Posts tagged eggs

Brunch at Morandi

Weekend holidays tend to disorient me for the rest of the week, and Easter Sunday was no different. So this post is going to be short and to the point, because I also can’t let another day go by without describing the fantastic brunch I had at Morandi in the West Village a few weeks ago with my dear friend Cheryl.

When Morandi first opened in 2007, it received pretty mediocre reviews, a first for the Keith McNally empire that includes favorites such as Balthazar, Pastis, and Minetta Tavern. But before anyone could try a second plate of spaghetti at this stylishly rustic Italian restaurant, chef Jody Williams was fired and Tony Liu took her place. Now, since I hadn’t eaten at Morandi until a few weeks ago, I can’t talk about whether it’s better or worse than before. All I can say is that Cheryl and I had the best brunch ever when we ate there.

Of course we started with the carciofi alla giudea, or fried artichokes ($12). Lightly dressed with lemon juice, they were light and crisp, the delicate leaves protecting the soft center choke. They were also surprisingly un-greasy for a fried dish, and Cheryl and I ate them all in just a few minutes.

Everything on the menu from the egg-based dishes to the salads sounded amazing, and it took me forever to choose my main dish. I finally went with the fazzoletti di ricotta, warm buttery crepes filled with lemon ricotta and topped with strawberries, blueberries, and raspberries ($13). Think of them as the Italian equivalent of the much-loved blintz. The crepes were thick and doughy, the lemon ricotta light and airy. Combined with a dusting of powdered sugar and fresh fruit, this was the perfect breakfast dish.

Cheryl had an equally difficult time choosing her meal, but finally went with the classic spaghetti carbonara ($15). Morandi’s was one of the best versions of this dish I have ever tasted. The pasta was cooked perfectly, and the egg was just slightly cooked from its heat. Small chunks of pancetta hid between the egg-coated spaghetti strands, but believe me, none went to waste. Did I mention yet that Cheryl let me eat the last bite? If that doesn’t prove our friendship, nothing does.

We considered ending our feast after our main dishes, but then quickly requested the dessert menu. The crespelle di cioccolato, or chocolate crepes, could not be denied ($9). Topped with chestnut gelato and a sweet citrus-based sauce, they were delicate and decadent at the same time. As Cheryl and I lingered over our coffees, we saw so many dishes pass by our table that we wanted to try; we almost ordered a second meal then and there. But the tempting focaccia “occhio di bue” (cracker-thin focaccia topped with a sunny-side egg, pancetta, and pecorino, served on a gorgeous wood serving tray) will just have to wait until another visit—which will be sooner rather than later. We’re already looking forward to our next shot at the best brunch ever.

Morandi, 211 Waverly Place at 7th Avenue in the West Village, Manhattan. T: 212-627-7575

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Lunch at Mimi’s Hummus

Most rainy days find me curled up on my couch, watching TV or flipping through the pages of a magazine in order to avoid the terrible weather outside. But during last Saturday’s torrential downpour, I actually left the apartment, for a very important reason: My dear friend Rachel was taking me out for a belated birthday lunch at Mimi’s Hummus in Ditmas Park, Brooklyn. This tiny Israeli-inspired restaurant, with its warm orange walls and high ceilings, has received much positive attention lately, and I couldn’t wait to try it. Even the driving rain and high winds couldn’t keep me away.

We started with much-needed cups of hot mint and sage tea ($1.50), and snacked on complimentary olives and pickles while deciding what to order from chef Mimi Kitani’s varied menu. Five types of hummus with intriguing toppings such as mushrooms, tahini, and ground beef with pine nuts made it difficult to choose just one. But we finally settled on the fava bean version ($8), and ordered a basket of whole wheat and white pita bread to accompany it.

As soon as the hummus arrived, Rachel and I tore off bits of pita from the soft, pillowy rolls and eagerly scooped away at the spread. Creamy, light, and silky smooth, the hummus was simply amazing. The warm fava bean stew, nestled into the center of the spread, added an extra layer of richness, and I was so enthralled with the dish’s texture that I barely noticed the delicate lemon garlic dressing.

