Figs in my Belly Traveled to Kansas City: A “Guide”

2 Sep

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Back in July (doesn’t that feel like forever ago now?!), I hopped on a tiny airplane headed to Kansas City, Missouri to visit my friend Elizabeth and her friends and family. The trip was filled with food, drink, music, and fountains.

Below is my little guide to this lovely city, and a few random photos that I snapped during the trip. Surely, I missed some hot spots, so if you have any KC places that are not to be missed, let me know!

Coffee

Drinks/bars (also see the restaurants for good drinks, too)

Restaurants

  • Story.-great restaurant, excellent desserts, 10$ dinners on Sunday
  • Bluestem-go to the lounge for happy hour snacks and drinks
  • Room 39-causal lunch (great for sitting at the bar), more upscale dinner
  • The Westside Local-kale hummus, friendly servers
  • Cafe Europa-order the classic lemon cake from the pastry case; go for dinner or Sunday Supper
  • Port Fonda-Mexican food, margaritas
  • Beer Kitchen
  • Succotash-unique little breakfast spot; the “vegan sink” and the “cake and a smile”
  • Minsky’s-good for delivery or take-out pizza
  • Füd-vegan
  • Cafe Gratitude-vegan

Barbecue

  • Oklahoma Joe’s-the Z-man sandwich is supposed to be awesome
  • Gates Bar-B-Q-their sauce is good, burnt ends sandwich, more of a fast food type place

Sweets

Markets

  • City Market-go on the day when they have the farmer’s market
  • BADSEED-organic farmer’s market

Shopping

Museums and Things to Do

A few random photos from the trip:

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Coffee at  Oddly Correct

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Don’t miss out on the happy hour drinks and snacks (and desserts!) at Bluestem

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Live music at The Westport Saloon

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A must-order if brunching at Story.: ricotta fritters

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The desserts at Story.are insanely good!

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A visit to The Nelson-Atkins Art Museum

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Burnt ends sandwich at Gates Bar-B-Q

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The Kale Hummus at The Westside Local!

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A stop at Loose Park to check out the Rose Garden

Blueberry Compote (with gin!)

1 Sep

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David Lebovitz said I should put gin in my blueberry compote. So I did.

In the headnote of his recipe, Lebovitz writes, “…Gin’s herbaceous flavor does indeed marry nicely with blueberries–it can hardly be tasted once cooked, but somehow it just rounds out the blueberry notes…”

I was immediately sold. I took out a saucepan, set it on the stove, and proceeded to make what is now my favorite fruit-based “condiment” of the summer (I imagine another similar summer berry, such as a blackberry, could be substituted for the blueberry).

Cooking the blueberries helped bring out that intense deep blue color and concentrated the flavor, giving off a quintessential blueberry smell. The texture of the berries changed, too, leaving the sometimes-mushy consistency of a fresh blueberry behind and highlighting a blueberry that bursts and oozes a juicy filling instead. Nature’s gushing candy!

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Toss blueberries in a pot with a little sugar and a little gin and cook the mix for just a few minutes until the blueberries soften and begin to release their juices. 

That’s the shorthand version of the recipe. 3 ingredients. 1 pot. 5 minutes.

Serve chilled, room temperature, or slightly warm. I have been enjoying the compote with a generous scoop of plain yogurt, and spooned atop pancakes. It would also pair well with: oatmeal, ice cream, cake, nut-butter toast.

Blueberry Compote (with gin!)

from David Lebovitz’s Ready for Dessert; makes about 2 cups

*When I made the compote, I had slightly under 2 cups of blueberries. I ended up eyeballing the sugar and gin to about 2 tablespoons sugar and 1 heaping spoon of gin. If you feel comfortable eyeballing to taste, go for it. The proportions listed below are the original ones used in Lebovitz’s book.

  • 2 1/2 cups (12 ounces/340g) fresh blueberries (or frozen)
  • 1/4 cup (50g) sugar
  • 2 tablespoons (30ml) gin (I used Hendrick’s Gin)

Combine the blueberries, sugar, and gin in a medium saucepan. Cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until the berries just begin to soften and release their juices. Remove from heat and let stand, uncovered, and let cool to room temperature. Taste for sweetness and add more sugar, if desired.

Storage: This compote can be stored in a jar or tupperware the refrigerator for up to 3 days.  This compote is actually better when prepared a day in advance, which gives it time to thicken nicely.

Variation: If you do not want to use gin, you can substitute water and a good squeeze of lemon juice.

