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Sunday, December 30, 2007

Christmas Eve in Recovery

Octavio and I had grand plans to host an Orphans Christmas eve feast for our friends who were staying in the city, but unfortunately we fell ill with a serious bout of the flu. We were bed bound and forced to make good on that age old parental threat to cancel Christmas.

By the time the eve rolled around I had enough energy to scrape together what I had in the house, I certainly didn't have the energy to shop for anything. So we had a delicious dinner of Rosemary Roasted Potatoes, Soy Maple Glazed Acorn Squash and Pan Seared Scallops. Dessert was our favorite after dinner liqueur Frangelico and some holiday chocolates.

Soy Maple Glaze

This would also be great on pork, butternut or acorn squashes.

2 tablespoons butter
4 tablespoons of Grade A Maple Syrup
2 tablespoons soy sauce

Heat the butter over medium low heat until melted. Combine soy sauce and maple and simmer until thickened. Glazed periodically over the squash as you roast it for 45 min at 350 or until soft. Pour the remaining glaze over the final product before serving.

Monday, December 17, 2007

December Dinner

A blustery Saturday night in December is the perfect night to stay in with new and old friends. Octavio, Chelsea and David all came over to 312 Square Feet for a seasonal feast and heady conversation.

A visit to farmers market this week yielded lean results. The blessedly long growing season has finally reached it's denouement with winter squashes and hearty greens. Using a my favorite of these, the butternut squash, I made a saffron risotto and pan seared scallops in parsley herbed oil. The appetizer was an experimental treat courtesy of the cans of snails that Octavios mother shipped to us.

Escargots en Croute or Snail Pot Pies

serves 4
1 can cooked snails drained and rinsed
1 can of Pillsbury Cresent Rolls
1 cup dry white wine
2 tablespoons butter
2 cloves of garlic
1 shallot minced
1 spring of thyme
2 tablespoons of flour
2-3 tablespoons fresh parsley chopped
1 egg beaten
sea salt and pepper

Pre-heat the oven to 375.

In a large saute pan, melt the butter. Add the shallots and cook until soft, add the garlic and cook a few minutes. Add the wine, thyme and salt and pepper. Cook about 5-6 minutes. Mix the flour with some water to form a thickener. Slowly add to the sauce and cook until it becomes white and creamy. Add the snails and cook until the snails are heated through.

Distribute the snail filling equally in four small ramekins.(I didn't feel like making my own puff pastry because of the labor intensity of the main course Cresents are an easy and tasty way to go around!) Use 1/2 of the Cresent dough divide into four parts to cover the tops of the ramekins. Brush with the egg and bake until the tops are golden about 15-20 minutes.

Butternut Squash Risotto

serves 8

1 large butternut squash (at least 2lbs.)
6 cups vegetable stock
6 table spoons butter
2 shallots minced
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 teaspoon of saffron
1 1/2 cup Arborio Rice
1/2 cup dry white wine
1 cup Parmesan cheese grated
sea salt and pepper

Mix the saffron with 1 1/2 teaspoons water. Make sure all of the threads are wet. In a jar, add another teaspoon of water and then add the soaked threads and water. Let this sit for at least 20 min if you can 2hrs would be ideal to get the most out of your saffron. NEVER use wood utensils when cooking with saffron. They will absorb all of the flavor.

Pre-heat the oven to 375.

Chop the squash into manageable hunks and toss with the olive oil, some salt and pepper. Spread on a baking pan and roast for about 40-50 min until soft. Toss once. I hate peeling this squash when it isn't cooked. So I suggest roasting it first, then removing the skin an chopping it into pieces that are about 3/4". Once roasted and chopped set a side.

In a sauce pan, bring the vegetable stock to a simmer and keep covered.

In a large saute pan, over medium-low heat melt the butter. Add the shallots and cook until they are soft. Add the rice, stir until it's coated with the mixture. Add in the first few ladle fulls of stock as well as the saffron mixture and some salt to taste.

Stir constantly, adding the stock a few ladles at a time as the rice gets dry. You should use almost all of the stock but not all. Cooking time will be about 30 minutes tasting the last few minutes. You want the rice to be al dente.

Add the grated cheese and squash. Heat until the squash is warmed up and serve immediately.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Holiday Cake

Granted this isn't the best photograph, but it was taken in the rush to make it to our wonderful Thanksgiving dinner before the cocktail hour was over! Long story involving families and bikes and rain! But we made it in time for the gracious hosts of Drake and Sailor of Cafe Drake to warm us with a hot rum cider and proceed to wow us with a succulent and moist turkey, A Cafe Drake classic of raisin chutney and fresh cranberry sauce and two, TWO, delicious stuffings. There were many dishes brought by guests including Octavio's roasted Brussels Sprouts and my holiday Spiced Pumpkin Cake with Maple Cream Cheese Frosting. A rich holiday treat.

Spiced Pumpkin Cake with Maple Cream Cheese Frosting

2 cups cake flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1/2 cup dried currants or raisins
1/2 cup chopped walnuts
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
1 1/2 cups (packed) light brown sugar
2 large eggs
1/2 cup whole milk
1 cup canned solid pack pumpkin

Pre-heat the oven to 350 degrees. Generously butter and flour two 9in cake pans. In a large bowl sift together all of the dry ingredients. Then sift again to ensure that the spices are even distributed. Toss a tablespoon of the flour/spice mixture with the currant and walnuts.

