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What’s Cookin Newsletter

What's Cookin NewsletterCheck me out on the What's Cookin' Newsletter this week! 

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FOX 5 Good Day Street Talk 4/21 Clip

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Spaghetti with Ramp Pesto and Shaved Asparagus



Tune in tomorrow (Saturday, April 21st) to Fox 5’s Good Day Street Talk starting at 6am to watch me make this recipe!

For the Pesto: (Yields about 3 cups)

2 bunches ramps, roots trimmed, roughly chopped

1 cup spinach

1/2 cup Parmesan cheese, grated

1/2 cup walnuts

1 cup extra virgin olive oil

coarse salt and freshly ground pepper

Combine ramps, spinach, cheese, and walnuts in a food processor.   Pulse until combined, and while continuing to pulse,  add oil in a slow steady stream.  Scrape down sides as needed, and continue to mix until the mixture is smooth.  Season with salt and pepper.

To store, cover the surface with a layer of olive oil, and seal in an airtight container.  Refrigerate for about 3 weeks, or freeze in ice cube trays, and enjoy all year round.

To Complete the Dish:

1 lb spaghetti

1 lb asparagus, shaved with a vegetable peeler

1/4-1/2 cup Ramp Pesto

Parmesan cheese, for serving

Lemon wedges, for serving

Cook spagetti according to package instructions.  Just before draining, reserve about 1/2 cup pasta water, and add asparagus.  Drain, return to pot, and toss with prepared pesto.  Add pasta water as necessary until the sauce coats the pasta.  Serve with cheese and lemon.


Spring Has Sprung!

The true sign that spring has arrived!

If the gorgeous weather we have been enjoying in New York isn’t enough of a sign that Spring is finally here– for chefs and foodies alike– a trip to the local farmer’s market will make it obvious.

The vibrant greens of asparagus, spinach, fiddleheads, and of course, the ever elusive ramp are an exciting awakening. It’s not just the colors– the tastes and textures of the season are worlds away from the comforting, but heavy foods we eat during the cold days of Winter. The crunch of a fresh radish and it’s refreshing bite, the tenderness of a young stalk of asparagus, the mild sweetness of tiny snap peas. For those of us in the kitchen these things are also signals the arrival of even more amazing local produce on it’s way in the coming weeks and months.

So stay tuned! It was a busy Winter, but there are lots of great recipes, and plenty of information to come! Tune into Fox 5’s Good Day Street Talk this Saturday, April 21st, starting at 6am to see me demonstrate a delicious spring recipe with ingredients from the Greenmarket!

Sweet Solutions I: White Chocolate Lime Cake with Watermelon Sake Sorbet

After deciding on a sorbet flavor to work with from David Lebovitz‘s Ready for Dessert (Watermelon-Sake), Chef Anna and I had to think of what we would serve it with for the dessert special at L’Ecole. Angel-food and sponge cakes are already featured on the menu, so we were originally thinking of a pound or tea cake, but Chef Anna had an even better idea. We used her recipe for the classic Austrian Sachertorte cake— an airy chocolate cake with warm apricot preserves under the frosting– and lightened it up for summer by using white chocolate in place of milk or dark in the batter. I also mixed in lime zest and lime juice, which really complemented the intense sweetness of the watermelon. I served the sorbet on a thin sliver of the cake with candied lime slices. It was light, cool, refreshing, delicious, and very pretty (not to mention my favorite summer color combination– pink and green). As my friend David from class described it, it was really “summer on a plate.” Try this one at home to add an elegant finish to even the most casual summer dinner party, whether by the beach, air-conditioner, balcony, rooftop, or window.

Watermelon-Sake Sorbet (From David Lebovitz’s Ready for Dessert)
Makes 1 quart

4 cups (1 1/14 lbs) seedless watermelon, cut into small chunks
2/3 cups sugar
2/3 cups sake
fresh squeezed lime juice

In a food processor or in a blender, puree the watermelon with sugar and sake until smooth. Pour into a medium bowl, add lime juice to adjust the sweetness to your liking. Cover and refrigerate until chilled. Freeze in an in ice cream machine according to the manufacturer’s instructions. Also try freezing it in popsicle molds if you do not have an ice cream maker.

