A Sarcastic Appetite

Lemon Bars
January 31, 2010, 10:11 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

It’s the middle of winter, so like everyone else with a food blog, I thought I’d bake something lemony and see if I couldn’t warm this place up a bit. (It’s true what they say: the scent of lemon zest is very uplifting. The taste of sparkling wine is, too.) I particularly like this recipe because the shortbread crust requires melted butter, as opposed to beating softened butter and sugar together, and you know I always like not having to break out the hand mixer. There’s one odd note here: she calls for pouring the topping directly into the hot pan in the oven. I complied, but I’m a little skeptical about that. Are we sure that’s absolutely necessary? Also, these were advertised as “very tangy,” and while I like my lemon bars to taste like lemon, I’m not keen on ones that make my mouth pucker and my eyes water. So I added more sugar than the original recipe calls for. It’s still a bit tangy, but in the best way, of course. I look at these lemon bars as a nice way to get some vitamin C from somewhere other than a pitcher of margaritas. Not that I would know anything about that, of course.

Lemon Bars

Adapted from Alice Medrich’s Pure Dessert. Makes about 12-16 bars, depending on what size pan you’ve got (and assuming you cut them sizeably).

For the crust:

1 stick salted butter, melted

1/4  c. sugar

1 tsp. vanilla extract

1/4 tsp. salt

1 c. all-purpose flour

For the topping:

1 1/4 c. sugar

3 tbsp. flour

3 large eggs

1 1/2 tsps. lemon zest, tightly packed

1/2 c. freshly squeezed lemon juice

lots of powdered sugar to dust on top

Line the sides of an 8″ x 8″ pan (or something thereabouts) with foil – dull side up. Preheat the oven to 350°F. For the crust, combine the melted butter, sugar, vanilla and salt. Add the flour and mix until just incorporated; press into the bottom of the pan, evenly. Bake for 24-30 minutes, until the crust is browned at the edges and golden brown in the center.

While that bakes, make the topping: stir the flour and sugar together; add the 3 eggs and whisk well. Stir in the zest and juice. Once the crust is ready, turn the oven down to 300°F. Slide the oven rack out; pour the topping mixture directly into the hot pan. Bake for about 20 more minutes, until the filling no longer jiggles in the center when you tap the pan. Let cool in the pan on a rack; dust with lots of powdered sugar before serving.

Restaurant Round-Up for the Week of January 28
January 28, 2010, 11:05 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

I’m here to canvass the food blogs so you don’t have to. Better late than never, right? A few highlights this week:

Five Napkin Burger‘s set to open on Monday on the Upper West Side. I’m already drooling.

The Siftster gives Le Caprice the goose egg, at which point the chef “looked like a kid who unwrapped a giant box at Christmas to find out it was filled with socks…

If you’re not sure where to watch the game next Sunday, well, consider helping Haiti by boozing at Hooters. The chain’s donating a portion of their profits that night in an event they’re calling, obviously, Hooters 4 Haiti.

Grub Street is hot to trot over the new Menupages app. It’s free, so if you’ve got an iPhone, let me know how it rolls.

I love blogs that do what I do even better than I do it, and Immaculate Infatuation does just that. They went to Ardesia, and liked what they saw. Check it out – just stick with the pretzels and cod cakes.

Szechuan Chalet on the Upper East Side is apparently half-decent, Recette gets a gushing review,  and Wilfie & Nell‘s now serving brunch. Consider yourself warned.

Mustard and Herb Chicken
January 25, 2010, 10:12 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

Travel delays meant my plane didn’t land in New York until about 2 o’clock this morning, so I’ve been a little out of sorts today. But I knew that not bothering to cook dinner tonight could have disastrous consequences….for my brother, who would have to put up with my crankiness. This is another one of those ready-in-less-than-30-minutes dinners, and it’s really delicious. I’ve adapted the recipe to suit my own laziness; ordinarily you’d blend everything in a food processor, but sometimes I can’t be bothered. Thankfully, it works just as well when you mix it by hand. Use panko if you’ve got it – but regular old breadcrumbs will do just fine (I know, because I’ve tried it myself). I serve this with rice if I can remember to make it – which I did tonight, so I’ll consider that a rousing success. You also might consider zesting a little bit of a lemon in there, or crushed red pepper flakes if you’re looking for a little heat. This recipe is pretty forgiving – I’ve made it with great success when I didn’t have rosemary, another time when I ran out of mustard, and even once when I ran out of white wine. What? The recipe doesn’t call for that? Oh. Right. Yeah….the wine was just for me.

