The other morning Steve and I got to chatting about Mexican food with our waiter, Ivan, at our favorite local diner, Café 82 on Broadway and 82nd Street. Ivan is from Moreles and when I began asking him something about tacos and tortas, he whipped out his cell phone and starting showing me photos as he explained how his mother (who, he said “sold food for 20 years”) made his favorite dishes. Then, it turned out that Ivan had been in the restaurant business in his home state before making his way to New York City so we had plenty to talk about. Fortunately for us it was a slow morning so he could talk for a bit.
As Ivan talked, my egg white omelet gelled on the plate as I yearned for some of the deliciousness that he described. When he got to cemitas, a typical Mexican sandwich made with “Milanesa” (you got it, just as it sounds a chicken cutlet breaded and fried as for the Italian veal cutlet Milanese) Ivan gave us the filling – Milanesa, sliced avocado, jalapeños, red onion, queso, tomato or pico de gallo, and papalo piled on a cemita sesame roll. I got everything except the papalo. I had never heard of it.
That was all Ivan needed to hear. “Tomorrow I will bring you papalo and pipicha (showing each in photos on his cell phone) from my supermarket in Queens” (a borough of New York City). Now he really had me – pipicha, what was that? “Very strong herb” said Ivan, as he assured me that I would like it once I tried it.
True to his word, the next morning Ivan handed me a shopping bag that was emitting an aroma that was a mix of the laundromat, wet towels, cilantro, lemon rind, a weeded garden in the rain….it was, in fact, indescribable. It was papalo and pipicha. Papalo was very pretty; it looked a bit like soft green watercress. Pipicha looked tall and weedy – just like something a gardener would like to get rid of. My bill for my bag of herbs was $2.75 – certainly could tell we weren’t shopping in Manhattan.
We were having friends in for dinner so I made a pureed bean soup as a first course, seasoning it with just a few sprigs of the pipicha and then I garnished the bowls with papalo. Let me tell you, the pipicha gave the soup a really indefinable flavor that caught everyone’s attention as they tried to guess what I had put in the soup. The papalo leaves created a great conversation point.
The next day we used the papalo to give “authentic” flavor to some burritos that I cobbled together for dinner. Haven’t quite figured out how to use the bundle of pipicha yet – it is pretty strong. But the best thing that came from our conversation with Ivan was the promise that his wife would spend a day in the kitchen with me. I can’t wait!
Posted in Chefs, Food, Recipes | Tagged burritos, Café 82, cemitas, herbs, mexican breakfast, mexican food, mexican herbs, Milanesa, Moreles, papalo, pico de gallo, pipicha, queso, tacos, tortas | Leave a Comment »
We had a little business lunch for our publisher and editor on a chilly day. I didn’t know what I could make that would be inviting, but wouldn’t keep me in the kitchen. Aha! Thought I, why not fancy grilled cheese sandwiches and a bowl of soup. And that is exactly what I served – with a glass of rosé of course. The soup was a hearty mushroom-barley and the sandwiches were made on a terrific peasant bread with Comté cheese and pepper relish (you’ll find it somewhere on the blog) or my homemade ginger-fig jam pressed down to runny deliciousness on the stove top. I’m not much for kitchen gadgets, but if you have a panini press this is a perfect sandwich to make in it.
Posted in Food, Recipes | Tagged cheese, Comté cheese, grilled cheese sandwiches, panini, panini press, party ideas, peasant bread, pepper relish, quick dinner, quick lunch, quick meals, rosé, sandwiches | 4 Comments »
A few days ago my friend Linda called to see if she could come “play” in my kitchen. I, of course, said “come on over.” Why my kitchen instead of her far more modern one I don’t know, but over she came bringing her untried kitchen implements and lots of good ideas. First she wanted to tackle making cavatelli using her new cavatelli maker to be followed by an introduction to her cataplana, recently purchased in Portugal. Cavatelli I knew of, but had never heard of the cataplana so had to Google it.
I learned that a cataplana is both a pot and the dish that is cooked in it. The clamshell-shaped pot is generally made of copper and it has hinges on one side to open and close it easily and clamps to hold it closed on the stove top. In Portugal, it is traditionally used to make seafood stews. I had purchased clams, mussels, and shrimp thinking we would make dinner for six. Unfortunately when I saw the cataplana it was clearly made to prepare stew for one. So, we tried it out for a little snack as we worked on our dinner menu.
Her cavatelli maker worked like a dream and gave us a lovely first course of cavatelli sautéed in brown butter and sage. The ingredients for the dinner cataplana went into my big Crueset pot which worked just fine, but left us without the presentation we had planned.
