At the Market This Week

ABUNDANCE! I GO TO THE FARMERS’ MARKET year-round, but there’s nothing like the pleasure of seeing pristine summer crops piled up one after the other. Since I don’t have a family of eight, I try to be reasonable in my purchases but it’s hard to resist.  

What do you get for $16 at the market?
A Renaissance painting.
Cherry (tomato) candies.
A riff on the Italian flag.
Peaches so juicy you have to eat them over the kitchen sink.

RECIPE: Spring Market Dinner

LATE IN THE AFTERNOON on the last day of winter, there were definite signs that the season was changing. The 70º temperature was an obvious hint.
And the blossoms everywhere. Down at Union Square Greenmarket, bunches of pussy willows and forsythia were for sale.
And even at 4 o’clock, I found enough fresh greens for a spring market supper—or two.
Kale of all sorts...
And collard...
ONE VENDOR WAS GIVING OUT tastings of baby bok choy sautéed in garlic butter. I knew I had asparagus at home already. That inspired the idea of a simple pasta and sautéed greens for a Meatless Monday dinner. Perfect for a lazy Mediterraneanista.
After removing the tough bottoms of the asparagus, I chopped the stems in three-inch pieces. I blanched the stems first for 3 minutes, then added the tips for another 2, for a total of 5 minutes. I chopped the bok choy stems in thirds, pretty little yellow flowers and all.
RECIPE: Heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a sauté pan over medium heat. Add 2 minced garlic cloves for about a minute (don’t brown). Add asparagus and bok choy, a good pinch of salt, black pepper, and sauté until bok choy is tender. Serve over pasta—I used pennette— with another drizzle of oil. Top with coarse fresh bread crumbs that have been toasted golden brown in a skillet with a little olive oil. Add grated parmesan to the plate if you like. (I do.)
A half pound of pasta, a pound of asparagus and a bunch of bok choy made enough for dinner for two with leftovers for a couple of lunches. All for about $7 or $8. Farm to table rocks! 
Next up: something with swiss chard. Any favorite recipes you’d like to share? The bunches I brought home are pretty enough to be a bouquet.

Best Med Diet Dish at...Pasha Restaurant

MEETING UP WITH FRIENDS for Turkish meze at Pasha, near Lincoln Center, is always a great way to end a work day. We usually sit up front in the bar area, pulling up the kilim-upholstered armchairs in a circle around the low mosaic-tiled table. Something about the deep crimson walls and friendly service makes the place cozy and chic at the same time.

Before long, our little table is filled with appetizer plates that we share—shepherd’s salad with tomatoes and cucumbers, manti (small lamb dumplings in mint yogurt sauce), octopus salad, grilled feta with tomatoes, imam bayildi (stuffed eggplant), calamari with garlic and walnut dipping sauce. (Most plates are $7-9, with a few $10-12.) I often order a glass of Cankaya Kavaklidere, a blended white wine from Anatolian grapes, or one of the other Turkish wines on the list, which gets you completely in the spirit of being transported to Turkey for a few hours.



Pasha New York
70 West 71st Street
New York, NY


At the Market This Week

Welcome signs of spring...after a long, long winter. 


Best Med Diet Dish at...Maoz Vegetarian

HERE’S SOME FAST FOOD WITH MED CRED, available at five locations around the city—including high-traffic areas like Times Square and Union Square. Maybe one is near your office? A couple more branches are opening in the next few months, including one in Hoboken. 
My pick from the Maoz menu is the falafel whole-wheat pita sandwich ($5.25), with veggie toppings from the salad bar—roasted cauliflower, diced beets, tabouli salad, Moroccan-style marinated carrots, and so on, plus various sauces, including cilantro, garlic, tahini, chili. If you dine in, you can refill your pita as many times as you want from the salad bar, piling up those veggie servings with the greatest of ease.
Last time I was at Maoz, I bought an extra side order of falafel ($3.50, made from chickpeas) to take home, where I combined it with my own salad and tahini later. Yum. Maoz’s falafel made’s top 7 falafel sandwiches in New York City earlier this summer. The white pita lost it some points. I found the whole-wheat pita pretty tasty. 
The first Maoz restaurant opened in Amsterdam in 1991 and soon attracted local customers and travelers alike. The menu emphasizes fresh produce and, although it doesn’t use olive oil, the Med diet favorite, it does use zero trans fat vegetable oil. For only $1 extra, you can get freshly squeezed carrot, apple or orange juice instead of soda with the sandwich meal deal. If you’re interested in more nutrition details, check out the Maoz website.
Meatless Monday Deal:At Maoz Vegetarian, every day is meatless but on Mondays you get 10% off the Salad Meal Deal ($9.95)—a box of greens with falafel plus two add-ons (hummus, eggplant, etc.), salad-bar toppings and freshly squeezed juice.
Maoz Vegetarian
558 7th Ave (corner of 40 St)
New York, NY 10018
59 East 8 St (between Broadway and University Pl)
New York, NY 10003
38 Union Square East (between 16 and 17 St)
New York, NY  10003
Order online
2047 Broadway (between 70 and 71 St)
New York, NY  10023
2857 Broadway (between 110 and 111 St)
New York, NY  10025
Order online
Opening Soon:
683 8th Ave (between 43 and 44 St)
New York, NY 10036
315 Washington Street
Hoboken, NJ  07030 