Using electric mixer, beat butter in large bowl until fluffy. Gradually add in sugar. Beat in eggs 1 at a time. Add the flour mixture in 3 pours alternating with milk in 2 pours. Add in the pumpkin. Finally fold in currant-walnut mixture. Pour the batter equally into the pans (it should be about 3/4 deep).

Bake the cakes for about 25minute until they pass the Toothpick Test. Cool on a rack for about 10 minutes then turn out of the pans. Cool the layers completely before frosting.

Maple Cream Cheese Frosting

1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
3/4 cup (packed) dark brown sugar
1/4 cup Grade A Maple Syrup
2 8-ounce packages chilled cream cheese
1/2 cup powdered sugar

Beat butter, brown sugar and maple syrup until fluffy. Add in the cream cheese. Sift in the powdered sugar and beat to blend it.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Parmesan and Basil Scones

A quick and easy bread side dish perfect to accompany all of those soups that I am sure to be serving as the winter blows in. I added seasoning to a simple scone recipe from my handy American Woman's Cookbook, an antique cookbook published sometime in the 1940's. This book is a trove of recipes that are great with minor adaptations, like substituting butter or oil for lard or whole wheat flour for the white flour. The cake recipes alone are marvelous.

Parmesan and Basil Scones

1 cup white flour
1 cup cake or pastry flour (or just 2 cups white flour if thats all you have)
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/4 plus teaspoon salt (I like them saltier so add a bit more if you like)
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese plus extra for topping
2 teaspoons basil dried or 2 tablespoons fresh chopped finely
1/4 cup cubed butter
2 eggs (one separated)
1/2 cup butter milk or plain yogurt

Pre-heat the oven to 450 degrees.
Mix together all dry ingredients, cheese and basil. Cut in the butter with 2 knives or a pastry cutter until it forms a uniform crumb texture. In a separate bowl beat together the one whole egg, the egg yolk (reserve the white to brush the tops of the scones), the buttermilk or yogurt. Stir into the dry ingredients until you get a nice sticky batter.

Turn out on to a well floured surface. Shape into a rectangle. With a well flour knife or pizza cutter, cut the rectangle into smalled rectangles and then in the triangle shapes.

Beat the egg white until it forms an opaque liquid.

Place on a greased or lined with parchment paper baking sheet. Brush the tops with the egg white and top with more grated cheese.

Bake for about 10 minutes until the tops are a golden brown.

Monday, November 5, 2007

Autumn Curry

The weather is finally becoming seasonally appropriate and honestly, I couldn't be happier about it. I love the fall in New York. The kind of changes and New Yorks look their absolute best in smart coats and jackets. And you can warm up with spicy food, slow cooked, roasted and baked. Methods of preparation that are not at all appealing in a small downtown apartment at any point past June. Though exceptions are made for birthday cakes and summer pies. But now that the thermostat is set at an amenable 65 degrees, I will be back into making more slow food dishes.

Sort of Punjab Eggplant

This is my take on a Northern Indian Curry. All spice amounts are totally estimated, as I just sprinkle the spices in.

1 large eggplant
2 tomatoes
1 onion
2 cloves of garlic
1 carrot
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 teaspoon celery seed
1 teaspoon tumeric
1/4 teaspoon cumin
1/2 teaspoon yellow curry powder
1/2 or less to taste red pepper powder
2 tablespoons of tomato paste
plenty of salt
1/2-2/3 cup water

Chop up all the vegetables. Over medium heat, heat the oil in a large saute pan and add the garlic and onion. Cook until soft. Add the eggplant and plenty of salt. Cook until the eggplant until it just starts to discolor, then add the carrots, tomatoes with their water and add the seasonings. Cover and simmer for about 20-30 minutes checking on it and adding the water as needed. Once all the eggplant is very soft, add the tomato paste, combine well and cook for about 5 minutes longer. Serve with parathas.


1 1/2 cups whole wheat flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
generous 3/4 cup water
2/3 cup vegetable oil or ghee (I am not a big fan of ghee so I use oil and butter near the end for flavor)

Combine flour and salt in a bowl. Slowly add the water until you have a sticky dough. On a generous floured surface, kneed the dough for 10 minutes until you have a smooth and elastic dough. Shape into a ball and place in a bowl and cover with a damp towel for 20 minutes.

Divide the dough into 8 balls and shape into triangles. On the floured surface, roll out into a half moon shape, brush with oil, fold over, roll out again and brush over, fold over one last time and roll into a triangle shape. Do this for each paratha.

Brush one side of the paratha with oil and place in a hot skillet. Cook for 3-4 minutes, it will puff up. Brush the other side and flip using tongs. Cook for 3 minutes.

Keep warm in foil for up to 20 minutes, but the fresher these are, the better.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

MCQ Listening Party

Delicious tomato, ricotta, eggplant bake.

We ladies love our libations!

Rum Apple Tart.