Marco’s Trattoria, Brooklyn

29 Aug

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Yesterday evening, I met my friend Michelle in Prospect Heights, Brooklyn for a meal at one of her favorite restaurants, Marco’s. A sweet Italian trattoria owned by Francine Stephens and Andrew Feinberg of  Franny’s and Bklyn Larder.

The menu changes often, depending on the season and the markets. As per Michelle, some staples like the Wood-Grilled Bread with Olio Verde extra virgin olive oil and the Wood-Grilled oysters with pickles and black pepper will almost always be on the menu. While it was a difficult decision (we wanted to eat everything on the menu), we decided to save the bread and the oysters for next time and try some new (to both of us) dishes.

The 2013 Bisson Glera LIGURIA Prosecco felt like a celebratory way to toast the meal. Our Prosecco arrived with forest-green olives sprinkled with fennel pollen. Next up came the:

Eggplant w/Pecorino Fiore Sardo (not pictured)

The soft eggplant bites were tossed with a heavy pour of olive oil and a generous shaving of cheese. With little bits of chopped celery (I think it was celery? Whatever it was, it was good) and again, fennel pollen.

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Another difficult decision arose when it came time to order a pasta. We ultimately chose the:

Spaghetti w/ fennel, chilies, lemon & bottarga di muggine

Neither of us had ever tried bottarga di muggine, which is basically shaved fish eggs. We were told that bottarga is similar to an anchovy in adding that salty depth of flavor. While it was certainly different than anything we had ever tried, the bottarga-specked spaghetti grew on us. More fennel pollen, plus sautéed fennel bulb. The pasta was also *perfectly* cooked.

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Our main dish was the:

Scallops  w/ cherry tomatoes, basil & pine nuts

Nothing like bursting sun-gold baby tomatoes. We wanted to lick the plate.

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And for an extra veggie side we ordered the:

Radicchio & Spinach w/ garlic & Piave

The radicchio and spinach were slightly charred, highlighting a sweeter flavor in these usually bitter lettuces. The garlic was very thinly sliced and crisped to a little garlic chip. Sometimes I forget how good the sides can be at the right restaurant.

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We recruited Michelle’s fiancé (!!), Matt, to join us for dessert:

Rye Chocolate Cake w/ mint gelato (pictured, left)

Semifreddo w/ Amarena cherries, cocoa nib & Pianogrillo extra virgin olive oil (pictured, right)

Both desserts were phenomenal. The rye in the chocolate cake lends a deeper dark chocolate flavor. And the olive oil semifreddo had the perfect crunchy, salty richness that I always crave in my desserts.

 

Can’t wait to come back for more good eats, Marco’s!

 

Marco’s Trattoria

295 Flatbush Ave.

Brooklyn, NY 11217

Honey Lavender Ice Cream

15 Aug

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I just made a batch of Smitten Kitchen’s Maple Cluster Granola. She uses an egg white in her recipe as a protein “glue” that creates wonderful clusters. Genius. Since I have a “nothing to waste” attitude, I saved the yolk and immediately made room in the freezer for my Cuisinart ice cream bowl.

As I was putting the container of fresh-baked granola away in the pantry, I re-discovered my bag of Culinary English Lavender (grown in Long Island). With lavender, a little goes a long way, so I always have what feels like an endless supply of purple buds.

And so, Honey Lavender Ice Cream.

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I just got back from a trip to visit California’s Bay Area and Sierra Mountains. Lavender seems to grow wild there, and in many other places, so if you have fresh lavender accessible, skip the purchased bag and go pick some!

This ice cream smells and tastes like a delicate flower, in a good way. I am almost tempted to lather a cold honey-lavender-ice-cream-mask all over my face, but the temptation to just eat the ice cream is much greater.

(psst…since we are on the subject, have you ever tried Dr. Bronner’s Lavender soap? It’s my favorite!)

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Pair the ice cream with fresh strawberries or white peaches. Or serve it over your favorite summer fruit crumble, cake, or pie.

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Find more Figs in my Belly ice cream recipes and flavors in the Recipe Index.

Honey Lavender Ice Cream

adapted from Bakeology by Lisa, using David Lebovitz technique

I used 1% milk and one fewer yolk than the original recipe because it was convenient for me and a touch healthier, without compromising on taste or texture

  • 1 cup milk (I used 1% milk, but you could use whole if you want)
  • pinch of Kosher salt
  • 1/2 cup honey
  • 2 tablespoons culinary lavender
  • 2 cups heavy cream
  • 4 egg yolks (large or extra large work fine)

Place the bowl of an ice cream maker in the freezer for at least 24 hours.

