Stay tuned, stay hungry, and go cook something already!

Sunday, April 26, 2015

Smorgasburg - Saturday Williamsburg Food Market

Located in the same place as the Brooklyn Flea, Smorgasburg is a gigantic food market made up of grocers, food carts, food sellers, and other delightful, edible treats. The market is open every Saturday, with the Brooklyn Flea following on Sunday.

Oh, how the 'hood has changed! This weekend I walked over the Williamsburg bridge to attend the food fest I have been hearing about since returning to the rotten apple. It was everything I expected, and more! I need to go back at least five more times so I can taste everything. Enjoy my photos of some of the cool and creative choices. Here's a tip, it opens at 11:00 so get there early, as it gets insanely crowded, and show up hungry!



Sunday, April 12, 2015

Ask Rula!

Hello, my people! It seems I have been AWOL for a while, so sorry! The city keeps me so busy with random hipster club nights, mysterious rendezvous-es, exclusive out-of-the-way pop-up dinners, and spa treatments galore. I enjoy mingling with all sorts of folks and it seems wherever I go, people have questions. So lets get to a few of them right now, shall we?

Our first question is from Dough Girl, and she says:
I love dumplings in soup. But I have never been able to get them to reliably puff up and cook through inside. Some will have a nice bready inside, some (most) will be like solid dough. I've tried different recipes, but this always happens. So it must be me, right? Do you have any tricks or techniques to help, oh wise Rula? FYI, here's the recipe I currently use (I like the buttermilk/chive flavor):
1.5 cups all-purpose flour
0.5 tsp baking powder
2 tb minced chives
0.5 tsp salt
3 Tb butter, melted
0.5 cup buttermilk
1 egg

Dry stuff in one bowl, wet in another.
Pour wet over dry and stir until you get a shaggy dough.
Drop tablespoon-sized blobs into simmering soup
Cover and cook until puffed, about 15 minutes.
Dough Girl

Dear Dough Girl,
Nice recipe, you must be one sassy chef! I think the proportions of the recipe sound fine but I would try removing a little of flour which might lighten them up a bit. I think the inconsistent cooking is from overcrowding. Try this method: Form them all first and drop them on a lined sheet pan then drop them in the broth at the same time and make sure they have room to move around. You might have to cook them in 2 batches, but the results should be better. If not make some buttermilk biscuits and just dip!

This next question is from Stumped Stewy, and he asks:
What is the difference between a thick soup and a stew? My wife, who thinks she knows everything — just because she makes dinner every night — says it's obvious! But I say it's up for debate. What do you think?
Stumped Stewy

Dear Stumped Stewy,
Let me get this straight, your lovely wife cooks you dinner every night and this is the lack of respect you show her? I think you are lucky you are not wearing that thick soup or stew, depending on what you call it. In terms of a definition, there are a few important factors to consider:
  • any liquid food with a broth base would be considered a soup;
  • soups, unlike stews, can be served hot or cold; and
  • stews are slow-cooked due to the type of meat or vegetable used.
By slow simmering, you can achieve a tender meat or chicken — as well as a blending and mellowing of flavors. As things cook slowly they tend to concentrate flavors and become rich and delicious. Soups on the other hand, can be prepared and finished in a much shorter time. You, on the third hand, will need a lot more time.

The final question is from Nutty Nelly and she writes: Can you please tell me what a Marcona almond is? They seem to be everywhere and are very spendy. Are they worth it? And what is the best way to serve them?

Nutty Nelly

Dear Nutty Nelly,
Marcona almonds are really delicious, you should treat yourself to some, they are great as a nibble with cocktails. They are from Spain and they have a lovely slightly sweet flavor. They are moister and softer then regular almonds and the fragrance will remind you of the perfume of almond extract. They are very high in oil, like most nuts, which makes them very nutritious, and should be stored in a cool, dry place to keep them from going rancid. Try using them in salads, in baked goods, or salted to garnish a cheese platter. Remember, trying new things will keep you young! Why do you think I date college boys?

If you have any questions for me, feel free to send me an email or leave a comment!

Well, that's all for now — I have to get ready for my closeup. Ciao!

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Winter Jams

Even though it's winter, you can still play with fruit! At my new job, I get to do all sorts of fun projects. My current new favorite task is making the jams and jellies we serve with our breakfasts. Now, this will probably get even better in the spring when my palette of seasonal ingredients expands, but for now I am finding all kinds of great recipes to explore. We use them up so fast that I do not have to get involved in the canning process so I have not included it in the instructions, but it's not that complex and you can find excellent instructions elsewhere online. Here are 4 to try at home:

Grapefruit and Campari Marmalade

6 pink grapefruits (or Ugli Fruit, which I used)
2/3 cup Campari
5-6 cups sugar (the amount is based on volume of prepared fruit)
Peel the grapefruit, remove the white pith, and cut the rinds into 2-inch pieces. Bring some water to a boil in a small pot. Drop in the rinds and boil for 1 minute. Drain and discard the water. Repeat two more times using fresh water each time.  When done drain the rinds well. Chop the peeled grapefruit flesh into chunks and pick out the seeds (or just use seedless ones, d'oh!). Discard the seeds. Place the chopped fruit and accumulated juices into a food processor fitted with a cutting blade and process for 1 minute, until the mixture is well-chopped and frothy. Measure the amount of chopped fruit and juice. Return 1 cup of the fruit to the food processor. and process with the rinds till they are in small bits. Now use the same amount of sugar as the total amount of the fruit and juice mixture. Place the sugar in the pot with the fruit. Stir the chopped rinds into the fruit and sugar mixture in the large heavy pot. Stir in the Campari. Bring to a boil, stirring, and reduce heat to maintain a constant simmer. Cook for 25 minutes, stirring gently to prevent scorching and boil-overs. The color will darken as the marmalade thickens.

If you have any doubts, you can test the marmalade: put a tablespoon on a small plate, put the plate in the freezer for three minutes. The marmalade is ready if it no longer is runny. Note: it's a traditional marmalade in the sense that it's a bit bitter — much like myself. This recipe makes about 12 half-pint jars.

Grilled Anjou Pear Butter

3 pounds ripe Anjou pears quartered, seeded, skin on
3 tablespoons lemon juice
1/2 cup sugar
2 1/2 teaspoons ground cardamom
1/2 cup water

Take your quartered pears and brown them on a grill (or in the broiler). Combine the charred pears with all the ingredients in a large pot. Bring the mixture to a boil then reduce the heat and simmer for about 20 minutes or until very tender. Run the mixture through a food mill, which will remove the peels (and any seeds you missed) and leave you with a lovely purée. Pour the purée into a pot and simmer on the stove till thickened, about 1 hour on a very low flame. Or you can roast in at 300 degree oven for about 2 hours, stirring every 30 minutes so it won't stick, until it reaches the consistency you like.

Red Grape and Cassis Jelly

3 pounds (about 2 quarts) of flavorful grapes, Concord are best, but ruby red work well, too
1/2 cup water
1/2 cup Cassis black currant liqueur
1 1/4 cup granulated sugar
3 tablespoons apple pectin
1/4 cup lemon juice

Wash and stem grapes — don't worry if small stems remain on the fruit, since they will be strained out along with the seeds. In a nonreactive, heavy-bottomed saucepan, bring grapes, water, and Cassis to a boil and then reduce to a simmer. Simmer grapes, periodically stirring and crushing, until they've begun to lose their shape, you can see their color changing, and the liquid increases — about ten minutes. Remove from heat and cool slightly. Set a food mill (with the smallest sieve in place) over a large, heatproof bowl or pitcher, and pour grapes and cooking liquid through. Mill until all that remains are the seeds, skins, and stems. You will have about 4 cups (32 ounces) of grape pulp. In the same nonreactive saucepan, stir grape pulp together with sugar, pectin, and citrus juice and bring to a boil over high heat. Cook until the mixture registers 220 degrees on a candy or instant read thermometer. Turn off heat and skim any foam with a spoon. This will gel as it cools.

Strawberry and Vanilla Preserves with Balsamic Reduction

Yes, yes, I know strawberries are not a winter fruit, but they are really cheap right now, and sometimes only a berry jam will do!

2 pounds fresh strawberries, hulled and cut in quarters
5 cups sugar
1 tablespoon Balsamic Reduction (see below)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 pinch salt

In a pot, combine the strawberries and sugar. Bring to a rolling boil and cook, stirring frequently, for 15 to 20 minutes, or until the berries start to fall apart and temperature of the mixture has reached 220 degrees, which means it will be nice and thick and set. Now stir in the balsamic reduction and the vanilla. Wasn't that was easy?

balsamic reduction

What's Balsamic reduction? Just what it sounds like, you take Balsamic vinegar and cook it down until the volume is reduced, and the flavor is concentrated. In a medium-sized, nonreactive saucepan bring 1 cup of vinegar to a simmer over medium-high heat, and then turn down to low. Simmer for about 10 to 15 minutes to thicken and reduce. Keep an eye on it — you don't want it to burn. When it coats the back of a spoon, you're good to go.

Monday, February 09, 2015

Hello My People, Meet My New People!

I am now part of a great new team! For those of you who have been following this blog for a while, you know I have moved back home to New York. The whole experience has been quite a comedy of errors. Basically everything that could go wrong did, but fortunately we are now all settled and happy (if only the black ice would disappear). I have found my new home at Neuman's Kitchen on the Lower East Side and I am loving it! I hope to be be posting some photos and recipes of the cool projects I am working on there soon!

Here's a lovely note from my dear friend Diane;
As my mother used to say "If the road didn't have bends and twists, we would fall asleep at the wheel." So pleased that your road has taken you to a good place.