Bandmate Kelly and illustrious illustrator Lisa Webs came to 312 sq ft to listen to the first cut of the mastered tracks for Macaque's upcoming EP The Chinatown. We started off the evening with listening and sipping on delicious Kir Royals to celebrate this momentous step in the completion of our first release.

Listening Party Menu

Kir Royal

Warm White Bean Dip with Olive Rosemary Flatbreads
Camarones Bravas

Tomato, Eggplant, Ricotta Bake

Rum Apple Tart

Rum Apple Tart

1 Pâte Brisée
3 crisp apple such as Granny Smith peeled and sliced into 1/4 pieces
2 tablespoons butter
1/2 cup + 3 tablespoons sugar
2 eggs
2 tablespoons rum
3/4 cup heavy cream
1/4 cup all purpose flour
1/4 apricot preserves
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

Pre-bake the tart shell at 400 degrees for 20 minutes with weights. Leave in pan and cool.
Put the oven heat down to 350 degrees.

In a small sauce pan, bring apricot preserves to a boil, remove from heat, add one tablespoon of the rum and strain to remove lumps. Brush the cooled tart shell with the aprico glaze. this will help keep the tart crisp and add some more flavor.

In a large pan, saute the apples with the butter and 3 tablespoons sugar for about 10 minutes or until they begin to soften.

For the custard, combine the eggs, cream, 1/2 cup sugar, one tablespoon of rum, flour and vanilla in a bowl and beat well.

Arrange the cooked apples in concentric circles in the pan and pour the custard over until it just covers the apples. You don't want it to over flow. Place the tart pan on a baking sheet and bake for 30-35 minutes until the custard is set.

Before serving, sprinkle the top with a generous amount of powder sugar and place under the broiler to caramelize and brown the tips of the apples. But don't argue about what wine you are going to drink next while you are doing this because you may end up with it becoming a "Blackened Cajun Tart"! Watch it carefully!

Welcome Home David!

David returned from his far east travels to regal me with tails of hiking in the Korean mountains and soaking in the ultra relaxing hot springs. He was on a two week trip to visit with family and friends. Of course, he said, the food was excellent, but no match for the cuisine at 312 sq ft. Thank you, David!

Welcoming David back with a simple after work supper of pesto with broccoli and shrimp and sending him with a loaf of zucchini bread and some left overs.

Simple Pesto

this is yields about 1 cup and it freezes really well
1 bunch (about 4-5 cups) fresh basil leaves
3/4 good cold press extra virgin olive oil
2-3 cloves garlic
1/2 cup toasted pine nuts or walnuts or a combination
1/2 teaspoon sea salt

Add the cheese later when you cook this up because the cheese won't freeze well.

Toast the pine nuts in a skillet and set aside to cool.

Put it all in a blender and puree until you get a nice thick sauce. I put it in ziplock bags to freeze and it will keep about 1 week in the fridge.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Last of the Summer Squash

At last it seems that fall is finally hitting New York City. After a protracted summer, the cooler temperatures have arrived and just in time for some baking and freezing for the winter months. I have been completely preoccupied with preparing The Annex (Octavio's new apartment!) ready for opening that I haven't been doing that much entertaining. But having to get rid of the rest of the summer zucchini I had left, I baked a batch of zucchini bread and baked a delicious frittata that I have been having for lunch and pawning off on my friends all week.

Zucchinni Bread

yields 2 loaves
3 eggs
1 cup vegetable oil
2 cups grated zucchini
1 1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1 cup all purpose flour
1 cup whole wheat flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1 teaspoon nutmeg
1 teaspoon salt

Pre-heat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour two loaf pans.

Combine eggs and oil in bowl beating into a froth. Add vanilla and brown sugar stir well. Add in zucchini.

In a separate bowl, combine all dry ingredients and stir to make sure they are well distributed. Add the dry ingredients to the wet and stir for a nice batter. It will be lumpy.

Pour into pans and bake for about an hour or until it passes the Toothpick test.

Summer Squash and Taleggio Frittata

yield 1 9 inch frittata
1 onion chopped
2 small zucchinis sliced
2 garlic gloves minced
3 sprigs thyme
1 large tomato chopped
1/3 lb soft Taleggio cheese cubed
8 eggs
1/4 cup heavy cream
2 tablespoons olive oil
sea salt and pepper

Pre-heat the oven to 325. In a large cast iron skillet, heat oil over med-low heat and add the garlic, but do not brown. Add the onions and zucchini and cook until soft. It will take about 15 minutes. Add the tomatoes near the end. You want them to retain their shape for the baking. Meanwhile, beat the eggs, cream, salt and pepper and remove the leaves of the thyme from the stalks and into the eggs mixture.

Once the zucchinis are soft, pour the egg over and dot with the cubes of soft cheese. Bake in the oven for about 10 minutes. Then transfer to the broiler for about 3-5 minutes to brown the top of the frittata.

Serve warm or it is also good at room temp.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Elyssa Dido

Located on what used to be a very scary block of Orchard just above Grand St, amidst a real renaissance of boutiques and little cafes, is new North African/Mediterranean restaurant Elyssa Dido (85 Orchard St (212)991-9880).

A quick search on Wikipedia reveals that the name Dido is from the first Queen of Carthage, which is modern day Tunisia. The deco of the slim space is consistent with the Middle Eastern theme of the place. It is a small space but does have some out door seating for the warmer months.

