recommend it.

SodaStream Penguin Water Carbonator

Thursday, January 13, 2011

For Christmas, my parents gave me and my boyfriend a SodaStream Penguin Water Carbonator. We love it, and wish we'd gotten one a long time ago. I love seltzer, but buying bottles of it is both costly and ecologically irresponsible. The SodaStream let's us make as much seltzer as we want in the glass carafes. (My mother chose this model specifically because it has glass carafes, not plastic.)

Williams-Sonoma's website indicates that the CO2 cylinders will each carbonate 60 carafes, but my mother, who has her own SodaStream Penguin, says she has rarely replaced her cartridges. I'll report back on how long the cartridge lasts, but either way, it's a wallet- and earth-friendly device.

One to Try: Oatmeal-Almond Crisps

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

I'm bookmarking this Oatmeal-Almond Crisps recipe from Everyday Food to try sometime soon. They sound like a healthy-ish cookie that would be a nice alternative to a store-bought granola bar (which we seem to eat a lot of in our house).

I'm wondering if I could add in chopped up dried fruits like dried apricots, cherries or cranberries? What do you think, would it work?

Pasta Salad with Roasted Broccoli

Monday, January 10, 2011

I made a simple pasta salad from an old issue of Everyday Food for my book club meeting last week. The recipe is heavy on the vegetables, which made it nice. The recipe is disingenuous about how much olive oil you will need to properly dress the salad: I probably used closer to 2 T. on the roasted veggies and another 2 T. to dress the dish afterwards. I also added more olives than suggested because 1/4 c. seemed pretty meager. Lastly, I toasted my walnuts for a little extra flavor.

I would also change this dish up a little, if I ever make it again. First, I would add MUCH more garlic. Three cloves barely lent any flavor to the dish. Secondly, my broccoli was more than cooked after 10 minutes, I would reduce the cooking time to 8-10 minutes and check it at that point.

Pasta Salad With Roasted Broccoli
From Everyday Food

2 pounds (2 heads) broccoli
3 garlic cloves, halved lengthwise (skin on)
2 tablespoons olive oil
Coarse salt and ground pepper
8 ounces penne pasta
1 to 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
8 ounces jarred roasted red peppers, rinsed and cut into 1/2-inch strips (1 Cup)
1/4 cup pitted Kalamata olives, halved lengthwise
1/2 cup walnuts, broken into pieces

1. Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Trim 1 inch from stems of broccoli. Peel outer layer of stems (see note, below); cut diagonally into 1/2-inch slices. Separate florets into bite-size pieces. On one large or two small rimmed baking sheets, toss broccoli, garlic, and 1 tablespoon oil; season with salt and pepper. Spread in a single layer; roast, rotating sheets and turning broccoli halfway through, until tender and beginning to brown, 15 to 20 minutes. Set aside.
2. Meanwhile, cook pasta in a large pot of boiling salted water, according to package instructions. Drain pasta, reserving 1/4 cup cooking water; rinse under cold water until cool, and drain. Return to pot.
3. Remove skin from roasted garlic. In a small bowl, mash garlic until it forms a paste; whisk in lemon juice and remaining tablespoon oil. Season with salt and pepper. Pour mixture over pasta; toss in broccoli, red peppers, olives, and walnuts. Add some reserved cooking water, if needed. Serve at room temperature or chilled.

Printer Slipcover

Saturday, January 08, 2011

Back in August I mused about sewing slipcovers for electronics, and sometime afterwards, I actually went ahead and made one. It took me ages to post this, but better late than never, right?

This ugly beast above is one of two printers that my boyfriend owns. It's the one he uses to print photos, so it's not going to be going away anytime soon. When confronted with the presence of the behemouth in our bedroom, which is where his desk is, I thought at first that we could store it in the cabinet below. However, it really isn't practical to take it in and out to print. Then, I joked that I would sew it a cozy. After a moment's thought, it didn't seem so funny: A slipcover would be a good solution.

So, I cut up an old IKEA canvas curtain and sewed a cover for the printer. Now, I know this may seem a little obsessive compulsive, it really makes a world of difference: Hidden under a white canvas cloth, our bedroom is a little less of a workspace and a little more serene.

Above you can see the printer with its slipcover on. If you don't look too closely, it's a pretty good solution to the ugly printer problem. The printer isn't square so, I had to create a sort of trapezoid-like structure instead of a simple box. I'd never sewed anything where three pieces met at a corner, so the corners are rudimentary at best.

Below you can see it on the left of the desk (and printer #2 to its right). At the time, I also made a small curtain to hide his untidy shelves, but it proved to pesky to keep in place.

Have you ever sewed a slipcover for an unusual object? A printer? A TV?

Thing I Love: Ginger Peach Tea

Thursday, January 06, 2011

I'm sitting at my desk enjoying a cup of The Republic of Tea's Ginger Peach tea, and it occurred to me that I've been drinking (and loving) this particular tincture for more than sixteen years. The coffee shop craze hit suburban Connecticut, where I grew up, in the early 90s. In the fall of 1994 I got my very first job at a shop called Arcadia Coffee. Ginger Peach tea was one of the store's teas, and occasionally the smell and taste of it will take me back to my teenage barista days.

I loved that job. I loved the independence of making my own money. I was thrilled talking to the customers who came in. I actually enjoyed frothing milk -- and I was good at it. On the days I opened I adored eating the chocolate croissants for breakfast. I was in awe of the Italian lesbian who ran the shop and played Gypsy Kings non-stop on the stereo. I even loved the smell of Pine Sol when I mopped the floors at the end of the day. It's along time ago now, but I remember much of those coffee shop days as clearly as things that happened to me last week.