Mustard and Herb Chicken

Adapted from Food & Wine Annual Cookbook 2007: An Entire Year of Recipes.

Serves 3.

3 boneless, skinless chicken breasts of average size

1/2 c. panko (or regular breadcrumbs)

2 garlic cloves, minced

1 heaping tsp. rosemary, minced

1/4 c. grated Parmesan cheese

lots of salt and pepper

1/4 c. + 2 tbsp. nice olive oil

about 2 heaping spoonfuls of mustard

Preheat the oven to 400ºF. Heat an oven-proof saute pan over medium heat; add the 2 tbsp. of olive oil and let it heat up a bit. Add the chicken breasts; sprinkle salt and pepper on top. Cook about 5-6 minutes just one one side, until the chicken is not quite cooked halfway through. Meanwhile, in a small bowl, add the panko, garlic, rosemary, salt and pepper. Mix well, then add the 1/4 c. of olive oil. Mix until the panko is evenly, nicely coated with the olive oil (add a little more oil if necessary). Flip the chicken, then spread a heaping spoonful of mustard over each breast. Mound the breadcrumb mixture evenly over each, pressing a bit with your hands if necessary, so the crumbs adhere to the mustard. Throw the pan into the oven and roast, about 12-14 minutes, until the chicken’s cooked through and the crumbs are golden and crisp. Serve with rice or salad.

Restaurant Round-Up for the Week of January 21
January 21, 2010, 8:29 am
Filed under: Uncategorized

You all know the drill by this point: I’m here to canvass the foodblogs, so you don’t have to. Some highlights this week:

The newest food truck is going haute cuisine: Daniel Boulud’s manning one on February 8 as part of a publicity stunt to promote NBC’s new restaurant website.

Via Eater: Chowhounders are voicing misgivings about Robert Sietsema’s 10 Best East Village Restaurants. Let’s just hope the outcry doesn’t reach such levels that Sietsema feels it’s necessary to weigh in a second time.

Still not sure what to do with that special someone on February 14? White Castle’s got you covered.

It makes me cringe, and yet also makes me oddly hungry: Burger Oasis is now doing a Mac-and-Cheese….burger. UrbanDaddy has the skinny. Suddenly that phrase seems inappropriate.

The Sifster gives two stars to Maialino, calling it “a trattoria in an imaginary Rome where everyone comes from Missouri and wants you above all else to have a nice time.” I think that’s supposed to be a compliment. I also think if he gave only one star he’d have a mob of pitchfork-wielding New Yorkers on his doorstep. Go.

If you’re an oenophilic lush like I am, you might be interested in the upcoming Wine Expo at the Javits Center, February 26-28. Tickets are here.

White Bean Soup with Garlic and Rosemary
January 19, 2010, 9:43 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

Winter is the time for soups, but pureeing the soup in batches in my food processor is that one last extra step I am loathe to take. Once again, I’m consistently foiled by my own laziness. But as part of my, ahem, dexotification, I’ve been making an effort to look for recipes that don’t involve dredging, or require four sticks of butter, or are actually for dessert. I saw this one on Serious Eats a little while back and suspected it might be a keeper. I had just thrown together a batch of chicken stock and already had some rosemary in the fridge, so all I needed were the cannellini beans and a shallot or two. There was a game changer, too, that really sealed the deal:  a new immersion blender, bestowed upon me by A Sarcastic Appetite’s own fairy godmother (thanks, Mom!). This soup is very easy and very delicious – and like most soups, really benefits from a little slumber party in the fridge.