Currently in the process of applying for a liquor license, Elyssa Dido is BYOB and serves up decent food.

Octavio and I have visited this place twice so far and have had good but not remarkable meals there. I live in the neighborhood and it is so nice to have more options that are a closer walk than just Vietnamese or noodle joints. We plan on making this a regular stop on our eating out circuit. It has been consistent and I love BYOB places.

On the most recent trip we had the Elyssa Cigars with vegetables which are a little like a Mideastern egg roll. Served on a bed of spicy arugula, they are very tasty. We also had the charcoal calamari which was also good but the portion was disappointing, there were only two squid under the lid of the tangine it was served in but the charmoula sauce was delicious sopped up on bread.

The entrees fared better. A seafood tangine was the highlight served with plenty of couscous on the side. Plenty of bay scallops, mussels, shrimp and squid in a saffron broth was satisfying and hearty. The seafood risotto was passable but it was a little runny and needed more salt than I like to add at the table.

The fennel crusted tuna was better. Not over cooked and the interesting twist of fried cauliflower on the side. The grilled salmon was also good. It's simple Mediterranean preparation was actually very flavorful and accented the meat of the fish.

Local pastries and mousses are on offer for dessert and don't pass up the Turkish coffee.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Farmers Market Feast

Wednesdays are a highlight of the week because of the farmers market that sets up shop near where I work. Right now the market is flush with late summer produce like heirloom tomatoes, early fall squashes and apples and of course fresh herbs and greens. I couldn't help but craft a lovely meal straight from the market.

Zucchini Fritters with Dill Yogurt Sauce

for four
2 medium Zucchinis grated
2 eggs
2 cups flour
4 sprigs of fresh thyme or oregano stripped from the stems
sea salt and pepper
1/2 cup grapeseed or vegetable oil

In a large bowl beat the egg with the salt and pepper and herbs, add the zucchini and then add the flour. Mix well. Drop the batter into the hot oil, press down to flatten a bit and cook for 4-5 minute each side until browned. Drain on paper towels.

For the Sauce:
1 cup whole milk yogurt (I use the Ronnybrook Farm Creamline Yogurt. This is hands down some of the best yogurt I have ever eaten and I love to get it every week)
2 tablespoons fresh chopped dill
Juice of 1/2 a lemon
Sea Salt and Pepper

Combine ingredients in a bowl and cover. Let refrigerate for at least half an hour to let the flavors mingle. Spoon generously over the fritters.

For this meal I also made a nice apple chutney with some Mitsu apples I got at the market. This compliments the sour, salty and richness of the fritters really well and adds a surprising tartness.

Star Anise Apple Cherry Chutney

4 tart crisp apples like Granny Smith or Mitsu
1/2 cup dried cherries
1/2 cup white sugar
1/2 brown sugar
4-5 pieces Star Anise
3 1 inch piece of ginger peeled and minced
1 large yellow onion
Juice of one Lemon
1 cup of rice wine vinegar (or white vinegar)
1/2 teaspoon of white pepper
1/2 teaspoon of sea salt
1 tablespoon of vegetable oil

Chop the apples and toss with the lemon juice. Coat a large sauce pan with the oil and cook the onions until soft. Add the ginger, cherries and apples and warm. Pour in the vinegar and the sugars and combine. Add the star anise and seasonings. Bring to a simmer and cook uncovered for about 20 minutes. Increase the heat to reduce the liquid for the last five and remove from heat.

This would also be great with lamb, duck or on turkey. It will keep in your refrigerator for about 2 weeks.

Monday, October 8, 2007

Oysters at Home

Since the weather has been unseasonably warm, we have been able to enjoy some summer treats well into the fall. One of Octavio and I's favorite weekend summer supper is to have fresh oysters at home. This week he picked up some briny East Coasters and we paired with a fresh green salad and a brilliant Cava.

I made a point to explore some cheeses from the new-ish Whole Foods on the Bowery which has a fromagerie. Whole Foods can be very pricey but the cheese is on par pricewise with a shop like Murrays or our two Brooklyn favs Bedford Cheese and Stinky Brooklyn. I picked up a creamy herb Tome Fluer Verte from France and an aged goat cheese from England that has a creamy texture some of the mustiness and a tart finish. It was so delicious when paired with some dried fruit. It was fun to visit the shop. The staff was helpful and I got to taste an interesting variety of cheeses. Definitely not a bargain but also not so expensive that you can't pick up some obscure regional artisanal cheese every once and a while.

Early October/ Late "Summer" Supper with Octavio


Cheese and Fruit Plate with fresh Rosemary Bread
Fresh East Coast Oysters on the Half Shell
Green Salad


Thursday, October 4, 2007

Indulgent Dinner for One

It's been a rough week on the job for me so I decided to indulge and really cook a nice meal for myself last night. During the week, when I am not having guests I usually eat well, but not "well". I will make a veggie stir fry or what I like to call Trash Can Cous Cous, which is where I root every veggie or piece of fish out the fridge and craft it into one spicy heaping mess. It sure does taste good though and leads to interesting ideas for later recipes.

