Fresh Fish for Dinner Sunday? Maybe

Tasting Table NY readers are invited for a fishing excursion with chef Sue Torres of West side bar Rusty Knot on June 6. You catch, she cooks. Sounds like fun but with my fishing skills I might just go hungry! 

Armchair Travel of the Culinary Kind

Maybe I’m just nostalgic for Spain…on the Road Again, the PBS foodie road trip series with Mario Batali, Gwyneth Paltrow, Mark Bittman and Claudia Bassols, but I’ve been having fun watching actors Marisa Tomei and Dan Cortese and chef Rocco DiSpirito traipse around the Italian countryside in Into the Heart of Italy, a culinary mini mini-series (6 episodes, 6 minutes or so each) devised by Bertolli to promote its frozen meals. I was skeptical at first, but each episode is a little story, following the three as they go on a scavenger hunt for fresh and artisanal ingredients and then cook them up in various stunningly beautiful locales (with only a 17-second product promo at the end). The real stars are the Italian farmers and merchants and cooks they meet.

In the sixth episode they pay a visit to famous butcher Dario Cecchini—I’d read about his super-size personality and talent in Bill Buford’s HeatAn Amateur’s Adventures as Kitchen Slave, Line Cook, Pasta-Maker, and Apprentice to a Dante-Quoting Butcher in Tuscany, and it was fun to see him in action. 

Categories:

At the Market This Week

Spring onions, scallions, radishes, greens...

Spring onions at 97 Street Greenmarket, May 2010 

Scallions at 97 Street Greenmarket

 

breakfast radishes and japanese turnips, Union Square Greenmarket

 

And everything you need to start your own herb garden...

Basil plants at Union Square Greenmarket, May 2010

Rioja Restaurant Week Ends May 27

You have nine more days to enjoy a $25 prix fixe lunch or $35 prix fixe dinner—including a glass of Rioja wine—at one of 25 great participating restaurants in Rioja Restaurant Week. Not all the restaurants are Spanish; the list includes Thai, Indian and American choices, too—a clue to the versatile pairings possible with a Rioja.
 
 

My 26/Millionth of an Acre

A few weeks ago at the farmers’ market, I bought these small pots of basil and rosemary for my kitchen window sill, where every summer I plant a little indoor garden. Aromatic herbs are a big part of Mediterranean cooking, and I love being able to just lean over and pick some sprigs when I need them. Or just lean over and give myself some instant aromatherapy.

 

The basil seems to have survived my early neglect. By the time I got around to replanting it, it was well past ready to be put in its bigger permanent pot in the sunny spot it likes best. Let’s see how it does. I’ve already plucked a few leaves, and they were delicious. Maybe I’ll pick up a couple of extra plants just as insurance next time I’m at the market.

 

I’ve also just planted three pots on another windowsill (my garden runneth over). I can proudly report that my little indoor garden now takes up a full 26/millionth of an acre!

Next, perhaps I’ll put two outdoor window boxes in the bedroom windows for a crop of … any suggestions?  My husband says orange trees. I like his thinking but alas, this is Manhattan. We’ll have to leave the orange growing to my brother Stefan in L.A. 

Cool Tool: Lime Squeezer

My friend Catherine, a fabulous cook, told me about this nifty lime squeezer gadget. I have to admit we were making G&Ts at the time and hanging out on the porch, not in the kitchen. But now I can’t live without it for recipes like Roasted Gingered Salmon with Mango Salsa, which has you marinate the salmon in 1/4 cup fresh squeezed lime juice (among other things) and add another 1/3 cup lime juice to the salsa. It gives me a little arm workout, too, but not too much (that’s the beauty of leverage). You can get perfectly sized squeezers for lemons and oranges, too—each also matching its fruit’s color. 

Cycling Superfuels à la Méditerranée

Roasted Vegetables
 
 “Five great foods that can help you ride better.” Now that's a promise; I need all the help I can get—this is definitely a clip-and-save, well, download-and-print, article for me. The five foods are salmon, linguini, red peppers, sweet potatoes and berries—easy to like—and right in tune with Mediterranean eating. Then I stumble on a dinner menu that manages to combine them all (well, almost) in one big superfuel feast. (Imagine the speed, imagine the power, I fantasize to myself.) The dishes—Roasted Gingered Salmon with Mango Salsa and Roasted Root Vegetables—have great Med cred: fish, lots of veggies and fruit, plenty of olive oil, lively citrus and cilantro flavors. 
 