Place the milk, salt, honey and lavender in a small pot and heat, stirring with a rubber spatula, until just scalding. Turn off the heat, cover, and let the mixture infuse for one hour.

Meanwhile, place the heavy cream in a bowl and place a mesh strainer over the top. Set the bowl of heavy cream into a larger bowl. Surround the larger outside bowl with ice water.

After an hour, re-warm the milk/salt/honey/lavender mixture. Mix the egg yolks in a small bowl. Very slowly and stirring constantly with either  a whisk or a rubber spatula, pour some of the milk mixture (about 1/2 cup) into the yolks.  Pour this mixture back into the pot with the remaining milk mixture. Continue to cook the custard over low heat, stirring constantly, until it thickens enough to coat the back of a spoon.

Once thickened, pour the custard through the mesh strainer into the bowl of cream sitting in the ice water bath. Stir everything together and let it sit in the ice water bath until the ice cream base is chilled. Once chilled, refrigerate the mixture for a few hours. Churn it in the ice cream maker according to the manufacturer’s instructions.

Yogurt Chia Parfaits

1 Aug

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I bought a 24-pound watermelon. Luckily, I purchased this fruit-the-size-of-a-small-child at my corner store, so I only had to carry the monster up one block. Yes, I know that smaller watermelons exist, but I wanted and I needed and I had to have a watermelon at that very moment when I walked by the store.

Besides munching on cold melon cubes right from the fridge, I am brainstorming creative ways to use my giant watermelon stash. Watermelon shrub is currently fermenting on my counter. My new smoothie crush involves frozen watermelon cubes, frozen banana chunks, milk, vanilla, and matcha green tea powder. I made No-Cook Watermelon Tabbouleh Salad and enjoyed it for dinner and lunch for a few days. The recipe is from the quarterly nutrition newsletter that I edit, The Grapevine. Find the recipe on page 19. 

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Watermelon is the epitome of a cool, juicy summertime treat. And that is just what I have been craving lately, something cool and refreshing. Since we “eat with our eyes,” it is important that my meals have lots of color in them. Watermelon’s bright pink color pairs so nicely with green foods. Notice the green cucumbers in the above photograph, and the green chia pudding in the photograph below.

These pink and green Yogurt Chia Parfaits are both fun to look at and fun to eat! Plus, chia seeds, yogurt, and watermelon are all very hydrating foods. These parfaits require a little bit of prep work, but once you have a jar of chia pudding, a container of plain yogurt, colorful fruit, and some homemade or store-bought breakfast cereal on-hand, you should be ready to roll.

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I discovered two lovely blogs this summer that both happen to be raw and vegan. Laura Miller of Sidesaddle Kitchen and Gena of Choosing Raw. Good inspiration for staying cool and creative in the kitchen.

Laura’s recipe videos are both hilarious and delicious, and her produce portraits are stunning. I made her chocolate pudding with avocado this summer, and it was a big hit around here. I also made her buckwheat breakfast cereal, which I love and highly recommend as a cereal alternative. Remember to buy raw or hulled buckwheat groats because the roasted buckwheat groats (aka kasha) have a completely different flavor and cooking requirement.

While I adore chia seeds in moderation, chia pudding has always irked me a little, with all of those tiny gummy seeds. But, since I had a few samples of matcha powder sitting in my cupboard untouched for the last six months, Gena’s matcha green tea chia pudding looked like a good way to conquer my chia pudding fears and simultaneously use up some matcha powder (the matcha powder is also good in watermelon smoothies). Turns out I am still not that into chia pudding by itself (SO many seeds), but I really like it mixed into a smoothie, into oatmeal, or layered in a yogurt parfait!

I took Laura’s buckwheat breakfast cereal and Gena’s matcha green tea chia pudding and turned them into a semi-vegan, healthy, and colorful mini meal. The yogurt in these Yogurt Chia Parfaits can easily be omitted or substituted for some sort of frozen banana smoothie to make this vegan friendly.

To layer the parfaits, begin with a layer of fruit (I use a mix of cubed watermelon and quartered figs), a layer of plain yogurt, a layer of chia pudding, and a layer of buckwheat cereal mixed with granola. Repeat the layers for a full parfait. No need for exact measurements, just spoon out the layers to your liking.

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Matcha Green Tea Chia Pudding

from Choosing Rawmakes enough for about 4 parfaits or 1-2 servings of straight up chia pudding

I found the consistency to be a little too liquid to eat on it’s own, so I would add a touch less milk or even a scoop of yogurt to thicken it if you are going to eat it as is. Keep the portions below if you are adding this to a Yogurt Chia Parfait. 