Last night I wanted something rich and satisfying and more complicated than I would normally do for just one, but it came out very well and I will have to trot this out next time I have guest who eat meat over. Most of my friends and my boyfriend only eat fish, hence the seafood heavy menu here at 312 Square Feet. I marinated a lamb chop and made a kind of cherry and shallot confit for it with a wilted arugula salad. I cobbled together a recipe which is more a list of ingredients. You will have to play with it to see what works for more than one person.

Spiced Marinade for Lamb

For four Lamb Chops or one Leg of Lamb
2 garlic cloves
6 sprigs of thyme (pull the leaves off)
1/2 cup olive oil
juice of one lemon
1/4 teaspoon cumin
1/4 teaspoon tumeric
sea salt and pepper

Put the lamb chops in a casserole dish and pour the marinade over them. Turn them so they are completely coated. Cover and refrigerate up to 24 hrs or 45min at a minimum. You can turn them to make sure that they are getting an even coating.

I threw mine on my grill or you can broil them.

Cherry Shallot Compote

1 cup stock beef or vegetable
2/3 cup dried cherries
1 tablespoon butter
1 shallot chopped
1 tablespoon Madiera wine
sea salt and pepper

Cook the shallot in the butter until the shallot is soft. Add the cherries and warm. Add the salt, pepper, stock and Madiera. Cook for about 5 minutes over low heat until the cherries are plump. Raise heat and boil off most of the liquid. The cherries will release some red color and sugar to make a thick compote.

This is also great with roast duck.

Wilted Arugula Salad with Mustard Vinaigrette

1 tablespoon olive oil (sometimes I like to make this with bacon. So instead of oil reserve the bacon grease in the pan)
1/2 tablespoon mustard
2 tablespoons Balsamic vinegar
sea salt and pepper

In a large fry pan, heat the oil or if using bacon, remove the chopped bacon bits and reserve the grease. Add the mustard, Balsamic and seasonings and heat quickly. Throw the greens in and remove the pan from the heat. Toss the greens in the pan until covered in the warm dressing and slightly wilted from the heat. Add the bacon bits back in, if using. Serve immediately.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

"Four legs is just Greedy"

A moment away from food and a focus on our house mascot, the three legged wonder cat Ronnie-chan Murderball. An integral part of the dining experience at 312 Square Feet is the inevitable ceding of your lap to the Chan. She is the friendliest and most co-dependent cat that I have ever known. What would coming home be if she were not there waiting for me at the door and meowing to me all about her day, which must be very exciting for all of the racket that she makes. What would be sleeping if not for her furry forays over me to window sill or being wakened by her vigorous cleaning of my head.

So I want to bring focus to a woman who I met at Amber's picnic and whose dog suffered from cancer and is now a tripod too. Sonia and Lulu run a blog and sell merchandise to raise money to help out animals whose vet bills begin to exceed the means of their owners. Visit I heart Tripods to read all about the saga of Lulu's battle with cancer and purchase super cute Tee's and totes including this awesome cat Tee.

Ronnie lost her leg on the mean streets of Chicago. She had been a stray cat who picked the right home. In my apartment in Chicago we had a stoop that was gated and we lived on the second floor. One morning as my roommate was leaving for work with her bike, this gray streak ran past her and up our stairs to the landing outside our apartment door. Even then, Ronnie was a super friendly fur ball. Purring and jumping up to be pet, while holding up her front right paw. We noticed right away that she was seriously injured, but we couldn't let her into our apartment because we already had two other cats and couldn't risk their health.

We both called in sick from work and put the then nameless kitty into a carrier and hauled her off to the first vet that would take us. Lucky for us we took her to Higgins Animal Clinic on Belmont. They x-rayed her and bandaged up her foot and told us that she was indeed a girl, very underweight but thankfully with not feline leukemia or other contagious diseases. The bad news was that we had to get the leg amputated as soon as possible. It was gangrenous and was threatening Ronnie's life.

But we just couldn't afford the surgery. We took Ronnie home with the bandaged foot and tried to figure out what we could do. We had about a week to come up with the $1300 that it was going to cost. At the time, I was barely making $10K and my roommate was working at Planned Parenthood, not glamorous or high paying positions. We tried to apply for aid, but we didn't qualify. I guess you have to be broker than living under the poverty line to get help for your animals.

Just in time! The vet at Higgins called us and told us that because we couldn't get all that together that they had a new vet coming in who needed to practice surgery. They would do the surgery after hours and at cost for us. Ronnie was going to be saved!

She had her paw removed and in the course of the surgery they found that she was pregnant with a small litter! They were miss carried because of all of the stress on her poor body, but we had to have the surgery to save her. She was so small and this cat slept and slept and slept. But she is the best cat! I am so lucky to have her.

So go buy a T-Shirt and help out other tripods!

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Saturday Celebrating the Tomatoes

On hopefully the last swelteringly humid evening of the summer, we had a little fete incorporating the last of the fruits of the summer, the ripe tomatoes. The sun ripened and heirlooms that have graced the farmers market stalls are soon to disappear and be replaced by the mealy hothouse ones that aren't even worth purchasing. To use up my glut of ripening tomatoes, I incorporated them into an entree and an appetizer. This could be over kill but the two sauces could not be more different. Call it my Iron Chef Challenge.