The source of the recipes was unlikely but somehow fitting: I came across them on VeloNews.com last summer when I was following the Tour de France. They were developed by Leah Vande Velde (wife of pro cyclist Christian Vande Velde) to feed the pro Garmin bicycling team. The VeloNews editors had a few “lost in translation” moments when they converted a recipe meant to feed the entire team to one that would serve 4 regular humans. As the editors wrote in a note: “Maybe if we were more familiar with publishing recipes, we would have noticed that 22 ounces of olive oil and 25 ounces of brown sugar were a bit much for four pieces of salmon? Maybe.” That’s been corrected. But you still have to pick your own oven temperature for the salmon: 400°F seems to work fine.
 
I throw in red peppers and sweet potatoes (and whatever else is in season) with the root vegetables. Berries for dessert, and you have all the superfuels in one meal except for the linguini. That’s a big “except” for cyclists, I know, but luckily I’m not riding some insane number of miles all over France, so I can save the linguini for another day. 
 

 

Roasted root vegetables with brussels sprouts

Lazy Mediterraneanista

I THINK ONE REASON I LIKE THE MEDITERRANEAN DIET is how simple many of the dishes are. Just a few ingredients and a few simple steps and you have dinner.

LInguini with Roasted Tomatoes from Cucina Italiana

Linguine with Roasted Tomatoes is a perfect example. Add a salad, fruit for dessert and you’re done. So simple, so pretty—and delicious, too. (I usually substitute Niçoise olives, which I buy pitted at Zabar’s, but I’m curious about the Taggiasca olives and will keep looking for them.) 

Mediterraneanista Goes Cycling

In a perfect alignment of the stars (at least for our household), May is both Mediterranean Month  and Bike Month. New York City’s outer boroughs are home to so many great Med ingredients and meals, from Greek Astoria to little Italy on Arthur Avenue in the Bronx—and I often get to them by bike. So a celebratory month of riding and eating it will be! 
 
Recently, I cycled out to Totonno’s Pizzeria Napolitano in Coney Island, where the coal-oven pizza was definitely “worth a special journey,” as the Michelin guide would have put it. We got a bit grumpy waiting for our pie (we were cycling, we were hungry!) but when the pizza came, all was forgiven—the freshest of fresh tomato sauces and mozzarella, and a crust that would be delicious just on its own. Hard to believe I’ve been in NYC all these years without trying it.
 
Totonno’s opened on Neptune Avenue in 1924—the little one-storey restaurant looks like the closed-in space between two real buildings—then a fire closed it in March 2009. Lamentations all around, but luckily, it’s back and looking just the same as it must have in the old days—painted tin ceiling, black and white tile floor, a few painted wooden booths, with owner Louise Ciminieri keeping everyone organized (wait outside! sit here!) 
 
Next up, time for another visit to Sahadis on Atlantic Avenue for hummus and olives. Then maybe I’ll follow the example of Anthos chef Michael Psilakis and head to Titan Foods in Queens to get me some real Greek feta (and more olives). Tanoreen, a Lebanese Mediterranean resto in Bay Ridge, is on my list, too. I’ll keep you posted. Maybe we’ll have to extend this into June…
 
Getting there (sans bicycle): D, F, N, Q train to Coney Island-Stillwell Av 
 
Totonno’s Pizzeria Napolitano
1524 Neptune Avenue
Brooklyn, NY
718-372-8606 

Eating Weeds, Yum, Yum (Really)

The farro salad I’m making also calls for purslane, although arugula is an acceptable substitute if you can’t find purslane. Purslane, I learn, is a succulent ground-crawling plant that I recognize as a weed I used to be constantly pulling up when I had a garden in Sullivan County, NY. It was a tough little sucker, always growing back where I least wanted it. Little did I know that we could have been eating it all along. 

Purslane has a slightly lemony taste and is the best plant source of omega-3 (fish oil is the best known source of this essential fatty acid), as well as vitamins A and C. It’s widely eaten in soups and salads in the Mediterranean. I ask a few farmers at Union Square Greenmarket if they have any and find out it will be available when the weather gets warmer. That’s because it only germinates when the ground reaches at least 60°F—and then it’s pretty much unstoppable.

This edible weed seems to be becoming more available commercially. Last summer, I asked about it at my neighborhood 97th Street Greenmarket. Sure, the manager told me, farmers have purslane all over their fields, but they don’t bring it to market. A couple of weeks later, though, I spotted a tangled mass in a bucket at the Amantai Farm stand and sure enough, it was purslane. I took home what really looked like the pile left over after weeding and wondered which parts, exactly, I should be putting into my salad. I decided to clip off the smaller branchlets of leaves and left the really thick stems. I probably left some of the vitamin C behind but the salad was delicious. Later on, I harvested purslane from the stone patio at my friends’ house in Dutchess County. We’ll see what this summer brings. 

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