  • 1 cup low-fat milk (I used regular, feel free to use non-dairy milk)
  • 1/2 teaspoon matcha green tea powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 tablespoon agave or maple syrup
  • 3 tablespoons chia seeds

In a blender, combine the milk, matcha powder, vanilla, and agave and blend for a few seconds until thoroughly combined. Pour the mixture over the chia seeds and stir to combine. Stir again every few minutes for the next 15 minutes. Then allow the mixture to sit for at least 1 hour (or overnight, in the fridge). Stir the mixture once more, and serve.

This chia pudding will be best within 4-5 days. Keep it in the fridge.

 

Yogurt Chia Parfaits

I am not giving exact portions here because you can layer these as you like. If you want more fruit, use more. If you like more chia pudding, use more. etc. etc. I like to use plain yogurt because there is already some natural sweetness in the fruit, and both the granola and the chia pudding have a little sweetener in them. 

  • Seasonal fruit-I used a mix of fresh, quartered figs and cubed watermelon
  • Plain low fat Greek yogurt- I like this brand lately
  • Matcha green tea chia pudding
  • Granola and/or homemade crunchy buckwheat groats cereal

Layer all ingredients into jars (I just use old jam jars). Begin with a layer of fruit, a few spoons of yogurt, a few spoons of chia pudding, and a layer of granola or buckwheat groats cereal. Repeat. I usually can only fit two layers into my jars.

I like to make these a day or even two days ahead. If they sit for longer, the granola may get soggy. A great on-the-go breakfast or snack!

Home Fries

28 Jul

My friend and her family generously gave me some of their surplus potatoes and home-grown herbs and onions a few days ago. When I got home, I set to work steeping an ample bunch of lemon balm leaves with lemon verbena tea bags to make a pitcher of iced tea. Then, I graced my kitchen with cilantro-studded home fries.

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When I lived in the Bay Area, I used to be okay with battling the crowds and going out for a big weekend brunch complete with eggs, home fries, maybe a muffin, and always coffee.

Oh, New York. Why does it seem like every brunch place here serves french fries with eggs? There is the occasional potato pancake or limp hash-brown, but rarely, if ever, a home fry. Maybe I just live in the wrong part of town for home fries? If anyone out there has a good spot for New York City breakfast potatoes, let me know. Until then, you can find me in my kitchen on weekend mornings, creating what I feel is a proper weekend breakfast.

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The trick to making these home fries at home is to use the microwave (if you do not have a microwave, you can boil your potatoes first). Wash the potatoes, chop the potatoes, and place the potatoes covered in the microwave. This gets them par-cooked before they hit the pan to get crispy outside and remain soft inside.

The second trick is to cook the onion separately from the potatoes and to add the onion back in at the end. Since the potatoes cook much longer than the onion, taking the onion out and then adding the onion back at the end prevents the pieces from charring.

Naturally, home fries are excellent with eggs. If the season is right, I recommend slicing some baby tomatoes in half, salting them, and mixing them in with the eggs. I scrambled my eggs, but a poached or a flipped egg  with the runny yolk seeping into the potatoes is another option. If you are not into eggs, home fries + beans or home fries + fish or home fries + sausage or home fries + salad are a few of many ideas.

Sprinkle with a liberal amount of salt and pepper. Hot sauce optional.

Home Fries

recipe from the always reliable and lovely Smitten Kitchen

makes about 4 servings

You can use all butter, or you can use a mix of canola oil and butter. I dialed down the butter slightly compared to the original recipe. Like me, start with less, and add more if you like. 

1 1/2 pounds potatoes

1 onion, chopped

3 tablespoons butter, divided (or a mix of butter and canola oil)

salt and pepper, to taste

optional: fresh cilantro

Arrange potatoes in large microwave-safe bowl or large plate, top with 1/2 tablespoon butter, and cover with another plate. Microwave on high until edges of potatoes begin to soften, 5 to 7 minutes, shaking (without removing the cover plate) to redistribute potatoes halfway through cooking.

Meanwhile, melt 1/2 tablespoon butter in large skillet (I used non-stick) over medium heat. Add onion and cook until softened and golden brown, about 6 minutes. Transfer to small bowl.