As my guest were arriving, I welcomed them with Pomegranate Mint fizzes and a some rustic brown bread with St. Andre triple creme brie and herbed gournay cheeses and a selection of marinated olives. I can't ever go back to double creme brie. Once you have had the St. Andre, the difference is stark. I highly suggest purchasing some to even just have for Sunday breakfast on toast. The appetizer was Patatas Bravas with it's smoky and fiery tomato based sauce.

The entree was a huge tail piece of tuna that I had got earlier in the day the fish market at the north side of Grand St. at Chrystie. It was a beautiful hunk of tuna seasoned with lemon, garlic and mint cooked in a lighter and sweeter tomato sauce served with simple steamed rainbow chard. One my tricks to cooking good chard is to steam it in a vegetable broth. It adds so much flavor and richness with out over salting or over fattening.

Finishing off the evening with coffee, port, chocolates and of course, good conversation. Drake of Cafe Drake settled in with Ronnie, Lisa Webber provided much style, Chel and Kathy were belles and Octavio took lovely picutres and I couldn't have hosted it without him. It was comfortable to have a buffet style dinner with six people at little 312 Square Feet.

Pop over to Cafe Drake for more pictures and even more entertaining tips and recipes!

Lemon Mint Pomegranate Fizzes

2 parts vodka
1 part Pama Pomegranate Liquer
Mint Leaves
Dash of Simple Syrup
Lemon Juice
Sparkling Water of Club Soda

This is all approximated but it made for a refreshing cocktail and respite from the heat.
Mash the mint leaves, simple syrup and the juice of 1/4 of a lemon in the bottom of a glass. Pour in the liquor, add some ice and shake. Top off with a generous pour of sparkling water.

Sicilian Tuna

3-4 lb piece of tuna, preferably the tail piece
24 pieces of lemon zest
24 mint leaves plus extra for garnish
8 garlic cloves, 4 cut into 6 strips and 4 mashed
1 28 oz can of chopped tomatoes in their juice
1/4 cup fish or vegetable stock
1/4 white wine
10 white pearl onions
2 tablespoons butter

Wash and pat dry the tuna. Cut 6 vents on all four sides of the tuna and in each vent put one piece lemon zest, one mint leave and one slice garlic.

In a large flame proof casserole or pot, heat the butter. Brown the tuna on all sides for about 10 minutes. Add the tomatoes and the stock. Bring to a boil. Cover, reduce the heat and simmer for 10 more minutes.

Add the wine and pearl onions. Cover and simmer for 10-15 more minutes. since the piece of tuna is so large the risk in over cooking is high. You want it to be cooked through but still tender. I over cooked mine slightly so I adjusted this last cooking time to be less. More like 10 minutes should be enough.

Remove the tuna and let rest. Bring the heat up and reduce the sauce until it reaches a nice thick consistency. I added a tiny bit of cream to mine to richen it, but you don't need it at all. You could put the sauce in a blend to get a really even sauce, but I am ok with a bit more rustic food and don't mind chunks.

Reduce the heat on the sauce to med-low and put the tuna back in for 5-10 minutes, until it is warmed back up.

Plate on a bed of the rest of the sauce and garnish with extra mint leaves.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Savor the Sauce

I know I have been a bit obsessed with my electric grill, but it really has been the best kitchen appliance that I have purchased. Though with a good friends impending nuptials I may have to invest in a Kitchen Aid mixer to bake their cake! More on that soon. For now back to dinner.

Delicious food is often deceptively simple and inexpensive. I am a firm believer in the power of sauces to transform mundane meals and elevate them to a home gourmet level. That is why there is such an emphasis on sauces, dressings, marinades and vinaigrettes on this blog. Sauces are flexible, can be stored and used in different contexts to very different effects. A good vinaigrette can make a simple green salad something transportive and a red sauce can dress pasta or become a wonderful bake.

This week I knew I had to plan two meals for friends, one for Octavio and one as a pre-practice dinner. So, I wanted to spend less than $15 for both meals not including wine and I came in well under budget.

For dinner on Tuesday I made grilled scallops (1 pound for $7.00 at the Canal St Fish Market on Canal and Baxter) with Bitter Herb Walnut Pesto. One bunch cilantro and one bunch parsley came to $1.60 from a vegetable vendor on Bayard St at Mott. I had a box of cous cous already open and some left over frozen veggies and I keep bags of nuts from Trader Joes at all times (Walnuts are $4.99).

Then on Wednesday I used the leftover pesto and tossed it over some lightly sautéed broccoli ($1.50 from a street vendor in Midtown) and thin spaghetti with some domestic feta from East Village Cheese ($1.50 for half a pound) and a pinch of red pepper flakes to give a bit of heat. Kelly supplied a delicious Rioja and then we went to work!

Bitter Herb Pesto

*these are just guestimates. Please adjust the ratios as you see fit.
Half a bunch of Cilantro
Half a bunch of parsley
1 clove of garlic chopped
juice of half a lemon
1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/3 cup roughly chopped walnuts
1-2 tablespoons of water
sea salt to taste

Put the herbs, lemon, walnuts, gralic, salt, and water into a blender or food processor and pulse until chopped. Slowly add the olive oil and blend until a nice paste texture is achieved.