Best Med Diet Dish at...Flex Mussels

WELL, YOU GUESSED IT, mussels—steamed in all sorts of flavored broths, some even quite distinctively Mediterranean, but all qualifying as a great Med diet seafood dinner made with fresh ingredients. How about San Daniele, with prosciutto, caramelized onions, white wine and garlic, or Spaniard, with chorizo, sweet peppers, Spanish olives, red wine and tomatoes? Yep, there’s even Mediterranean, with shrimp, kalamata olives, fennel, lemon, anise and oregano. The list goes on and on—there are more than 20 choices ($17-20)—so the only way to eventually make a decision and not drive your dinner companions crazy is to tell yourself you’ll be coming back another day—and another.
The menu has non-mussel Med choices, too, including arugula or bibb lettuce salads, a whole fish, even chicken with dandelion greens. We started the meal with raw oysters, incredibly fresh and tasty. (The owners started out in Prince Edward Island and know their seafood.) The crusty whole wheat bread is perfect for mopping up the broth. I hear executive pastry chef Zac Young (Top Chef) makes some amazing desserts. Next time! Good wine list (we had a nice Grüner Veltliner with our mussels) and an excellent selection of beers from around the world.
Plus a $20 deal every night from 5:30 to 7: If you don’t mind sitting at the counter or bar (and why should you—the chairs have backs, the design vibe is very cool), you can dine on all-you-can-eat Classic (white wine, herbs, garlic), Fra Diavolo (San Marzano tomatoes, olive oil, garlic, basil) or PEI (lobster stock, drawn butter) mussels, plus fries and one draft beer for $20. (For the deal—no reservations accepted, no sharing.)
Flex Mussels
154 W. 13 St (between 7th and 6th)
New York, NY
Also at:
174 E. 82 Street (between 3rd and Lexington),
New York, NY 

At the Market This Week

JUST LIKE HAVING KIDS makes you feel the years pass in a particularly poignant way, so do weekly visits to the farmers’ market. I was feeling downright sad last week as the tomatoes dwindled and I had to face it, summer was over. But this Saturday, a visit to Union Square Greenmarket reminded me that fall has its pleasures, too. Not only did I find a few pounds of nice end-of-season San Marzano plum tomatoes at Cherry Lane Farms, but the whole market was a riot of color and productiveness. Peppers sweet and hot, winter squash, glorious specimens of savoy cabbage, carrots, beets, kale and collard greens, broccoli. It was hard to know where to start—or stop. 

Haiku on a Year in the Life of a Restaurant

A GOOD MEAL is poetry. So perhaps it’s not so surprising to find a chef-poet. On the occasion of Union Square Café’s 25th anniversary, chef Michael Romano has written some haiku:
autumn chill
distant wood smoke
truffle dogs are digging
long-simmered stew
aged red wine
streetlights on at five

Now doesn’t that awaken your senses in the most lovely way? Find the rest of the year here.

Eataly Coming to New York: First Look

I WAS WALKING ALONG 24th Street last week and peeked in the window at Eataly, the 50,000-square-foot food hall Mario Batali is opening with partners Joe Bastianich, Lidia Bastianich and others.
Batali has described it as a “temple” to Italian food. It will have all sorts of food departments—butcher, fishmonger, greengrocer, bakery, cheese, dried goods, salumi—as well as restaurants and snack counters. A sign outside quotes Fellini: “Life is a combination of magic and pasta.” Sounds good to me.
The original Eataly, a Slow Food heaven in Turin, opened in 2007, followed by branches in other Italian cities and in Japan. We’ll all get to experience New York’s Eataly for ourselves on Tuesday, August 31 at 4 pm. To whet your appetite, here’s a preview from Eater.
See you there!
Fifth Avenue and 24th Street 

Best Med Diet Dish at...Taberna [closed]

I’VE ALWAYS BEEN A FAN of small plates and making a meal out of a succession of appetizers so it was good news when a new tapas bar—Taberna—opened on the Upper West Side this summer. Chef Jennifer Cole spent a dozen years or more working as a chef in Spain (including at Michelin-starred Balzac in Madrid) before returning to New York. Lucky us. The menu is full of little composed masterpieces of Mediterranean ingredients—seafood, vegetables, beans, olive oil. Specials change frequently, depending on what’s in season at the market. Earlier in July, I paid a visit.
Each of the four small dishes we ordered, which made a satisfying dinner for two, was full of complex flavors. As each plate was presented, I realized that what I like about this way of eating is that it is interesting—and I don’t mean that in the polite way we sometimes use the word when we really mean “less than great.” Each dish was an experience unto itself, an inducement to mindful eating that we could savor fully before going on to the next. A glass of Laxas Albariño 2009, a lovely crisp white wine with fruity aromas, from Galicia in northwestern Spain, was a perfect accompaniment.
The meal began with an amuse-bouche on two white ceramic spoons—salpicón de pulpo from Galicia, made from small dice of octopus, peppers, onions and tomatoes with a lemon vinaigrette. A promising start.
Next was marinated trout with white bean salad—what a wonderful contrast between the fish and the creamy white beans.
Pisto manchego (Spanish ratatouille) with quail egg, Serrano crisp, and parsley gel is a great example of the Mediterranean use of meat as condiment rather than plate-filler—in this case, a slice of dry-cured Spanish Serrano ham (similar to Italian prosciutto crudo or French jambon de Bayonne), sautéed briefly to make it crispy.
To finish up the meal….delicious baked goat cheese. 
Some other recent specials I’ve seen on the menu—mussel squid salad with heirloom tomatoes, Catalan croquetas with spinach, golden raisins and pine nuts—sound enticing. I’ll be back!
429 Amsterdam Avenue, nr. 81st St.
New York, NY 10024
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