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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

Breakfast at Bartavelle in Berkeley, CA

28 May

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This place is a real treat. If you are looking for a good coffee and a bite to eat in Berkeley, Bartavelle is not to be missed.

I am almost always in the mood for a thick slice of avocado toast (sprinkled with olive oil, lemon, sea salt, and marash pepper), especially when paired with a soft boiled egg. The Persian breakfast was very light and fresh and included organic lebneh, feta, cucumbers, fresh herbs, za’atar and seasonal cherry jam, served with Acme pizza bianca.

Bartavelle is located where Cafe Fanny used to be, right next to Acme Bread on San Pablo Ave. and Cedar St.

While I am nostalgic for Cafe Fanny’s poached eggs and cafe au lait in a bowl, Bartavelle is quickly filling that ache.

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Life Is Busy, But We Still Need To Eat

23 Apr

It is too easy to fall into eating the same things everyday, so I’m trying to shake up my routine a little, and give you some inspiration to shake things up, too! Today’s post compiles some snapshots of the food I’ve been eating lately.

Most of the foods pictured are quick to prepare yet still filled with nourishing, colorful ingredients. Life is busy, but we still need to eat.

Have you tried any new or different foods recently?

Breakfasts: A warm bowl of oatmeal with a dab of nut butter usually hits the spot for me in the morning. Below are some other fun breakfast options:

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A variation of a single-serving oatmeal protein pancake. Combine 1/3 c. quick oats, 1 large egg, 1/2 teaspoon each of baking powder, chia seeds, vanilla, and cinnamon. Add some fruit to the batter, i.e. 1/4 cup of frozen berries. Cook on a lightly buttered non-stick skillet for about 3 minutes. Flip, and cook for another 3 minutes. Top with something yummy, like plain, whole milk yogurt with a little drizzle of maple syrup.

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Whole wheat toast with cottage cheese and black pepper. A quick way to get in some protein and whole grains first thing in the morning. Add a side of frozen mango cubes for refreshing brightness.

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Speaking of mango, here’s a classic bowl of plain yogurt with granola, chia seeds, and mango slices. As you can see, my brain is already on “warm, sunny weather” mode.

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Another simple breakfast or snack: CRUMPETS. Like an English muffin, the airy wholes of a crumpet are the perfect vehicle for a slick of salted butter and a little jam (I used guava/apple jam). Nut butter, avocado, or a runny egg also sound like excellent crumpet toppings.

Light lunches and snacks: I usually like to make my own lunch at home. I have to remind myself that simple is often the answer. Last week was Passover, so I tried to get creative with matzo…

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Matzo spread with hummus and topped with boiled egg and cucumber slices. To boil an egg, place it in a pot, cover with cold water, bring to a boil. Once boiling, shut the heat off and cover the pot for 10-13 minutes, depending if you are using a large or extra-large egg. Place the eggs in a bowl of ice water to cool. Peel and slice!

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Eating out during Passover is a fun adventure. This matzo was topped with smashed avocado, chili flakes, cumin, and lemon. Can’t go wrong. At The Commons Chelsea. 

Quick, easy weeknight dinners: Keeping some easy staples like frozen/canned vegetables, tofu in the fridge, grains in the pantry, and even fish in tins means a healthy dinner is almost always accessible.

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Whipped up a tofu vegetable curry for dinner one night. With a few apple slices and peanut butter on the side. This is a go-to meal for me, but I changed it up by using a little baby corn. Organic canned baby corn gets drained and rinsed and added to the curry with some fresh broccoli. A different vegetable than I would normally use, and I appreciate the change. Did you know you could “dry sauté” tofu? Slice the tofu and place it in a heated, dry non-stick skillet. The heat takes out all of the excess moisture, and still gives it a nice “crust” because the skillet is non-stick. Now the tofu is ready to soak up all of the yummy curry sauce (a similar effect to “pressing” tofu).

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First time buying a tin of sardines! I made Ellie Krieger’s pasta with sardines. Whole wheat fusilli, broccoli rabe, golden raisins, and pine nuts tossed with sardines. Add Parmesan for a little extra salty goodness.

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Taco night. Corn tortillas toasted on the gas stovetop flame. Smear with refried black beans. Top with leftover chicken, and some sautéed bell peppers and onions. A little salsa or hot sauce for acidity.

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Rainbow Nachos. Blue corn tortilla chips, carrot ribbons, black beans, smoky gouda, spinach. Toast in the oven for ~7-15 minutes. Top with avocado and plain Greek yogurt.

Some noteworthy restaurant eats:

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Carrots | Fluke from The Pines in Gowanus, Brooklyn

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Green Falafel “with everything” from Taim in Nolita

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Rice Bowl with Marinated, Grilled Tofu from Community Food & Juice in Morningside Heights

Delicious Northern California…

14 Aug

Lip-smacking, finger-licking, shirt-staining delicious.

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This was my backyard for a week. Deep in the Sierra Mountains, along the Yuba River.

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There were swimming holes and waterfalls…

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…and “Mountain Men.”

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We went swimming everyday. So many delicious (and freezing cold!) rivers and lakes.

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Check out this tiny baby snake found mid-hike. Woah nature!

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I also spent a few days in Sonoma County, and checked out 2 fairs: the Sonoma County Fair and the Gravenstein Apple Fair.

I saw lots of livestock (including alpacas and miniature horses), but these baby pigs were my favorite. Floppy ears get me every time.

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Whenever I am in the area, I must grab a few scones and a hunk of cheesy bread from Wild Flour Bread Bakery in Freestone. The Gravenstein apple cheddar scone hit the spot for me this trip. And the fougasse bread is always packed with a few cheeses and some aromatic vegetables. The loaf is best warmed and gooey.