Next we split the shakshuka eggs, a piping hot, bubbling pan of eggs, tomatoes, red peppers, and spices such as turmeric and cumin ($9.50). It reminded me of a more fiery, Middle Eastern version of the Eggs in Purgatory I made a few weeks ago. Once again we put the pita bread to good use, swiping away at the sides of the cast iron pan so that none of the eggs or the deep, yolk-infused sauce went to waste. A crunchy Israeli salad, with cucumbers, tomatoes, and herbs, added a cool freshness to our meal as well ($5).

As Rachel and I chatted and sipped more tea, our waitress asked if we’d like dessert. After a moment of surprise—we had been so engrossed in our food and conversation that we hadn’t considered it—we went with the mysterious punchim ($3). Crushed chocolate graham crackers coated with coconut, these punchim were soft, buttery balls of chocolate decadence.

We took a peek at Market, the adorable food shop next door that is also run by Mimi’s owners. A quick tour revealed Brooklyn favorites such as McClure’s Pickles and Brooklyn Brine Co., as well as an array of Middle Eastern ingredients, specialty cheeses, and cured meats. Later, as I walked to the subway in the growing storm, I realized I was already thinking about my next visit to Mimi’s. Even if it’s raining again, I have four more types of hummus to try.

Mimi’s Hummus, 1209 Cortelyou Road between Westminster Road and East 13th Street in Ditmas Park, Brooklyn. T: 718-284-4444. Market is located right next door, at 1211 Cortelyou Road.

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Eggs in Purgatory

Let’s just cut to the chase, shall we? I don’t have an easy explanation for where I’ve been the past few months. All I can say is that I dropped off the grid for a while, and now I’m doing my best to resurface. I’ve missed my little blog. It’s a bigger part of me than I realized, and I’ve deeply felt its absence. For the past three years, Artichoke Heart has been my primary creative outlet, and this too-long pause made me wonder what I enjoyed most about blogging: thinking about food, writing about food, or being excited about food. Because honestly, I wasn’t feeling any of it, and wasn’t sure when or if I would again.

But I have been cooking. I experimented with this recipe for Drunken Noodles, and another one for stuffed cabbage. I made spaghetti and meatballs and an ice cream icebox cake that caused my dear friend’s children to squeal with delight. And after each successful (or not successful) meal, I wondered if it would lead me back to the blog. I came close a few times, sitting at the computer, fingers on the keys and staring at the blank screen, but the words wouldn’t come. Finally, on Friday night, I made a dish that reflected my self-inflicted, in-between state: Eggs in Purgatory.

It’s a dramatic name for a simple Southern Italian dish, a classic example of cucina povera where a robust, healthy meal is made from a few basic ingredients. Eggs in Purgatory are just poached eggs in tomato sauce. Yup, that’s it. You crack a few eggs over a simmering onion- or garlic-based tomato sauce, and let them slowly cook, the golden centers and creamy whites quivering in a bubbling, crimson sea of tomatoes. Gently pour the gleaming eggs and sauce over a piece of toast, and dinner is served.

Something about the flavors of this dish hit Jim and me right away. Our forks returned time and time again, the soft egg yolks bleeding gently into the sweet tomatoes. I overcooked the eggs a little bit (they were closer to soft-boiled than poached) but no matter. The crunchy bread beneath was the perfect base for the liquid mass of protein and tomatoes above.

Perhaps the allusion to Purgatory is derived from the image of eggs momentarily suspended in the tomato sauce, a symbolic transitory state between Heaven and Hell. Whatever the connotation of this dish may be, I hope my extended blogging lapse is over, and that I’ve found my way back to the Choke.

Recipe for Eggs In Purgatory (with garlic-based tomato sauce), adapted from Smitten Kitchen

  • 1 14-ounce can of crushed tomatoes
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • Pinch of sugar
  • Pinch of crushed red pepper flakes
  • Sea salt
  • Fresh ground black pepper
  • 4 large eggs
  • 2 slices of toasted peasant bread
  • Fresh grated Parmesan cheese

Warm the olive oil in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Add the garlic and red pepper flakes. Cook until the garlic has browned, stirring frequently, for about 1 minute. Add the tomatoes and season with sugar, a pinch of salt, and black pepper. Reduce heat to a simmer and cook for about 10 to 20 minutes.