White Chocolate Lime Cake

165 g butter, room temperature
130 g sugar, plus another 130 g sugar
9 large eggs, separated
150 g flour
160 g white chocolate, melted and cooled
zest of 4 limes
juice of 1 lime

-Cream butter and 130 g sugar with paddle attachment of a stand mixer until light and fluffy, about 5 minutes. This step is very important in achieving the proper texture of the cake. Especially if the butter is still cool, make sure it is mixed enough.

-Add egg yolks one at a time, mixing after each addition. Add chocolate. Mix just until combined. Set mixture aside.

-Beat egg whites with whisk or stand mixer on med-high. When mixture begins to turn white/opaque add 130 g of sugar. Continue to beat until stiff glossy peaks form.

-Fold the egg white mixture into the egg yolk mixture, being careful not to over mix. Sift in flour.

-Spread into a 9×13 cake pan, and bake for 15-20 minutes turning once. Cake will form bubbles, and should be golden brown.

A Few Sweet Solutions for Surviving Summer in the City: Introduction

Find out about my dessert special at L'Ecole or as David called it, "Summer on a Plate."

While I am fortunate enough to have parents that live in a desirable summer destination, that does not necessarily mean I have the time to get out to Shelter Island to enjoy it. While many of my friends (along with what seems like most the city) empty out to the Hamptons on Friday nights, I’m still in class at the French Culinary Institute. But don’t feel bad for me (I’m sure you didn’t anyway), I only have 3 weeks of school left, and I just went through what has become in many ways probably my favorite station, pastry.

This past week I had a short break from work, and a rare amount of free time for just having fun in the kitchen, and focus on school. I looked at a lot of books for ideas, but I brought in one of the most beautiful cookbooks in my collection, David Lebovitz’s Ready for Dessert to share with Chef Annamaria Kosa, to get some inspiration for specials at L’Ecole. She loved the book as much as I do, David has some really great recipes, but the photos are absolutely incredible. Every single dish is nothing short of drool inducing. Bright colors, varying textures, shiny, sugary, sticky– these are desserts that you want to eat, not just look at in a bakery window.

While sometimes hot days and nights– and the looming possibility of being seen on a beach– can sometimes turn people off of dessert for the summer, it is prime season for utilizing fresh fruits in their peak. Pies, tarts, cobblers, shortcakes, ice creams, and sorbets are all easy ways to use fruit in sweets, and can be surprisingly light and refreshing. While I can’t say a good pie is either of those, I also can’t trust anyone who refuses even the smallest sliver of a strawberry-rhubarb or cherry pie, dripping with fruits vivid ripe cerise syrups, covered in flakey tender crust. Summer berries, melons, and peaches are so beautiful and flavorful on their own, it doesn’t take a lot of fuss to enjoy them, but combined with new and unexpected flavors, they can be the star of some very sophisticated dishes.

Could you resist a bite?

I have been experimenting with different fruits over the past few weeks and plan to share the recipes I have come up with over the next few days, including strawberry-rhubarb lattice-topped pie, rhubarb-ginger linzer cookies, and a basil-infused mascarpone tart with strawberries and black pepper. Tomorrow I will start with the dessert special Chef Anna and I came up with inspired by David’s recipe for Watermelon Sake Sorbet, so stay posted!

Stephen and Jaime’s 4th Annual Pig Roast

Check out my post on the Martha Stewart Everyday Food Blog here.

Why I Keep Going Back to Back Forty

Brunch... Well the remains of...
Juicy burgers with warm melting cheddar and thick-cut heritage bacon, bourbon on the rocks, bourbon cocktails, micro-brews, and a killer brunch menu– Back Forty really has all one could hope for in a cozy, laid-back East Village setting. Not to mention a lot of pork products, absolutely mouth-watering selections too, like Pork Jowl Nuggets with Jalapeno Jam. There’s also a Grilled Bacon and Trotter Flatbread on Lard Dough with Creamy Onions and Herbs, and seriously, to quote Ina… how bad can that be?

Pork Jowl Nuggets... Yum!

The food is somewhat simple, but this sister restaurant to Peter Hoffman’s Savoy (which we will soon be saying goodbye to) uses local produce and proteins to create very comforting and hearty seasonal dishes. It is a very relaxed environment for a New York City restaurant, with a friendly staff, and an excellent bar for pre or post dinner drinks, or even enjoying a whole meal. My friend Perry from FCI works in the kitchen, so my friends and I find ourselves there often, and it has quickly become one of my favorite places to go to eat on the weekends.