Melt remaining 2 tablespoons butter (or do half butter half canola oil) in the now empty skillet over medium heat. Add potatoes and pack down with spatula. Cook, without moving, until underside of potatoes is brown, 5 to 7 minutes. Turn potatoes, pack down again, and continue to cook until well browned and crisp, 5 to 7 minutes. Reduce heat to medium-low and continue cooking, stirring potatoes every few minutes, until crusty and golden on all sides, 9 to 12 minutes (at this point, if you are making eggs to go with your potatoes, start them now). Stir in onion and salt and pepper to taste. Sprinkle with cilantro, if using.

Bon Appetit’s Chickpea, Barley, and Feta Salad

17 Jul

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My pantry is filled with grains. Grains in various packages–bags, quart containers, boxes, tupperware, and random bulk-bin bags. Grains in various amounts–a nearly full container, half empty, one or two servings left, and a serving that requires more math to calculate liquid-to-grain ratios than I would like to think about.

In my pantry I have: amaranth (I’ve been checking this post out for how to use my amaranth. I want to try popping it), bulgur (that one is in the fridge for some reason), three different kinds of oats, about two servings-worth of farina, polenta, grits, barley, a cupful of arborio rice, couscous, short grain brown rice, jasmine rice, farro, roasted buckwheat grouts (aka kasha), a handful of egg noodles, angel hair, and spaghetti. I recently polished off the quinoa and the millet, and I am exercising serious restraint not to buy more before I finish off some of my other grain odds and ends. Those darn odds and ends. At least grains have a long shelf life.

Looks like Amanda Hesser and I are on the same wavelength, though. She recently prepared lunch for her kids by using up the “various inconvenient amounts” of grains lying around. She boiled them one at a time in the same pot and, like magic, lunch was packed and pantry space was created and only one pot was dirty.

The upshot of all of this pantry overload is that overtime I built myself a arsenal of healthy, quick (and not-so-quick) pantry grains for that perfect throw-together meal. I just need a better system for storing, organizing, and keeping track of all the grains.

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One of the many grains in my pantry is barley. I bought the barley in the winter when I made this creamy chicken soup, and it’s about time that I use it again. Let’s take barley’s “heft and chew” from winter stew to summer salad.

I enjoyed a big bowl of Chickpea, Barley, and Feta Salad for dinner with a little sautéed pesto zucchini and a cold cherry balsamic shrub with a squeeze of lemon juice. Hit. The. Spot.

Leftover grain salads make a great lunch the next day, too.

Barley tip: I soaked the pearled barley in water overnight to speed up the cooking time. Soaking is also thought to enhance the nutrient absorption of the grain by decreasing phytic acid. Nutrition Stripped has a handy guide on soaking and sprouting as a quick reference.

Soaking changes the color of the barley to a slightly gray-color vs. a toasty beige, but the taste is essentially the same. Check out this Serious Eats post about soaking. Up to you if you want to soak, but I recommend it, if anything to save you some time.

Don’t have barely on hand? Feel free to use brown rice, quinoa, farro, wheatberries, pasta, or really any other grain you have in your pantry!

Chickpea, Barley, and Feta Salad

adapted from Bon Appetit

makes about 4 servings

NOTE: I didn’t use all of the barley that I cooked. That was my personal preference. Using all of the barley for this recipe seemed like A LOT of barley, and I liked having more even amounts of grains, beans, and veggies in my salad. I saved some of my leftover barley in the fridge and ate it later in the week with different accoutrement. You can also eat leftover barley as a sweet or savory breakfast. 

8 oz. green beans, halved crosswise

1 cup pearled barley, soaked overnight and drained

1 teaspoon olive oil

1/4 cup pumpkin seeds (or sunflower seeds)

1 15-oz can chickpeas, drained and rinsed

4 oz. feta cheese, cubed or crumbled

handful of fresh spinach, leaves torn

juice of half a lemon

optional: fresh ground pepper, pinch of salt, a few sprigs of fresh herbs (thyme, oregano…), a pinch of your favorite spices 

  • Cook green beans in a large pot of boiling water until crisp-tender, about 3 minutes. Using a sieve or a slotted spoon, transfer to a bowl of ice water.
  • Return water to a boil, add barley, and simmer until tender (refer to packaging for timing, mine only took about 10 minutes since I soaked it overnight); drain. Let cool slightly.
  • Heat oil in a small skillet over medium heat. Cook pumpkin seeds, tossing occasionally, until golden brown, about 5 minutes; let cool.
  • Toss green beans, barley, pumpkin seeds, chickpeas, feta, spinach, lemon juice, and optional herbs and spices in a large bowl. Enjoy!
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