Here is my recipe for pasta dough should you have a cavatelli maker at hand. You might want to eliminate one egg to make a stiffer dough for the hand-cranked machine. 00 flour is a finely ground flour with a cottony texture that is traditionally used to make pizza and pasta dough in Italy. Until recently it was not available in the United States. It is very easy to work with and gives the perfect mouth-feel to these doughs once they are baked or cooked. It is available from Italian markets and many specialty food stores. You can also use all-purpose flour.
2¼ cups 00 flour
1 teaspoon salt or to taste
3 large eggs, at room temperature
1 tablespoon olive oil
Combine the flour and salt on a clean work surface, slightly mounding it in the center. Then, make a well in the center. Place the eggs and olive oil in the well and, using your fingertips, loosen the eggs and incorporate a bit of the oil into them. Slowly pull the flour into the well, working from the inside out, moving in a circular motion. It is easiest if you use one hand to mix and the other to move the flour into the moistened mixture. Continue working in this manner until all of the flour has been incorporated into the dough. At this point the dough should easily pull into a ball.
Lightly coat the work surface with flour and begin kneading the dough by flattening it out and folding over and over until the dough is smooth and elastic. This might take about 12 minutes.
Wrap the dough in plastic film and let rest for about 30 minutes before cutting it into the desired shape, either using the pasta making attachment of a heavy-duty stand mixer, a hand-cranked machine, or, the old fashioned way, by hand.
Posted in Chefs, Food, Recipes | Tagged cataplana, cavatelli, Clams, crueset, homemade pasta, italian recipes, make your own pasta, Mussels, oo flour, pasta, portugal, seafood, seafood pasta, seafood stew, shrimp, surf | 4 Comments »
We first discovered sumo oranges last spring – didn’t indulge much as they were a bit pricey, but so delicious. Developed in Japan (where it is known as dekopon), they are a cross between a California navel orange and a mandarin. The name comes from both their size and the distinctive knot at the stem end that resembles that of a sumo wrestler. The crazy warty skin seems to be impenetrable, but, in fact, it is easily peeled off to expose the sweetest orange you’ve ever experienced. Visit http://www.sumocitrus.com to discover more about the fruit and the dedicated California farmers that are bringing it to market.
Posted in desserts, Food | Tagged citrus, cold remedy, dekopon, fruit, mandarin, navel, oranges, sumo, sumo citrus, sumo oranges, vitamins | Leave a Comment »
This was my mom’s go-to Sunday coffee cake and, as my wonderful husband just said “it is addictive. Easy to make and even easier to eat. It is so much better than a commercial out-of-the-box cake and really doesn’t take anytime at all to make. I make a big batch of the Crumb Topping and keep it in the freezer so the entire process takes only a few minutes to put the cake together. It can bake while you make the beds and throw a morning’s load of wash in. And, oh! the aroma that will wake everyone up to sweet thoughts. You can add dried fruit or berries to the batter, but it is totally unnecessary.
Makes one 9-inch cake
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 cup sugar
2 large eggs, at room temperature
2 cups sifted all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1½ teaspoons baking powder
¼ teaspoon salt
1 cup milk
1 cup raisins, dried cranberries or cherries, or fresh blueberries, optional
Crumb Topping (recipe follows)
Preheat the oven to 350ºF.
Butter and flour a 9-inch round cake cake (or use nonstick vegetable spray such as Baker’s Joy). Set aside.
Place the butter in the bowl of a standing electric mixer fitted with the paddle. Begin beating on low to soften; then, add the sugar and beat on medium until light and fluffy. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition.
Combine the flour, cinnamon, baking powder, and salt and add to the creamed mixture, alternately with the milk, beating just until well-blended. If using the fruit or berries, fold them into the batter now.
Pour into the prepared pan, smoothing the top with an offset spatula (or whatever implement you have handy). Sprinkle the topping evenly over the batter.
Transfer to the preheated oven and bake for about 40 minutes or until a cake tester inserted into the center comes out clean.
Remove from the oven and set on a wire rack to cool for about 15 minutes before cutting into serving pieces.
1 cup walnut pieces
1 cup brown sugar
¼ cup all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
¼ cup chilled unsalted butter, cut into pieces
Combine the nuts, brown sugar, flour, and cinnamon in the bowl of a food processor fitted with the metal blade. Process to just combine. Add the butter and process, using quick on and off turns, to just crumbly. Use as directed or place in a resealable plastic bag, seal, label, and freeze for later use.
Posted in desserts, Food, Recipes | Tagged baking, cake, cake recipes, Cinnamon Coffee Cake, Crumb Topping, crumb topping recipe, dessert, gluten free, purpose flour, quick desserts, sweet tooth | 2 Comments »