I spooned mine over the grilled scallops with a mixed veggie cous cous.

Monday, September 10, 2007

Late Summer Red

With summer's fast fading, the sunset creeping up earlier and earlier, hearing the whispers of fall's change, I just want to hang on to my sun dresses and savor the last few weeks of heat and staggering humidity to the fullest. To help us along and surprisingly, keep me on my budget is this medium bodied Coastal Peak 2002 California Cabernet Sauvignon.

Served slightly chilled, this wine is a great summer red. With bright red fruits like plums at the front and a pleasant cedar finish this can hold up against BBQ and compliments the citrus of summer grilled fish dishes.

The best thing about this wine, it can be had for a mere $4.99 at the place that has saved me from wine drudgery for the past few years, Wine and Liquor Warehouse (Broadway at 8th Street). The Warehouse has everything from amazingly great buys for my meager budget to high end collectors bottles. The staff is friendly and knowledgeable. They always have great suggestions for me to try and the liquors are all also sold at a discount. I have gotten limoncello at a great bargain before.

I would suggest picking up a bottle of this before the summer is over and savor a glass with some grilled eggplant salad.

Sunday, September 9, 2007

Quick Weeknight Meal

We can be so pressed for time in the city that even taking an hour to enjoy the simple pleasure of a meal can be a luxury. I try to make time at least two nights a week to truly cook, not just through something together. It is something that I enjoying taking the time from the fast bustle of New York City to do.

Since Octavio can work late hours sometimes an elaborate meal is out of the question, because we would much rather spend the time eating and catching up on the day than in preparing the meal. This week I made a simple tomato sauce that takes less than 20 minutes to prepare but still tastes like it was simmered for much longer.

Simple Basil Sauce for 2

4 ripe Roma or Plum Tomatoes chopped
1/2 cup of white wine
2 tablespoons heavy cream (you can leave this out but it adds a richness to the sauce)
2 tablespoons tomato paste
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
8-10 fresh basil leaves
Juice of half a lemon
1 shallot finely sliced
2 cloves of garlic pressed or finely chopped
pinch of red pepper flakes
sea salt and pepper

half a pound pre-cooked frozen shrimp

4oz - 2 servings of thin spaghetti

In a medium sauce pan, heat the oil over medium low heat and soften the shallot. Add the garlic and cook until the garlic is also soft and aromatic. Add the tomatoes and cook until they begin to release the juices, add the lemon and wine. Stir in the tomato paste and season with salt pepper and the red pepper. Simmer for about 10 min until the tomatoes are soft but still hold their shape.

While the sauce is simmering, thaw the shrimp under cool water and begin to boil the water for the pasta.

Add the cream to the sauce and raise the heat, add the shrimp and cook until the sauce is reduced and becomes a bit thicker and the shrimp are heated through. Boil the pasta. Add the fresh basil last by shredding it with kitchen shears into the sauce. Cook two more minutes to release the flavor of the basil.

Spoon over the pasta, serve with more basil on top and fresh grated hard cheese like Asiago or Pecorino.

Monday, September 3, 2007

La Sirène

This is the debut post of a new periodic feature here at 312 Square Feet. Part of what is so exciting about living in Manhattan is the food culture and going out to eat, but it can certainly wear away at your wallet. The good thing is that there are many reasonable places to eat that dish out innovative and delicious cuisine. One thing that can help to make an inexpensive and enjoyable night out is to frequent establishments that allow you to bring your own wine or charge a low corkage fee. I will be searching out and reviewing the best places in Manhattan and Brooklyn that are BYOB or charge under $15 for a corkage fee.

Located on small block of Broome Street at Varick, near the entrance to the Tunnel, is the cozy French bistro La Sirene, 558 Broome (212) 925-3061. Octavio took the initiative and sought out this little place for a dinner date for the holiday weekend.

With just 19 seats, chef Didier Pawlicki manages to keep the atmosphere as good as the food that he serves. Focusing on the South of France, the seafood heavy menu offers up some of the best mussels I've eaten in a long time. Several varieties are on offer, we opted for the Provençales with tomatoes, fresh herbs and mushrooms. The aromatic broth was delicious sopped up with the rustic bread.

As entrées I had the who Barrimundi, a mild white fish originally from Australia. I learned that my fish was farmed in Maine! Stuffed with fresh thyme, browned with garlic and well salted, served with a mélange of creative and complimentary vegetables that both entrées shared, it was just great. The skin was perfectly crisp. Octavio had the skate serve with a butter caper sauce. The sauce used the larger plump capers that enhanced the fish well.

The dishes shared the same sides and the cuisine was so consistent that it made no matter. The carrot puree, squash and lima beans worked so well with both dishes and truly made us feel that Chef Pawlicki knows how to use regional ingredients.

In between courses, the gregarious chef came over to share his knowledge of the ingredients and methods of preparation. Since we are foodies, we were delighted and put at ease. The service is friendly and relaxing. We had such a marvelous time. Next time we will skip the dessert. We choose the Peach Melba but it was drowning in whipped cream. Of course we ate it anyway, but just regretted it later!

We plan on going back to La Sirene on a regular basis!