DIY Idea: Birdcage Lights

Wednesday, January 05, 2011

Spotted in Interior Design magazine, I love this light fixture created for Revel Spa in San Francisco. The cluster of Thai birdcages have been painted black and wired with pendant bulbs which hang where the birds would usually sit. They were created by interior designer Jiun Ho as part of her design for the almost 3,000 square foot spa. While this is an elaborate installation, I could imagine creating a smaller scale version of Ho's design.

Tested: Chocolate Crinkle Cookies

I told you that I wanted to make the Chocolate Crinkle Cookies Nicole wrote about on her blog Little Brown Pen, but I didn't quite manage to get them made in time for our holiday party (alas!). Instead, we brought them to a friend's fete the next night, and she immediately knew what they were. "Crinkle cookies!" she laughed. I was thrilled to have brought her a treat she knew and loved.

The cookies are simple to make and look great when baked. I refrigerated the dough overnight so it was well-chilled and also used a melon baller to scoop out the dough, which made for very evenly-sized cookies.

My only regret is that I didn't use a higher quality cocoa powder for the recipe. I was shopping at Fairway and had to opt for Hershey's, which was all the store had. I think they'd be even better made with delicious chocolate powder as the base. A little investigating also revealed some recipes for Crinkles that use butter, so next time I might try using melted butter in place of the vegetable oil for a richer, more refined flavor.

Found: Michelle James Globe Chandeliers

Tuesday, January 04, 2011

On Sunday night my boyfriend and I walked from Carroll Gardens back to Fort Greene, and we passed a shop window that caught my eye. I noticed some unusual light fixtures on the window of Eva Gentry on Atlantic Avenue, and thought to myself that I hadn't seen them before. Thanks to Remodelista, I now know what they are. Here's the scoop:
"Fashion stylist Michelle James' focus turned to interior design after she bought and renovated an 1866 brownstone in Brooklyn. While renovating the house, James started collecting vintage glass light fixtures and refashioning them into new pieces with a cleaner, more modern look. The one-of-a-kind chandeliers are currently on display at Eva Gentry in Brooklyn (389 Atlantic Avenue). For more information, contact Eva Gentry or Michelle James directly."
I'm sure these beauties are way out of my budget, but I find them inspiring nonetheless.

Butterscotch Scotch Eggnog

When I read Melissa Clark's "A Good Appetite" column about an eggnog with a twist in early December, I made a mental note that it might be a nice holiday dessert to try. My boyfriend is an eggnog lover, but I've never been a big fan, and I thought an eggnog made with real eggs might change my mind. Clark described her twist on a traditional nog, "The smoky Scotch made the eggnog more complex and gave it a savory taste, which went nicely with the caramelized flavor of the brown sugar." Yum, right?

While visiting my family over the holidays I whipped up a batch, halving the recipe since there were only five of us. (The recipe still made much more than we needed to serve five: I'd say the full recipe could serve closer to 18-20 since it is a rich, concentrated dessert.) It was delicious, heavenly, smoky and rich, but light--you could eat it with a spoon it was so wonderfully thick. I didn't even use any fancy Scotch, just what was left of bottle of Cutty Sark and some Johnny Walker to make up the rest of volume. If you're looking for a creamy winter dessert, this recipe is a winner.

Butterscotch Scotch Eggnog
From The New York Times

12 large eggs, separated
1 cup dark brown sugar
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt, plus pinch
2 cups whole milk
1 cup smoky Scotch whisky
1/2 cup brandy
2 cups heavy cream
4 tablespoons granulated sugar
Grated nutmeg

1. In a large bowl, combine the yolks, brown sugar, vanilla and 1/2 teaspoon salt. Using an electric mixer beat on medium-high speed until thick and dark golden, about 3 minutes. Reduce the speed to low and slowly drizzle in the milk, Scotch and brandy. Transfer to the freezer to chill while preparing the rest of the eggnog. (Or refrigerate for at least 2 hours before completing.)
2. In a medium bowl, whip the cream on medium-high speed until soft peaks form. Set aside. In another medium bowl, using clean beaters, whip the egg whites and pinch of salt on medium-high speed, adding the sugar by tablespoons until soft peaks form.
3. When ready to serve, pour the yolk mixture into a large punchbowl. Fold in a small amount of whipped cream to lighten it, then fold in the remaining cream. Fold in the egg whites. Generously dust the top with nutmeg; serve immediately.

Yield: 12+ servings

Photo: Andrew Scrivani for The New York Times

The Environmental Toothbrush

Monday, January 03, 2011

I read about The Environmental Toothbrush in Sunset magazine and looked it up online. The toothbrushes are billed as an eco-friendly, biodegradable alternative to a traditional brush. They also happen to be much more attractive than most toothbrushes, which gives them additional appeal.

The brand's site describes them as, "Invented by a Brisbane dentist, The Environmental Toothbrush is a simple solution. Made from bamboo, a natural cellulose fibre, they are 100% biodegradable, environmentally sustainable, and do not pollute the environment. The amazing growth and self-renewing ability of bamboo means that deforestation is not necessary either. Even our packaging is bio-degradable."

At about $50 for 12 brushes and international shipping, these aren't too much more expensive than a regular toothbrush. However, I wonder if the oversees shipping makes them equally wasteful when you stop to consider the fuel consumption. Maybe they can find a U.S. distributor for the toothbrushes? I nominate Brook Farm General in Brooklyn for the task.

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