Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Smitten with Bitten

If you haven't gotten hooked on Mark Bittman's NYtimes blog, Bitten, I seriously suggest you take a look. Today he blogged about radish salad. This is great! I always want to buy radishes at the market because they look so nice, but honestly I have no clue what to do with them. (A quick tangent about radishes while they're on my mind: I was treated to a remarkable gazpacho this weekend at a dinner party in Bushwick. I've never liked gaspacho, but this was slightly creamy, almost like chilled bisque. I would have never guesed radish is what gives this dish a special kick.) I love his conversational, light tone; his ideas about food and how to approach the kitchen are welcoming to the novice and encouraging/inspirational for the foodies and unabashed cooks among us. Wednesday is the Times' Dining & Wine Section day which is such a nice thing to look forward to and pleasantly marks the milestone of a passing week. Today Bittman (so gently!) addressed cutting down the meat in your diet.

Monday, June 9, 2008

Amherst Weekend 2008

Every year, my friend, Sarah, takes me with her out of the city to her parent's house in Amherst, MA for Memorial Day weekend. We ride through the fields with the windows rolled down listening to pop music from the '90s, we watch movies, we hang out with her folks, and consequently, we eat great food. Highlights from Amherst Weekend 2008 include:

Greene St. Café in Northampton-- a restaurant after my own heart in so many, many ways. On the front door there was a simple list of all the local ingredients that were incorporated into the evening's menu: swiss chard, asparagus, and wild mushrooms to name a few. The decided favorite at our table was the lavender creme anglaise we ate by the spoonful for dessert.

Flayvors at Cooks Farm in Hadley-- eat your ice cream and wander around the farm. What could be better? Their signiture flavor is grass ice cream, so you can graze just like those happy cows you're moo-ing at.

The Roadhouse-- the apple does not fall far from the tree. At age 25 my dad opened the Fleetwood Diner in Ann Arbor, MI. He ran it for three years and surprisingly still loves (always has) a good diner breakfast. What can I say? I'm my father's daughter, and The Roadhouse offers up nothing but the best-- sour cream coffee cake, asparagus goat cheese omlettes, banana bread french toast, and always very crispy, very brown, garlicy potatoes. Sarah often suggests other breakfast places to try, but I will not be deterred-- Amherst Weekend only rolls around once a year, and I won't take my chances.

The only tough part about Amherst Weekend is tearing myself away from those green pastures of the Happy Valley and boarding a train to go back to New York. As luck would have it tough, the strawberries had arrived by the time I made it home, and just like that I was back in the swing of the city.

Rhubarb and Seas of Strawberries

A few weeks ago, when the rhubarb had just come into the market in the city I bought some of those bitter, biting stalks and packed them in my bag to go to Amherst, MA for Memorial Day weekend. I offered the still-sandy rhubarb to my hosts as a gift, and effectively we got to do a little cooking together. What exactly do you do with rhubarb? How much sugar do you need to add to take the bite out? I would have just gone in head first, adding and tasting until my tongue was raw from all that tartness. My hostess, Sally, is (luckily) so much more practical and found a recipe.

1 1/4 lbs. rhubarb
1/4 c. water
3/4 c. sugar
2 tbs. Grand Marnier

Wash and chop up the rhubarb, throw it in a pot, and add the water. Stir until the mixture has come to a boil. Add sugar and stir constantly until the rhubarb has mostly disintigrated. Remove from heat and add grand marnier. Chill and serve over vanilla ice cream.

It was, of course, as simple as it sounds, and even more delicious. When the dinner guests asked where on earth the rhubarb had come from (it was not nearly in season yet in Western Mass.) I smiled and said I picked it from the city.