The brunch menu also puts a seasonal spin on sweet and savory classics, like the Soft Scrambled Eggs and Ramp Pesto with English Peas, Favas, Salvatore Ricotta, and Grilled Bread— which I got last weekend, along with a bloody mary of course, and one of the house Buttermilk Biscuits, which are good enough to get out of bed on a hungover Sunday for, Sunday after Sunday in a row.

Back Forty
12th St and Avenue B
New York, NY

To check out Perry’s blog, click here.

Soft Scrambled Eggs with Ramp Pesto, Peas, Favas, and Salvatore Ricotta

Perfect Sunday? Prosecco and Pork Picnic on the High Line

The spread.

With warmer weather a bit more steadily upon us these past few weeks, it has been great to finally spend some time outdoors, and actually see the sun. What better to do outside than enjoy a little al fresco dining, especially one with great food that involves absolutely no time in the kitchen? Last Sunday a few friends and I enjoyed a beautiful day on the High Line after a quick trip to Chelsea Market. We stopped at Buon Italia first for a pound of prosciutto, some porchetta, and mozzarella cheese. Then at Amy’s Bread, we picked up some focaccia bread, a baguette, and olive rolls. No meal would be complete without dessert, so we had to get a sample of every flavor brownie to share at Fat Witch Bakery. And then, proving to be our only bad decision of the day, I bought some prosecco at Chelsea Wine Vault, which was ice-cold in five minutes thanks to their express chiller. How bad could it be, right? Well, apparently, our neighbors up on the High Line weren’t big fans of our amazing brunch spread, as we were shortly reported, and reprimanded by a park ranger. But, the meal was amazing, and the day was not ruined. We left the park having several laughs over the situation, and incredibly full from pork products, which is really all you can ask for from a Sunday afternoon.

Porchetta with Pickled Ramps

And for the next course…

Prosciutto and Arugula

And finally…

Mozzarella, Tomato, and Arugula

Not So Plump Dumpling

Dumplings with Winter Farmer's Market Veggies (and Siracha of Course)

Everyone loves a good dumpling, but if you’re just ordering from the Chinese place around the corner, chances are their veggie dumplings will be made with thick dough, and filled with little more than cabbage. This appitizer is suprisingly easy to make at home with store-bought wonton wrappers, and it’s possible you can even have a healthy, flavor-filled batch ready before take out could arrive at your door.

You can get pretty creative with how you stuff your dumplings, just decide if the ingredients need to be cooked prior to filling (steaming only takes about 5 minutes, and you want the filling to be soft… so if it won’t be soft (or for a protein, cooked) in 5 minutes give it a quick saute), and then give them a quick chop in the food processor. Even in the winter you can find amazing greens and root vegetables that are in season, and incredibly nutritious (and of course, delicious).

For my dumplings I used some of the amazing produce I got yesterday at the Union Square Farmer’s Market. I got Shiitake and Pioppini Mushrooms from John D. Madura Farm. The Pioppini have a great peppery flavor, and are an excellent addition to stir-frys as well.

Shiitake and Pioppini Mushrooms from John D. Madura Farms at the Union Square Greenmarket

I also diced, and sautéed some Sweet Potato. I also quickly sautéed the Baby Bok Choy, even though it was super tender, I just wanted to make sure the bottoms of the leaves had no crunch in the dumpling.

Baby Bok Choy

While the ingredients cooked, I made a sauce based on a Mark Bittman recipe for Steamed Shrimp and Cilantro Shu Mai . A simple mixture of Soy Sauce, Sesame Oil, Rice Wine, Scallions, and Fresh Ginger this sauce will hold the ingredients together in the dumpling, as well as serve as a dipping sauce later.

I gave the cooked ingredients a quick pulse in the food processor along with a few tablespoons of the sauce.

Fill the won-ton wrappers with about a teaspoon of the mixture. Moisten the edges with water, fold in half to make a triangle, and crimp the edges just like a pie crust. To make a Shu-Mai shape, just gather the edges around the center instead of folding, pleating the edges, but leaving some filling exposed.

Steam for about 5 minutes (until wrapper is completely tender), or give a quick pan sear like I did.

For Sauce:

1/2 cup Soy Sauce
1 T Rice Wine
1 T Sesame oil
1 T Minced Ginger (or more… to taste)*
1/4 Cup Chopped Scallions (White only)

*To peel ginger try using a spoon, much easier!