White Bean Soup with Rosemary and Garlic

Adapted from this Serious Eats recipe. As you can see I couldn’t be bothered with the garlic chips part. If you adore garlic chips, well, you’re on your own. Serves 4ish.

2 tbsp butter

1 tbsp olive oil

1/4 tsp. red pepper flakes (optional)

2 big cloves of garlic, minced

1-2 shallots, minced (1 if it’s big enough; 2 otherwise)

1 nice big sprig rosemary

3 15 oz. cans white beans (cannellini beans)

3 c. chicken stock (homemade does make a difference, but don’t ever say I didn’t show you how)

1/3 c. heavy cream

Melt the butter and olive oil in a nice stock pot; add the garlic, shallots and red pepper flakes (if using) and saute gently, about 5-7 minutes. You want them sweating and smelling delicious, not browning. Add some salt and pepper while you’re at it. Drain and rinse the beans, then add them to the pot along with the rosemary and the stock. Add more salt and pepper. Bring to a boil first, then simmer gently for about 20 minutes. Taste, and correct seasoning as necessary. Remove the rosemary sprig. Turn off the heat and then – oh, joy – use your immersion blender to puree the soup a bit, so it’s a bit smoother in consistency. If you lack said appliance, puree the soup in batches in your food processor, though be careful if the soup is very hot, since things can explode in there. Stir in the cream, taste again and serve.

Restaurant Round-Up for the Week of January 14
January 14, 2010, 8:36 am
Filed under: Uncategorized

I’m here to canvass the food blogs so you don’t have to. A few highlights this week:

I’m quietly crying over news that my favorite awkward lunch dude is abandoning us for L.A. It’ true – Zack Brooks of Midtown Lunch is jumping ship. He claims it’s because his wife is taking a job there, but I’m not buying it. He’s going for the In-N-Out burgers, I just know it.

Choptank, formerly in the Bar Q space, opened this week. It’s supposed to be a Maryland-style seafood shack, as opposed to a New England one, but the dinner menu makes me think it’s a fairly swanky shack. I spy bone marrow and arctic char, though nothing seems to be over $25….aside from the oysters, of course.

Saunter on over to Mayahuel this Sunday and get your Sunday Funday started off on the right note: they’re doing $1 tacos and $10 cocktails from 2pm onward.

UrbanDaddy has the rundown on Wall & Water, the new joint in the Andaz Wall Street Hotel on….you guessed it, while Thrillist graces us with news of Recette, the former private dining club gone public.

And boom: Ma Pêche launches an online ordering system for takeout. We only have 3 banh mi options, and you’ve got to order by 11 the day of…but that’s 3 more banh mi you don’t have to eat in a hotel lobby.

The Sifster gives a one-spot to The Breslin, Ken Friedman and April Bloomfield’s homage to a British gastropub. The food’s good he says….just excessive. And apparently he’s been lying in bed at 3am in a cold sweat over it.

Don’t forget: Restaurant Week starts the 25th (and goes through Feb 7th). Book your table now. Oh yeah, and you-know-what is one month from today. Better book that table now too, while you’re at it.

Beer Bread
January 11, 2010, 9:36 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

This definitely doesn’t fall into the category of “what to eat when you want to lose weight,” “detoxifying,” or even “vaguely healthy,” especially after you’ve melted 4 tbsp. of butter over the top and let it all soak in….but it’s really good. Then again, what isn’t good when it’s got 4 tbsp. of melted butter poured over the top? I’m a fan, though, and not just because of the butter. (Promise!) You may have to run out for the bottle of beer, but other than that you should have everything else on hand. It comes together in about 5 minutes, and is ready less than 40 minutes later. I had it with some leftover virtuous lentils. They at least cancel each other out, right? I’d say this detoxification is going swimmingly….

Beer Bread

From Alexandra’s Kitchen
3 c. flour

1 tsp. baking soda

½ tsp. baking powder

1 1/2 tsp. salt

1 tbsp. sugar

1 bottle of beer; the recipe calls for amber ale (like Bass) but I used Blue Point’s Toasted Lager with excellent results. Use whatever you’ve got – as long as it’s a nice one.