Gently crack the eggs into the tomato sauce, allowing the interiors to spread throughout the sauce. Cover the pan and let the eggs cook for 5 minutes. Remove from heat, uncover, and let the pan stand for 2 to 3 minutes.

Transfer 2 eggs to each piece of toast and cover with sauce. Garnish with cheese, and season with salt and pepper. Serves 2 as a main dish. Enjoy!

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What a Difference a Year Makes: The Carroll Gardens Farmers’ Market

I know it might seem crazy to write about food with all this election madness going on, but I can’t help it. I just got back from voting, I’m too jittery to sit still, and I can’t bring myself to watch any election coverage just yet. So, in an effort to calm myself down while hoping for the best, I thought I’d write a post about a subject I’ve had on my mind for the past few months: my local farmers’ market.

As some of you already know, last year Carroll Gardens finally got its own farmers’ market. Starting in July 2007, a few tables of vegetables and fruit lined a short stretch of Carroll Street between Court and Smith Streets every Sunday through last November. While I lamented the lack of cheese, meat, and fish vendors, I remained optimistic for these changes in the future. I figured that once the market became more established, perhaps we would see more vendors on the block.

Well, it pays to think positively, because our little market has expanded quite a bit in just one year. Now when I make my weekly visit to Carroll Street, I bring two bags and indulge in a variety of local food products.

Similar to my shopping pattern from last year, I begin by stocking up on fruit from Fishkill Farms. While over the summer I focused on fresh plums and peaches, in October I scooped up apples and pears. My next move is usually towards the piles of fresh greens and other vegetables from Alex Farm as I supplement my CSA shipment with whatever other produce I might need for the week. Jim seems to prefer the vegetables from W. Rogowski Farm, so in the end we actually wind up supporting several stands at the market. I can’t forget my weekly chocolate croissant from Amy’s Bread, although sometimes I try to be healthy and buy a loaf of whole-grain bread as well.

But in addition to all of the wonderful produce and baked goods, we can now peruse products from various local meat, fish, dairy, and cheese vendors. About a month ago, Jim and I bought grass-fed, spicy Angus sausages from Grazin’ Angus Acres for the first time. We broiled them, sliced them up, and cooked them on top of one of our homemade pizzas. Raised without antibiotics or hormones, this beef was happily enjoyed with less guilt than usual. Grazin’ Acres’s sausages were so earthy and full-flavored that Jim and I went back for one of their grass-fed chickens a few weeks later.

I’ve yet to buy fish from Seatuck Fish Company, or pasture-raised eggs from Fishkill Farms, but both are on my list. Once in a while I’ll pick up some goat cheese from Consider Bardwell Farm, and a few weeks ago local honey was for sale. There are so many options, I find it’s impossible to try them all at once.

On another note, I’ve also enjoyed seeing how our farmers’ market has increased its role in the community. Every Sunday the lines seem to stretch longer and longer at each stand. A few months ago a chef from the soon-to-open restaurant Buttermilk Channel prepared a fresh vegetable pickle for the market’s shoppers. On this past Sunday, piles of mussels from Seatuck Fish Company were being prepared at one of the stands, encouraging people to linger and enjoy the day with each other.

So as you can see, our little farmers’ market has grown quite a bit in a year. I may not have tried the wares from every stand, but it’s not a problem; I have something new to look forward to every week. I just hope I can get through the rest of election day…

The Carroll Gardens Farmers Market, located on Carroll Street between Smith and Court. It runs on Sundays from July through November.

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Zucchini Fatigue and a Frittata

I thought I was done with zucchini. As you may remember, a couple of weeks ago I believed I had cooked it in every way possible, even frying up some of its blossoms for an afternoon feast. Well, another shipment of zucchini and yellow squash from my CSA last week had me suffering from a severe case of zucchini fatigue.