La Sirène
558 Broome St
(212) 925-3061
No Reservations

Saturday, September 1, 2007

Tarte au Citron

For the last throes of summer we are picnicing in Prospect Park tomorrow. Since I love to bake I volunteered to make dessert. I was debating making a cake or making my signature tarte au citron. Since it is going to be a picnic, cakes with butter creams or cream cheese frostings are not that good of an idea so I went with a classic!

Start with a good Pâte Brisée. I use one that uses a little sugar and egg yolk as a binding.

Pâte Brisée

Yolk of one large egg
1 1/2 tablespoons cream
2 cups all purpose flour
1 1/2 tablespoons sugar (omit this for a savory crust)
Pinch salt
1 1/2 sticks of chilled butter.

Pre-heat the over to 375 degrees.

Cube the butter and chill in the refrigerator. Beat together the egg yolk and cream in a small bowl and chill. Sift together the flour, sugar and salt. I like to keep the flour in the freezer to make this easier to keep cold. Cut in the butter with a pastry cutter or using two knives until the pastry reaches the consistency of small crumbs. Slowly add in the egg mixture until the pastry just holds together. Roll into a ball and chill for 30min to an hour.

Because I have such a small workspace I like to line my counter with wax paper and flour that to keep the space clean and the pastry from sticking.

Roll out the pastry on the floured surface until large enough for the tart pan. It will be about an inch wider than the pan. I roll it up on to the rolling pin lined with more wax paper and roll it out into the pan. You don't want to stretch it because it could shrink.

If there is extra pastry, roll the pin over the pan to get rid of it and press the edges into the scallops with your thumb. Chill the pastry in the pan for 20 min.

Line the pastry with foil or parchment paper and weight with beans (no need for fancy pie weights from Williams Sonoma. A 99 cent bag of pinto beans works just as well.

Bake the crust for 10 - 15 if you are going to bake it again or 20-25 min for a prebaked crust for fruit tarts. It will be a nice golden on the edges.

Tarte au Citron

1 Pâte Brisée cooked about 15 minutes
4 eggs
2 egg yolks
1 cup sugar
1/3 cup heavy cream
1 cup fresh lemon juice
Zest of 3 lemons

Lower the heat from baking the crust to 300 degrees.

Whisk eggs, yolks and sugar together and add the cream. Whisk in the lemon juice and add the zest. Put the shell with the pan still onto a baking sheet and pour in the mixture. Bake for 35 - 40 minutes until the custard is set. cool completely and serve with crême frâiche and fresh berries.

My oven is on an angle so when I bake I make sure to shim the pans with about 1/4 of an inch of tin foil otherwise i get lopsided cakes, leaky tarts or uneven custards. It took a while to figure it our but the method works really well!

Japanese Week

David, enjoying his tempura and cold noodles.

It all started with a trip during lunch up to the oldest Japanese grocery in New York city, Katagiri 224 East 59th Street. Opened at this exact spot in 1907, Katagiri carries everything from fresh shiso leaves to frozen broiled eel to natto that even more fermented soybean Japanese "delicacy" (ew!). I have tried it, I will try anything, but this is truly an aquired taste. It may not be the cheapest grocery but there are deals to be had. This time I got a bottle of somen tsuyu for cold soba noodels that was a reasonable $4.50 and a package of fuereu wakame dried seaweed for $1.69. The seaweed rehydrates to big delicious leaves of seaweed perfect on the soba noodles drizzled with a little sesame oil.

David supplied the delicious shrimp tempura and we had a wonderful light post work meal. These ingredients carried over into a pre-practice meal as well!

In Chinatown, there are plenty of open air fish and produce markets. Who knows the names of any of these places but I have found some of the freshest and best deals on seafood at the one on the South corner of Grand St at Chrystie and also the one across the street. This week I picked up a little over a pound of fresh salmon to make Honey Miso Glazed Salmon for Kelly and I before we had rehearsal. It was only $7 and enough for four servings of fish! I served it with the cold soba and seaweed tossed with a little sesame oil, a couple of tablespoons of somen tsuyu and topped it with some salomn furakake from this weeks earlier shopping excursion.

Honey Miso Glazed Salmon

2 tablespoons miso paste
1/2 cup water
1/4 cup honey
1 1/2 teaspoons powdered ginger
1 tablespoon soy sauce

1 lb salmon
Lemon wedges to serve

Line the broiler pan with tin foil. Pre-heat the broiler by turning it high. Then lower the heat to 325 degrees.

Combine miso and water over low heat until the miso is fully dissolved. Add honey, ginger powder and soy sauce, simmer stirring stirring constantly until reduced to a thick sauce.

Cut the fish into four portions and place on the pre-heated broiler pan and cover with the glaze. Put in the broiler and bake at 325 for about 10 minutes, glazing about five minutes in. Once the fish is almost cooked, add more glaze then turn up the broil to full and cook for 5 more minutes until the glazed caramelizes on the top of the fish. Do not over cook. Rare salmon is better than over cooked salmon.

I find that this method of baking/broiling lets me get a nice top to the fish with out over cooking it. The pre-heating of the broiler pan helps to cook it through from the bottom up too.

Kelly, digging in!