4 tbsp. butter

Preheat the oven to 425º and grease a standard loaf pan with plenty of butter. Whisk the flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt and sugar. Add the beer, stir until combined and pour it into the pan (it will be sticky). Bake for 10 minutes, then lower the oven to 375º and bake for 25-30 minutes, until golden brown on top. Once it’s out of the oven, melt the butter; pour it over the bread (I poked some holes for good measure), let it soak for 5 minutes. Serve immediately, with more butter if you’re feeling adventurous.

Virtuous Lentils
January 10, 2010, 10:16 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

Well. That was a bit of a hiatus, wasn’t it? I apologize for keeping the lights out over here for so long. I’ve been traveling often and cooking not so often – though not to worry, I had plenty to eat (and drink) over the course of a very merry holiday. But it’s a new year and a new decade and all that, so I figured I’d turn over a new leaf and start firing things up in the kitchen again. And also maybe start with something a little, ahem, virtuous.

I didn’t bother with a resolution this year, since I only make it to about April before I throw in the towel. Last year my resolution was “to be more grateful.” …..Now I guess we all know how that ended. Anyway, I may not bother with the resolution part of things but I certainly embrace the post-holiday-detox part of things….as long as it doesn’t last more than a week. (Pardon my short attention span.) I like to lay off the meat for a bit, and load up on veggies, so these lentils are a perfect way to ease into that. The original recipe, for which I have Adam Roberts of Amateur Gourmet to thank, is made with bacon, which I have obviously omitted here. I have to say, however, that having made it both ways, I much prefer it without; the bacon makes it quite greasy. I swear I can feel my arteries clenching up as I write this. And we all know I don’t need much more of that.

It all comes together in about 45 minutes or so – and probably less if you’re paying more attention than I am. And it doesn’t require anything out of the ordinary. Perhaps the most extraordinary part of this recipe is that it doesn’t even include any white wine. (See? What virtue!) Just try not to follow it with several chocolate chip cookies, as I did; that seems to take away from the, ahem, detoxification process. At least there’s no meat in cookies?

Virtuous Lentils; or, Lentils Minus Bacon

Adapted from Anne Burrell via Amateur Gourmet

Serves 4-6 depending on your virtuousness.

1 1/2 c. dried lentils

1 huge red onion (or 2 small ones)

2 big fat carrots

2 big celery ribs

4 cloves garlic; smash 2 and mince the other 2

3 tbsp. butter (feeling puritanical? substitute olive oil. sheesh.)

3 heaping tbsp. mustard

1-2 tbsp. red wine vinegar – or to taste

sour cream to dollop on top (get the reduced fat version and stop being ornery about it)

lots of salt and freshly ground black pepper

Put the lentils in a pot and cover with cold water by 2 inches. Add half of the peeled onion, 1 carrot and 1 celery rib, both halved. Add the 2 smashed garlic cloves. Bring to a boil and then simmer for about 15 minutes, until the lentils are cooked through and tender. Do not salt the lentils until they are cooked! Otherwise they will be tough, and your newfound virtuousness will be off to a rocky start. Once the lentils are cooked, take out the veggies, add lots of salt, and let them hang out until you’ve got everything else going.

Meanwhile, dice the rest of the onion, the other carrot and celery rib. The original recipe calls for only about half a cup’s worth of each veggie, but I like to go overboard. Melt the butter in the biggest saute pan you’ve got. Add all the veggies, add some salt and pepper, and cook until they’re softened, about 5-7 minutes. Drain the lentils  – but reserve a bit of the cooking water, a scant half cup or so – and add the lentils and the water to the pan. Taste, and season with more salt and pepper as needed. Once everything is heated through, add the 3 heaping tbsp. of mustard (and more if you’d like) and the red wine vinegar. Ladle into bowls, dollop the sour cream on top, grind over some black pepper, and serve.