(In case you are wondering, zucchini fatigue is a very real, albeit small-scale epidemic. I hear it hits every year around mid-August.)

Lucky for me, the New York Times came to my rescue with Laura Sbrana’s recipe for a zucchini frittata. Reading through the article I wondered why I didn’t make frittatas more often, as they are perfect for quick and healthy weeknight dinners. A frittata is basically an Italian omelet, its ingredients mixed with eggs instead of folded inside. It is cooked in a pan over low heat on the stovetop, and usually finished under the broiler.

I had seen recipes for zucchini frittatas before, but Sbrana’s required a special touch: Zucchini blossoms would be snipped into pieces and sprinkled across the frittata’s surface before it finished cooking. I couldn’t resist using these flowers in such a beautiful way. What can I say, I’m a sucker for artistry.

I made a few adjustments to the recipe based on what I had in my refrigerator, and I also stole some zucchini flowers from our friends’ garden on the way home from work. (They’re on vacation, they’ll never know.) I tossed slices of squash and zucchini with eggs, low-fat milk, green onions, parmesan, and basil, poured everything into a pan, and let it cook over low heat, tilting the pan every now and then to make sure the eggs cooked completely through.

Sbrana’s recipe recommends flipping the frittata on the stovetop instead of finishing it under the broiler, but as I seemed to be flipping-impaired, I stuck with my broiler method. After the frittata was cooked, I cut a few slices and dug into a fluffy and fresh mass of eggy zucchini delight. I loved how the zucchini and squash retained their elasticity after cooking, and I vowed to work frittatas into my dinner rotation more often. So bring it on CSA, throw some more zucchini my way. I dare you.

Recipe for Zucchini and Squash Frittata (Adapted from Laura Sbrana’s recipe in the New York Times)

  • 1 medium zucchini, cut into thin rounds
  • 1 medium yellow squash, cut into thin rounds
  • 2 medium green onions, diced
  • 8 large eggs
  • 1/4 cup low-fat milk
  • 1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese
  • 1/2 cup chopped basil leaves
  • 4 zucchini flowers
  • salt
  • pepper
  • Extra-virgin olive oil

Over medium-high heat, heat a few tablespoons of olive oil in a heavy 12-inch skillet or 3-quart sauté pan. The oil should just cover the bottom of the pan. When the oil is hot, add the zucchini and squash and season with salt and pepper. Add the onions and season again.

Cook the vegetables until they start to soften, stirring often; this will take about 10 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat.

Whisk the eggs in a large bowl. Whisk in the milk, 3 tablespoons of olive oil, cheese, and half of the basil.

Put the pan with the vegetables back on the stove, over medium-high heat. Add the remaining basil and cook briefly, until the basil wilts and you can smell its perfume. Pour the egg mixture to the pan with the zucchini and squash.

Reduce the heat to medium-low. As the eggs begin to cook, use a spatula to lift them away from the sides of the pan. This will keep the frittata from sticking to the pan. Tilt the pan as you lift the eggs, so that the uncooked egg flows underneath and continues to cook.

When the eggs appear cooked through, remove the pan from the heat. Turn on the broiler. With kitchen scissors, snip the zucchini flowers into small pieces over the frittata. Place the frittata under the broiler until it begins to brown. This will take about 5 to 7 minutes. Check it often, so that it doesn’t burn. Remove from heat.

Cover the frittata and pan with a plate, and turn the pan onto the plate so that the frittata slips from the pan. Use a second plate to flip the frittata again. Let the frittata rest at least 5 minutes before serving. Serves 4 as a main dish. Serve with a green salad if possible. Enjoy!

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Kitchen Gadgets: Egg Pants

Egg Pants by Liz KinnmarkI simply cannot stand how cute these things are. Egg Pants! That’s right, now your hard- or soft-boiled egg can wear PANTS! I want to boil some eggs, just so I can dress them in these cheerful three-legged trousers and trot them around my kitchen table. They were dreamed up by Liz Kinnmark and LIZKIN Design. One size fits all, as the material is surprisingly flexible. One more time: EGG PANTS!

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