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I didn’t know a latte this big could exist. The lavender latte from Taylor Maid was a real treat. Ooo tummy.

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Food was growing everywhere I turned–there were sunflowers and grapevines, bushes of wild blackberries and strawberries, apple trees and pear trees, even some avocados and figs. But nothing screamed mid-August to me like the fresh basil from the yard, with plump, juicy tomatoes. Gosh, good tomatoes are SO good.

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Summer is almost over. Do something delicious.

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Easy DIY Recipe: Homemade Vegetable Stock

13 Mar

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For the last month or so, I have been saving my vegetable scraps in the freezer with a plan to make my very own VEGETABLE STOCK!!!

All of the carrot tops and parsnip nubs, the onion peels and fennel fronds that I normally would discard/compost are actually quality components of an unctuous stock. Thrown into a pot with a little water and good simmer on the stove, and I had my own preservative-free stock ready in an hour’s time (hands-off time!).

I froze my stock in ice cube trays, noting that 6 cubes is the equivalent of about half a cup of stock. Now I have flavor at my hands, ready-to-go whenever I am in a pinch. I see risotto in my future…

Here’s to getting one more bang for my buck.

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Homemade Vegetable Stock

via vegetarianventures

4-5 cups vegetable scraps (you can use them right from the freezer)

flavoring (bay leaf, Parmesan cheese rinds, herbs, salt, peppercorns…)

garlic (if you don’t already have scraps of garlic in your frozen veggie bag)

Place all ingredients in a large pot and cover with cold water (just enough so all the veggies are covered). Bring water to a boil and let simmer for an hour (don’t let it simmer for much more or it starts to lose flavor.

Strain the vegetable mixture and discard the scraps. Let cool completely and either use right away or freeze/refrigerate in quantities that will suit you best (ice cube trays was a genius idea, I also did some in pint size containers).

Store in fridge for up to 5 days and in freezer for up to 3 months.

Guimauve, Homemade Marshmallows (no recipe)

7 Mar

“Marshmallows are a strange confection: familiar to most everyone, but nonetheless a mystery. We’ve all eaten them around campfires, slurped them from cups of cocoa, or plucked them, hot and gooey, from the top of a sweet potato casserole. But until I tried to make them myself, I had no clue–not the faintest–what they were made of…”
-Molly Wizenberg, food blogger at Orangette, quoted from Bon Appetit 

Below I will show you, picture-by-picture, the process of making marshmallows, or as the French call them, guimauve. At work we make big batches of these pillow-soft confections to serve with a steaming cup of hot chocolate. I snapped a few photos at work one day just to highlight how interesting the process of making marshmallows can be. I apologize for any jargon that may sound confusing to you. I will try my best to explain 😉

Gelatin Sheets Gettin’ Bloomed; in other words, gelatin sheets get soaked in ice water for a few minutes to soften. In the photo above they are set on a paper towel to dry off a bit.

The Sugar Syrup: Boilin’ Sugar n’ Water with a Splash of Honey; you carefully watch the mixture boil, wait until you see slow forming big bubbles, and then you know it is time to add the gelatin

Quickly Quickly Everything in the Mixer: Egg whites get beaten/whipped to a white meringue

Glossy Pants: Hot (ish) Sugar Syrup Slowly Gets Added In, and then everything gets whisked at high speed for a good long time until nice and glossy, and the mixture has cooled down a bit

Oooo Yeaaaa. Time to add Vanilla Bean (p.s. you can experiment with all sorts of flavors at this point in the process i.e. strawberry marshmallows during summer, lavender marshmallows, coffee marshmallows…)

Spread It Out: The guimauve gets spread into a saran-lined tray and left to form a “skin” on top. The “skin” is just a layer of chewy sheen that develops from the evaporation of water and the coagulation of proteins (egg whites) working together after being denatured in the KitchenAid Mixer. Science. Crazy stuff.

Give the top of the guimauve a little dose of potato starch (or corn starch) and a flip.

Wait for the “skin” to form on the other side and give it another coating of starch.

Slice Through Into Strips. Make sure the knife is clean (have a wet towel and a dry towel for efficient wiping and drying) [peep Chef Geoff’s hands]

Oooo Baby Look At That Mountain Of Marshmallow. I want to jump in!

Wrap It Up And Label. When ready to cut, use a scissors and cut the strips into cubes. Coat each side with potato or corn starch so everything stays soft and smooth around the edges.

Drop Into Homemade Hot Chocolate, Kick Your Feet Up, And Enjoy!

Cheeseboard Pizza

5 Mar


Oh Cheeseboard Pizza how I miss you. That thin and perfectly toasted dough, those gorgeous browned cheesy bits, fresh corn, lime, chile, and a garlic olive oil drizzle. Just $2.50 for the most perfect slice of pizza. And they give you a little sample sliver, too.

Sure, living in New York, I see pizza joints all over town. But none have wooed me like Berkeley’s Cheeseboard. Open 5 days a week (closed Sun/Mon) and cooperatively run and owned, this place is a win. Did I mention the live music?!

I’m kind of in love with the Cheeseboard Collective shop next door, too. The ginger cookies, any variety of the cheesy breads, and those corn cherry scones just kill me! And the cheeses, oh the cheeses. They will let you sample cheese on cheese on cheese until you find your perfect match.

I have many memories at Cheeseboard Pizza, sitting on the median lawn in the middle of the street (technically it is illegal to sit on the median, but everyone does it), soaking up the sun and enjoying a slice or two. There is usually a long line, but it moves very fast and offers some great people-watching. The pizzas are always vegetarian and the menu changes daily (check the website for the week’s pizza listing).

Boy oh boy do I miss the food in the Bay Area.

Please excuse my while I wipe the drool running down my chin.


The Cheeseboard Collective

On Shattuck Ave. at Vine St.

Berkeley, CA